By Ekta R. Garg
April 3, 2019
Genre: YA fantasy
Release date: October 16, 2018
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
On the way to their new life, a high school senior and her younger sister encounter strange creatures. When the younger sister gets kidnapped, the teen won’t let unchartered territory deter her rescue efforts. Author Jean Lee brings to life a world hidden in rural Wisconsin in the fairly enjoyable but slightly problematic novel Fallen Princeborn: Stolen.
After enduring years of emotional and physical abuse, Charlotte decides to get herself and her younger sister, Anna, out of the situation. She and Anna leave North Dakota to move in with their Aunt Gail in Wisconsin. Once Anna gets settled, Charlotte knows she’ll have peace of mind to go to college and pursue her music.
Even the best plans get waylaid, though. The bus breaks down, and a freaky body builder and his creepy sidekick bring the replacement bus. Despite her misgivings, Charlotte makes sure she and Anna get on the new bus, but it runs into problems too.
The driver takes the passengers to a farm for the night where Charlotte and Anna meet Jenny, the daughter of the farm owners, who tells Charlotte a strange story about a younger brother no one remembers. One day he disappeared behind the wall next to the farm, and now it’s as if he never existed. Since then, too, the wild creatures around the farm have begun a concerted effort to take Jenny and others.
Charlotte has seen the creatures too. They’re definitely targeting Jenny and her and Anna too, and Charlotte warns Anna to be careful. Anna whines about Charlotte’s overprotectiveness and sneaks out of the house during the night. Then she goes missing, and no one remembers her the next day.
Charlotte gets frantic, and then she becomes determined. If she could get Anna out of North Dakota, she can definitely rescue her from behind a wall. Without hesitation, she goes over it…and finds herself in the magical world of River Vine.
There she learns of creatures known as the velidevours that consume the dreams and desires of humans. They’re ruled by Lady Orna, self-proclaimed ruler of the velidevour of River Vine. She’s responsible for the kidnapping of Anna, Jenny’s brother, and many others. By keeping them in captivity and siphoning energy from them, she and her underlings can live.
Charlotte also meets Liam the Princeborn, the rightful ruler, albeit a deposed one, of River Vine. He’s self-involved and has a high opinion of himself as a ladies’ man. It doesn’t help that he’s incredibly good looking and determined to help Charlotte, although not in quite the way she planned. Now she’ll have to stay in River Vine longer than she planned while she tries to figure out how to get both Anna and herself home before either of them get consumed or, worse, driven crazy by Liam.
Author Jean Lee offers readers a fearless protagonist. Charlotte may not always trust people, but she won’t hesitate to pursue what she knows to be right. Readers will appreciate her surety of purpose, even if that surety comes at the expense of her common sense. Lee has also built a rich world. River Vine comes across with clarity and imagination, and the prose sparkles in several places.
Less successful are some of the mechanical elements of the book. After following Charlotte as the main character for several chapters, the story head hops from her to Liam without pause and then back again. Readers may find the effect jarring and will need to reorient themselves to the narrative time and time again. Given that the book is actually named for Liam and not Charlotte, this shift of focus to him makes sense. The shift of point of view could have been handled with more finesse, however.
Also problematic is the time Charlotte spends in River Vine. After her encounter with Lady Orna, she spends a long time exploring the magic world without anything of major consequence happening. She finds herself in many interesting situations and often gets into trouble, but many of these sequences feel like treading water until the next major plot twist. The book could undergo some editing, which would help improve the pacing and get readers through the major events of the novel much faster.
Readers in the target audience who appreciate their fantasy with some horror will most likely enjoy this book. Mechanical issues aside, Charlotte will appeal to readers who enjoy strong female characters. I recommend readers Borrow Fallen Princeborn: Stolen.