The Hostage Prince by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, Book 1 of The Seelie Wars, a review
Published 2013 by Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group, 232 pages
Genre: Middle grade fantasy, aimed at readers approx. 12 years old

Snail is her name, and she’s an odd person in the Unseelie Court. She’s a midwife’s apprentice, clumsy, outspoken. She doesn’t have the magical abilities that seem common in the Unseelie lands, and she doesn’t even know where she came from.

Prince Aspen is a hostage in the Unseelie Court, representing the Seelie lands–where elves like himself hang out. In this world, it’s customary for a king’s third son to spend his life as a hostage in the court of the enemy, to be murdered in case war breaks out. So the Unseelie King has also sent his son as a hostage to the Seelie Court–Prince Aspen’s father’s court.

The apprentice and the prince find themselves thrown together as they run away, hoping to stop a war they hear is imminent. They’re such different personalities. Prince Aspen struggles with how to serve his people. Snail struggles with solving the next problem.

This book has plenty of twists and turns as Snail and Prince Aspen escape their castle prison and head for Seelie lands. It’s a richly imagined world, with a funereal ferryman and a treacherous crow, wild mermen, trolls, ogres, and all that stuff. It’s also funny as many of the reader’s expectations are upended.

By the end of this book, the adventure has transformed from what we thought it was at first, and now is something else entirely. But it’s clearly moving forward into future books with these endearing traveling companions, and I am glad about that.

Four stars: ****


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