For a hundred years, the once-prosperous kingdom of Perin Faye has suffered under the rule of the greedy and power-hungry Thungrave kings. Maralyth Graylaern, a vintner’s daughter, has no idea her hidden magical power is proof of a secret bloodline and claim to the throne. Alac Thungrave, the king’s second son, has always been uncomfortable with his position as the spare heir—and the dark, stolen magic that comes with ruling.
When Maralyth becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family and seize the throne, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues in an adventure of dark magic, court intrigue, and forbidden love.
With so many series on the market, trying to keep up with when the next book’s release while lamenting the length of time between the heart-stopping cliffhanger and the next novel, the thought of reading a standalone really appealed to me and was one of the reasons I requested this book.
I’m a reader that enjoys a fairly consistent pace. Description is necessary in a story to give a sense of place and imagery, but several pages of details will bog down my reading experience, and I tend to skip over them. That wasn’t the case with this novel. This author manages to give vivid descriptions and provide character depth with a minimal amount of words – it’s a real talent and a high priority if you’re writing a standalone fantasy novel.
Mara is a young woman ahead of her time who speaks her mind, possesses a strong moral compass, and doesn’t shy away from hard truths. She’s able to set aside her own wants and needs to see the big picture. If you’re trying to seize the throne, these qualities check off some important boxes. Alac is the second son of a king – the spare heir. He doesn’t feel loved or seen by his father, and his relationship with his brother, the heir to the throne, isn’t oozing brotherly love. Having other dreams for himself, Alac has no interest in taking the throne or getting caught up in the dark magic that comes along with it. When Mara and Alac meet up, it’s a bit of insta-love at first, but they’re not immediately caught up in the throes of passion – which is a relief. They enjoy a tentative friendship while harboring deeper feelings for each other, but then run into some serious roadblocks in their relationship. There’s some major conflict here.
As a wine lover, I enjoyed the mention of the vineyards and Mara’s and Alac’s interest in growing grapes and possibly forming a cooperative for smaller vineyards in the area. It also provided them common ground and something to bond over. It’s not a topic I’ve come across in other YA books.
Plenty of YA novels featuring the lost-king/queen-seeking-to-reclaim-the-throne trope are out there, and I was hoping this novel wouldn’t follow a familiar path – it didn’t. Instead, I met two level-headed, mature MCs who are thrown into life and death circumstances, but put the needs of others ahead of their own. I honestly didn’t know how they’d manage to get out of some of their situations, so expect some twists and surprises. Forgiveness in many forms is a prominent theme, as well as doing what truly makes you happy in life (and it’s not always sitting on a throne). The Stolen Kingdom is a novel I enjoyed and would recommend to fantasy fans looking for a standalone, well-paced story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.