The Stolen Heir Summary, Characters and Themes

The Stolen Heir is a young adult fantasy novel by Holly Black, the first book in a duology set in the same world as her popular Folk of the Air series. It was published in 2023.

The story follows Oak, the half-human heir to Elfhame, and Suren, a changeling queen, who embark on a quest filled with danger and desire. Oak struggles with his identity and his role in the royal court, while Suren navigates the complexities of power and love. Their destinies intertwine as they face threats from both the mortal and faerie realms.


Wren, the 18-year-old changeling queen of the Court of Teeth, harbors resentment towards Oak, the 17-year-old Prince of Elfhame. 

Eight years prior, Wren escaped to the mortal realm after her parents, Lady Nore and Lord Jarel, allied with the redcap faerie Madoc in a failed coup against High King Cardan and High Queen Jude. 

Though Jude bound Lady Nore to obey Wren’s commands, Wren was unable to issue any before Lady Nore fled, leaving Wren haunted by her past traumas and hunted by Bogdana, Lady Nore’s storm hag.

Meanwhile, Oak, a charming trickster with a penchant for risky endeavors, embarks on a quest with his guard, Tiernan, and their cursed prisoner, Hyacinthe. 

Their mission: to procure Mellith’s heart for Lady Nore, who holds Oak’s foster father, Madoc, captive. 

Oak seeks Wren’s help, knowing her command over Lady Nore could prove invaluable, but conceals Madoc’s imprisonment, instead claiming Lady Nore threatens the throne with an army of monsters created using the ancient bones of Mab, the first queen of Faerie.

Wren reluctantly joins Oak’s quest, their childhood friendship strained by past grievances and mistrust. They seek the Thistlewitch, an ancient hag possessing a dowsing rod capable of locating Mellith’s heart. 

During their journey, Hyacinthe warns Wren against trusting Oak, hinting at his manipulative nature.

At the Court of Moths, Oak reveals Madoc’s captivity to Wren, who is angered by his deception. Wren frees Hyacinthe and other prisoners from Queen Annet’s dungeons, earning Hyacinthe’s loyalty. However, their escape is thwarted, and Oak must win a duel to secure their freedom.

The Thistlewitch reveals the truth about Mab’s power of creation and the curse binding it to Mellith’s heart. Shockingly, she reveals that Wren herself carries Mellith’s heart within her chest. 

Oak attempts to dissuade Wren from continuing, but she remains resolute in defeating Lady Nore.

Oak, Tiernan, and Wren devise a plan to rescue Madoc and steal Mab’s bones, while concealing Wren’s true identity as Mellith. They journey through treacherous lands, facing perilous obstacles, and eventually reach the Ice Needle Citadel, where Lady Nore has amassed her monstrous army.

Captured by Lady Nore, Oak and Wren are brought before her. Oak claims to have brought Mellith’s heart, but Wren’s tongue is cut out to silence her. Imprisoned alongside Madoc, Wren overhears Oak’s deception.

Hyacinthe frees Wren, enabling her to regrow her tongue using a shard of Mab’s bones. Wren issues commands to Lady Nore, but a battle ensues when Lady Nore alerts her troll ally, Hurclaw. Amidst the chaos, Wren discovers her true identity as Mellith and unmakes Lady Nore, claiming the Ice Needle Citadel as her own.

In a twist of fate, Wren, now empowered and fueled by anger, places the golden bridle on Oak, forcing him to remain with her.

The Stolen Heir Summary



Suren, also known as Wren, is the 18-year-old changeling queen of the Court of Teeth.

Haunted by her past trauma of torture and control, Wren carries a deep-seated resentment towards the faerie world, particularly Oak, whom she blames for not rescuing her. 

Despite this, she possesses a fierce determination and a strong sense of justice, often using her powers to help humans escape unfair bargains with faeries. 

Wren’s journey is one of self-discovery and reclaiming her power, as she unravels the truth about her origins and embraces her role as the rightful heir to the throne.

Oak Greenbriar

Oak, the 17-year-old Prince of Elfhame, is a complex and enigmatic character. He is charming and charismatic, but also manipulative and secretive. 

Oak’s motivations are often shrouded in mystery, and his loyalties are constantly shifting. He embarks on a quest to retrieve Mellith’s heart, but his true intentions remain unclear. 

Oak’s relationship with Wren is fraught with tension, as they navigate a delicate balance of trust and betrayal.

