Holly Black shares an excerpt from her new duology series, “The Stolen Heir”

Holly Black shares an excerpt from her new duology series, “The Stolen Heir”

Prepare to ascend back into a world of deception, opulence and enchantment with The Stolen Heir, book one in Holly Black’s latest duology series. Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame, takes center stage in this new story, eight years after the Battle of the Serpent. The now 17-year-old crosses paths again with Suren, the queen of Tannhofet, who lives wild in the forests of the human world after she has fled from the fairy life. Oak comes to her proposing a mission, which will lead a reluctant Suren back to her mother and the world she escaped.

The Stolen Heir is told from Suren’s point of view, while the second book in the duo — the title of which we do not know yet — will tell the same story from Oak’s perspective. It will hit the bookshelves on January 3, 2023, and even if it isn’t also far away, Seventeen has an exclusive sneak peek to quell your impatience in the meantime. Read below as Oak and Suren reunite at Holly Black’s The Stolen Heir.

The Stolen Heir: A Novel of Elfhame (The Stolen Heir, 1)

The Stolen Heir: A Novel of Elfhame (The Stolen Heir, 1)

The Stolen Heir: A Novel of Elfhame (The Stolen Heir, 1)

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Excerpt from The Stolen Heir by Holly Black

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Chapter 8

At fourteen I learned to make tea from crushed fir needles together with bee balm flowers, boiled over a fire.

“Would you like a cup, Mr. Fox?” I asked my stuffed animal carefully, as if we were very fancy.

He didn’t want any. Since I stole Mr. Fox back from my parents’ boxes, I had cuddled with him every night, and his fur had become dirty from sleeping on moss and dirt.

Worse, there were a few times I had left him when I went to sit under the windows of Bex’s school or the local college, probably repeating useless poems and stories to myself, or doing sums by tracing the numbers in the earth. . One night when I returned I found he had been attacked by a squirrel looking for nesting material and most of his guts had been pulled out.

Since then I had lived in my camp and read him a novel about a poor governess I had taken from the library when I picked up Foraging in the American Southeast. There was a lot about convalescence and chills, so I thought that might make him feel better.

Mr. Fox looked uncomfortable like the skins Bogdana hung up to dry after she was killed.

“We’ll give you some new courage, Mr. Fox,” I promised him. “Feathers, maybe.”

As I flopped down, my gaze tracked a bird in the tree above us. I had become quick and vicious in nature. I could catch it easily enough, but it would be difficult to be sure the feathers were clean and parasite free. Maybe I should consider ripping off one of my family’s pillows instead.

Out in the woods, I often thought about the games Rebecca and I used to play. Like once upon a time, when we pretended to be fairytale princesses. We wheeled out props—a rusty ax that had probably never been taken from the garage before, two paper crowns I’d made from glitter and cut-up newspaper, and an apple, just a little bruised but shiny with wax.

“First, I’m going to be a woodsman and you’re going to beg for your life,” Rebecca told me. “I want to be sympathetic, because you’re so pretty and sad, so I’ll kill a deer instead.”

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So we played it out and Rebecca chopped weeds with the axe. “Now I’ll be the evil queen,” I had volunteered. “And you can pretend to give me…”

“I’m the Evil Queen,” Rebecca insisted. “And the prince. And the woodsman.”

“It’s not fair,” I whined. Rebecca could be so bossy sometimes. “You get to do everything and all I get to do is cry and sleep.”

“You get to eat the apple,” Rebecca pointed out. “And wear a crown. Besides, you said you wanted to be the princess. That’s what princesses do.”

Bite the bad apple. Sleep.

Cry.

A rustling sound made my head snap up.

“The acid?” a shout came through the forest. No one should have called me. No one should have even known my name.

“Stay here, Mr. Fox,” I said, tucking him into my quarters. Then I crawled towards the voice.

Only to see Oak, the heir of Elfhame, standing in a clearing. All my memories of him were of a happy young boy. But he had become tall and lanky, in the same way as children who have grown suddenly and too quickly. When he moved, it was with Celtic uncertainty, as if he was not used to his body. He would be thirteen. And he had no reason to be in my woods.

I crouched in a patch of ferns. “What do you want?”

He turned towards my voice. “The acid?” he called again. “Is it you?” Eik wore a blue waistcoat with silver frogging instead of buttons. Underneath was a nice linen shirt. His hooves had silver caps that matched two silver hoops at the very top of one pointed ear. Butter blond hair threaded with dark gold blew around his face.

I looked down at myself. My feet were bare and dark with dirt. I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I washed my dress. A stain of blood marred the cloth near my waist, from where I had fastened my arm to a thorn. Grass stains on the skirt, near my knees. I remembered that he found me impaled, tied like an animal outside the camp to the dental court. I could take no more of his pity.

“It’s me,” I shouted. “Go away now.”

“But I just found you. And I want to talk.” He sounded like he meant it. Like he still considered us friends, even after all this time.

“What will you give me if I do, Prince of Elfhame?”

He shuddered at the title. “The pleasure of my company?”

“Why?” Although it wasn’t a friendly question, I was honestly puzzled.

