The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme is a Fantasy standalone, featuring a coup, murder-plot, betrayal, romance, and a lot of morally grey areas. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was surprised about the way things happened more than once. And I do like being surprised. It’s a very original book, and Jillian dares to go where I think most authors would choose a different path. That’s exactly what makes this book so exciting.
I received a free copy of this book on Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
As always, you can either read the full review or jump to the conclusion here.
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance | Publisher: Tor Teen
The kingdom of Perin Faye was once prosperous until the throne was taken by the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. The Thungrave leaders have access to dark and powerful magic, making them a force to be reckoned with. Alac Thungrave, the second son, has always been grateful that he’s not in line for the throne. He doesn’t want anything to do with the dark, stolen magic. But things might change when Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, discovers that her magical power is proof that she’s part of the ancient bloodline and has a claim to the throne. She gets embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, but can she go through with that when she actually meets Alac, and the Thungraves don’t seem so evil after all?
It’s a fast-paced story, where we very quickly see Maralyth kidnapped and told she’s the legitimate heir to the throne. Now, I know what you think: a poor girl with a dead mother who has secret magical powers and is secretly the heir to the throne? Not very original. But, the way Jillian delivers it and pulls it off actually makes it original (and that originality lies in more than the fact that Maralyth is a woman).
It’s the unexpected twists in this story that made it so compelling. There were definitely moments I thought the author would go one way, but she went the other way instead. It’s because of that that I also feel the ending is good and satisfying. I was expecting a very different ending, more in line with other romance novels. I don’t wanna spoil too much, but I will say I was pleasantly surprised.
The first character we meet in The Stolen Kingdom is Maralyth, the daughter of a vintner who can use her magical powers to grow the grapes and rescue them from any rot or disease. Pretty handy. When she finds out that she’s the heir, she’s pretty reluctant to accept that role at first. I did feel she went from this unwanting to wanting the throne a bit quickly and suddenly. But I did enjoy reading her moral dilemmas as her connection to Alac seemed to grow: will she go through with the murder-plot, knowing that Alac isn’t a bad person and doesn’t really deserve to die? Do any of the Thungraves deserve to die?
The other main character is Alac, who struggles with the pull from the dark magic his father gifted him. He both fears and desires it. He sees the magic is destructive, and he knows that the magic changed his father and is changing his brother. He’s devoted most of his life to understand the magic and try to find a way to stop it. And Maralyth might just be the key.
The other characters aren’t as fully developed as they could’ve been. We have the sidekicks, villains, siblings, and more, but they’re all a bit flat. It’s not surprising, considering it’s a standalone novel with a lot going on, so there’s just not that much space to develop the other characters fully. Still, it would’ve been nice to have at least some secondary characters be more developed, especially the ‘villains’ of the story.
The worldbuilding is about the only part of the book that leaves some things to be desired. We don’t get much about the Kingdom, other than that apparently they love wine, and there are many vintners. We get the history of Perin Faye (the Kingdom), but then that history is repeated a couple of times throughout the book, with no real new information. I didn’t quite see the point of that.
I would’ve loved to learn more about the magic-system, society, and just generally more about the world the story is set in. Again, this is tough to do in a short standalone story, but I think without the repetitions, it could’ve had at least a few more details.
What I loved about Jillian’s writing in The Stolen Kingdom is definitely her power to build tension. Every move the characters make, every decision, increases the tension, especially up to the murder-plot, and it continues to get even more suspenseful after.
Other than that, the writing flowed easily and was pleasant to read, though I think it could’ve been infused with a bit more emotion. I didn’t feel fully attached to the characters, mainly because of that.
The Stolen Kingdom is an excellent, enjoyable standalone Fantasy book. These are quite rare, as Fantasy books usually come in series, so it’s always nice when you come across one that you can just read in one go and know that the story is finished. That said, I do hope that Jillian Boehme will continue to write more books in this world, as I do think it has good potential. And I would love to know more about Perin Faye.
To summarize my book review of The Stolen Kingdom: great and original story, with good twists, a fast-pace, lots of things happening, interesting main characters, and a nice build-up of tension. What I liked less was the underdevelopment of the other characters, the lack of worldbuilding, and I would’ve liked more emotion in the writing concerning the characters.
So: if you want to read a great fantasy book with conspiracies, royal courts, and a complicated romance between enemies, this is your book!