Lady Nore

Lady Nore, the former queen of the Court of Teeth, is a formidable and ruthless antagonist. 

She is driven by a desire for power and revenge, and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. Lady Nore’s cruelty and manipulation have left a lasting impact on Wren, shaping her into the resilient and determined individual she becomes. 

Lady Nore’s actions ultimately lead to her downfall, as she underestimates the power and resilience of those she seeks to control.


Madoc, Oak’s foster father, is a complex and morally ambiguous character. 

He is a skilled warrior and a cunning strategist, but his actions are often driven by his own self-interest. 

Madoc’s relationship with Oak is one of both mentorship and manipulation, as he seeks to mold Oak into a leader who will fulfill his own ambitions. 

Madoc’s fate is intertwined with that of Lady Nore, as he becomes a pawn in her quest for power.


Tiernan, Oak’s loyal guard, is a steadfast and dependable companion. He is fiercely protective of Oak and will do whatever it takes to ensure his safety. 

Tiernan’s relationship with Hyacinthe adds a layer of complexity to his character, as he grapples with his feelings for the cursed falcon. 

Tiernan’s loyalty is tested throughout the story, as he is forced to make difficult choices and confront the consequences of his actions.


Hyacinthe, Tiernan’s former lover and a victim of Jude’s curse, is a symbol of resilience and unwavering love. 

Despite being transformed into a falcon, Hyacinthe remains loyal to Tiernan and eventually pledges his allegiance to Wren. His character arc is one of transformation and redemption, as he breaks free from the control of others and finds his own voice. 

Hyacinthe’s unwavering support of Wren highlights the importance of true friendship and loyalty in the face of adversity.


The Power of Autonomy

The novel revolves around the characters’ struggle for autonomy, a theme that weaves through their experiences and choices. 

Wren’s past traumas, marked by control and manipulation, fuel her yearning for freedom. Her escape from the Court of Teeth and her actions in the mortal world reflect her determination to break free from the shackles of her past. 

Oak, despite his position of privilege, grapples with the expectations placed upon him as the heir to Elfhame, yearning for the agency to make his own choices. Even Hyacinthe, bound by a curse and the golden bridle, seeks to reclaim his autonomy through acts of defiance and loyalty. 

The quest for Mellith’s heart becomes symbolic of the characters’ pursuit of self-determination, as they navigate a world that constantly seeks to control and manipulate them.

Identity and Self-Discovery

The Stolen Heir delves into the complexities of identity, particularly for characters like Wren and Oak. 

Wren’s changeling nature and the trauma she endured as a child leave her questioning her place in both the mortal and faerie worlds. She struggles to reconcile her conflicting desires for revenge and belonging, ultimately discovering a new understanding of her identity as Mellith. 

Oak, on the other hand, grapples with the expectations associated with his royal lineage, seeking to define himself beyond the role of the future High King. His journey alongside Wren forces him to confront his own flaws and insecurities, leading to a greater understanding of his true self. 

Both characters’ quests for self-discovery are intertwined with their pursuit of autonomy, as they seek to define themselves on their own terms, free from the influence of others.

The Burden of the Past

The past weighs heavily upon the characters in The Stolen Heir, shaping their actions and motivations. 

Wren’s traumatic childhood experiences at the Court of Teeth haunt her, fueling her desire for revenge and her distrust of others. Her past is a constant reminder of the pain and betrayal she suffered, influencing her decisions throughout the novel. 

Oak, too, carries the burden of his lineage and the expectations placed upon him. He struggles to reconcile the image of his deceased mother, Liriope, with the reality of her manipulative nature. 

The novel highlights how the past can both empower and hinder individuals, shaping their identities and choices.

The Complexities of Love and Loyalty

Love and loyalty are intertwined themes in The Stolen Heir, showcasing the complexities of relationships within a world of political intrigue and personal ambition. 

Wren’s loyalty is divided between her desire for revenge against her parents and her growing affection for Oak. She grapples with the conflicting emotions of love and betrayal, ultimately choosing a path that prioritizes her own autonomy and the well-being of those she cares for. 

Oak’s loyalty is tested as he navigates the demands of his quest and his feelings for Wren. He must choose between fulfilling his duty to his kingdom and following his heart, leading to difficult decisions and sacrifices. 

The novel explores the different facets of love, from romantic affection to familial bonds and loyalty to a cause, showcasing the challenges and rewards that come with these complex emotions.