The Hostage Prince

YOLEN, Jane & . Bk. 1. 240p. (The Seelie Wars Series). Viking. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-670-01434-7.
Gr 4–8—This fantasy features third-person narration from alternating points of view and an interesting bunch of magical creatures. Aspen is a "Seelie" prince held hostage in the volatile "Unseelie" Court as part of an uneasy truce between the two kingdoms. When he learns that war has been declared, he flees the castle, joining forces with Snail, a midwife's accident-prone apprentice. Their escape takes them through dungeons, caves, and Astaeri Palace, which are all described with just enough details to capture the magical atmosphere. The most exciting moments involve encounters with an ogre interrogator; the river-dwelling mer; and a hungry, pregnant troll. The enigmatic Sticksman who ferries the heroes to safety and a crafty drow who misleads the prince to further his own villainous scheme are also intriguing secondary characters. Aspen and Snail are refreshingly atypical heroes: Snail's prickly personality gets her into as much trouble as her clumsiness, and Aspen is neither brave nor clever. Nonetheless, they are quite likable, and both gain strength and self-confidence as their adventure progresses and they learn to trust each other. The final chapters, which include a fairly uninvolving imprisonment and escape, slow down in pace, but they also set the stage neatly for the next book in the series, leaving plenty more to learn about the Seelie/Unseelie conflict and the intriguing relationship between the prince and the apprentice.—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

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