In a land where magic is forbidden to anyone but the king, Maralyth Graylaern hides a terrible secret; she was born with a power she doesn’t understand, and all she wants to do is help her father’s vineyard get out from underneath the thumb of the crown. When she is kidnapped by the local lord, she learns the truth – the king’s magic was stolen, and she is the rightful heir to the throne. So begins The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme.
Normally, I’d be out here celebrating an actual, standalone novel. As someone who reads more than their fair share of young adult books, finding a standalone fantasy is rare; those of you familiar with my reviews will know that I’m more likely to pick up a book, get almost the entire way through it, and then realize it’s actually the first in a series. With the amount of books I try to read (and to be honest, my recent apathy in doing anything), it’s often hard to keep up with a series. So I will admit that it’s a very nice change of pace that The Stolen Kingdom is self-contained.
However, I actually think that this story would have been better served as a duology than a standalone. There is a lot going on in The Stolen Kingdom, and I feel the sheer depth of the plot needed more than one book to develop. In this single book, you have not only the planning of a coup, but also the coup attempt, the failed coup, and the resolution to a happy ending. With so much plot happening, the characters don’t get the chance to breathe and grow the way they should, which makes the stakes – which would ordinarily be quite high – not feel as significant.
That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book. It’s very entertaining, and you all know I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers story. The Romeo & Juliet aspect isn’t new, but Maralyth and Alac’s relationship is just a little bit different from the traditional star-crossed lovers trope, which is what made it so interesting. I would have loved to have seen them get some proper development. As it is, the romance felt very lackluster. Alac in particular cycles through so many complex emotions in such a short span of time that it came across as inauthentic.
On the plus side, at least both characters acknowledge that they haven’t really known each other that long, and there are no grand declarations of eternal love – just them admitting that there may potentially be something there.
But still, I very much would have liked to spend more time with these characters, to have some idea of who they were and what they were about. It gives the revelations a bigger impact, and it helps add tension. Maralyth and Alac are both POV characters, so we spend a good amount of time inside their heads, and as the main protagonists they are the most developed, but the side characters are almost interchangeable.
It’s the premise that did me in. Here is a story about a young girl who is secretly heir to the throne, and she has magic that is forbidden, and she has to hide, and she’s manipulated into helping attempt a coup and murder the royal family, and she meets the youngest prince and is like, “Hey, this guy isn’t so bad,” and then things go sideways and now she’s on the run. On the other side, you have the “spare” prince, who is scared of his father and resents magic, who wants to do something mundane like wine-making, then starts liking a girl only to learn she’s here to kill him and his entire family. It’s hard not to be intrigued by a book that gives you all of those things.
While this book probably won’t leave much of a lasting impression, it is an enjoyable read that allows you to get lost in a fantasy world with a compelling story, and it won’t take up too much of your time or leave you with a frustrating cliffhanger and a who knows how long wait for the next installment.
The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme is published by Tor Teen and is currently available wherever books are sold.
*I was provided with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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