1 out of 4 stars
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The Stolen Heir by Tayma Tameem is a political fantasy in which the kidnapping of the infant heir creates turmoil and war between once allied kingdoms; Thumeria and Paleria. The books follows multiple perspectives to show the dangers of fragile minded leaders and consequences of misreading prophecies. All the while recounting a bloody and heinous war that affected the lowliest servant and the mightiest king.
The contrast and tension between characters was visible from the beginning which helped me grip to the story quickly. Morack and Leorins’ clashes were one of the most interesting parts of the book and it really helped fuel the brewing war in their near future. In Chapter 2 especially, we see a solid basis of their rivalry when Moracks’ popularity is hindered by Leorins’ kindness as king.
In terms of the war, I really admired the attention to detail when it came to descriptions of this bloody event. Tameem did not leave out any dark and gritty bits of what happens to the land, the leaders and people when they get thrown in a time like this. Because of this attention to detail, there are many relatively disturbing descriptions of war and hunger in this book.
Unfortunately, I have more criticism than admiration for this story. It was interesting and captivating in the beginning but as I flipped through the chapters, far too many problems started to arise. First, the tension between Aurelia and Jumen was nowhere near as interesting as Morack and Leorin. It was established since their childhood that the two princes (later kings) would be at odds with one another. Aurelia and Jumen were supposedly in love with each other and somehow, there was not a single doubt in their mind before declaring war. Their so-called ‘rivalry’ had such weak basis that it made me unable to read through their stand-offs without rolling my eyes. The war was so well-described but when you put it into perspective as to the reason for it, the whole event starts looking like a circus show that does the same act.
A fantasy world can have any rules it desires. However, the culture system in this book when it came to women became redundant quickly. It was all the same statements and dialogues that have been used for many fantasy books and the author didn’t add any of their own touches to the whole concept. This system became especially confusing when Aurelia was the one leading the armies and fighting the battles. Who taught her to fight? Everyone seemed fine with taking orders from her and she was a well-trained soldier but somehow even Jumen was taken aback by her doing this. Fantasy worlds can be wild and untamed in its nature but things like this still need to be explained to an extent.
Some of the sentences were far too confused and messy. There was no rhythm to the words and it just made the reading experience turn into a headache. Long sentences are common in fantasy stories but they still need to be interesting. An example was with Caligon when he was given startling news: “Caligons’ initial shock took him but a few moments, trying to process how this change of events affected his plans, concluding that it was not in his best interests for the war to end now.” (Pg. 393). With a little care and consideration, this sentence could have been turned into something a little more intriguing. It would have been excusable once but it happens on too many occasions in this one book.
Some bits of language sounds a little too ‘modern’ and out of place in the fantasy world. Considering the author takes so much time emphasizing traditional gender roles, I would expect words like ‘dang’ (Pg. 501), ‘mode’ (Pg. 476) and ‘my guy’ (Pg. 357) to be carefully edited out.
I rate this book 1 out of 4 stars. It had so much potential in the beginning with all the build-up but by the end, there were no qualities left to redeem. There are so many other amazing fantasy books that readers can look to for a better experience. This is not a book I would recommend with a good conscience.
The Stolen Heir
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