He took a long time to answer. “Because you’re the only person I know who’s ever been royal, like me.”

“Not like you,” I shouted.

“You ran away,” he said. “I want to escape.”

I shifted to a more comfortable position. It wasn’t that I had run. I had nowhere else to go but here. My fingers nibbled on some grass. He had it all, didn’t he? “Why?” I asked again.

“Because I’m sick of people trying to murder me.”

“I would have thought they would prefer you to the throne over your sister.” Killing him didn’t seem like it would accomplish anything useful for anyone. He was replaceable. If Jude wanted another heir, she could have a baby. She was human; she could probably have a lot of babies.

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He pressed his hoof into the soil and restlessly dug at the edge of a root. “Well, some people want to protect Cardan because they think Jude means to murder him and think my not being around would discourage that. Others believe that eliminating me is a good first step in eliminating her.”

“That makes no sense,” I said.

“Can’t you just come out so we can talk?” The prince turned, frowned, and looked for me in the trees and bushes.

“You don’t have to see me for that,” I told him.

“Nice.” He sat among the leaves and moss, balancing his cheek on one bent knee. “Someone tried to kill me. Again. Married. Again. Someone else tried to recruit me into a scheme where we would kill my sister and Cardan so I could rule in their place. When I said no, they tried to kill me. With a knife, that time.”

“A poisoned knife?”

He laughed. “No, just a regular one. But it hurt.”

I sucked in my breath. When he said there had been attempts, I assumed that meant they had been thwarted somehow, not that he just hadn’t died.

He continued. “So I’m going to run away from Faerie. Like you.”

It was not how I had thought of myself, as a runaway. I was someone who had nowhere to go. Waiting until I was older. Or less afraid. Or stronger. “The Prince of Elfhame cannot up and disappear.”

“They would probably be happier if he did,” he told me. “I am the reason my father is in exile. The reason my mother married him in the first place. My one sister and her boyfriend had to look after me when I was little, even though they were barely more than children themselves. My other sister was almost killed many times to keep me safe. Things get easier without me around. They will see that.”

“They won’t,” I told him, trying to ignore the intense surge of envy that came with knowing he’d be missed.

“Let me stay in your forest with you,” he said with a breath.

I imagined it. To let him share tea with me and Mr. Fox. I could show him the places to pick the sweetest blackberries. We ate burdock and red clover and parasol mushrooms. At night we lay on our backs and whispered together. He would tell me about the constellations, about theories about magic and the plots of TV shows he had watched while in the mortal world. I wanted to tell him all the secret thoughts in my heart.

For a moment it seemed possible.

But eventually they would come for him, as Lady Nore and Lord Jarel came for me. If he was lucky, it would be his sister’s guards who dragged him back to Elfhame. If he wasn’t, it would be a knife in the dark from one of his enemies.

He didn’t belong here, sleeping in dirt. To scrape out an existence on the outer edge of things.

“No,” I made myself tell him. “Go home.”

I could see the hurt on his face. The honest confusion that came with unexpected pain.

“Why?” he asked, sounding so lost I wanted to take back my words.

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“When you found me tied to that stake, I thought about hurting you,” I told him, hating myself. “You are not my friend.”

I don’t want you here. Those are the words I should have said but couldn’t because they would be a lie.

“Ah,” he said. “We will.”

I breathed out. “You can stay the night,” I burst out, unable to resist the temptation. “Tomorrow you go home. If you don’t, I will use the last favor you owe me from our game to force you.”

“What if I leave and come back again?” he asked, trying to mask his hurt.

“You won’t.” When he got home, his sisters and mother were waiting. They would have worried when they didn’t find him. They wanted him to promise never to do anything like that again. “You have too much honor.”

He did not answer.

“Stay where you are for a moment,” I told him, crawling off through the grass.

I had him there with me for one night, after all. And even though I didn’t think he was my friend, that didn’t mean I couldn’t be his. I brought a cup of tea, hot and fresh. Set it down on a nearby rock, with leaves next to it for a plate, piled with blackberries.

“Would you like a cup of tea, Prince?” I asked him. “It’s over here.”

“Sure,” he said, moving towards my voice.

When he found it, he sat down on the stone, put the tea on his leg, and held the blackberries in the palm of his hand. “Are you drinking with me?”

“I am,” I said.

He nodded, and this time he asked me not to come out.

“Will you tell me about the constellations?” I asked him.

“I thought you didn’t like me,” he said.

“I can pretend,” I told him. “What a night.”

And then he described the constellations overhead, and told me a story about a gentleman’s child who thought he had stumbled upon a prophecy that promised him great success, only to find that his star chart was upside down.

I told him the plot of a deadly movie I had seen years ago and he laughed at the funny parts. When he lay down in a pile of reeds and closed his eyes, I crawled over to him and carefully covered him in dry leaves to keep him warm.

When I woke up in the afternoon he was already gone.

From THE STOLEN HEIR by Holly Black, published January 3, 2023 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group. Copyright © 2023 by Holly Black.


The Stolen Heir by Holly Black will be released on January 3, 2023. You can pre-order the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop or your local independent bookstore.

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