Fallen Princeborn: Stolen
Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, Jean Lee’s breakout YA novel, was eight years in the writing, eight years in the creating, eight years in the honing; and eight years in the suffering — through her postpartum depression; through past breaches of trust rearing themselves in the present; through invalidation of the self that can only be understood by others similarly situated — and in the end, Jean Lee would probably say it was worth it, for every drop of her experience, sweat and tears made it onto the pages of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, showcasing her raw talent, and the strength of will and character it took not just to survive, but thrive.
First, the back story. Jean Lee wrote a series of standalone shorts encapsulated under the common banner of Tales of the River Vine, the precursors to Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, and an exposé of the characters we’ll meet there. The stories are like bursts of mouth-watering flavor, a small, delicious taste of what is to come. Tales of the River Vine introduces us to: The Boy Who Kept a Forest in His Pocket, where we first see The Wall, a malevolent force all its own; The Stray, and the strange cat known as Captain Whiskers; Dandelion of Defiance, and the beautiful Ember, a hunter from the fairy world who pays a large price for her insubordination; No More Pretty Rooms, and the cruel and insouciant prince who once ruled indiscriminately over River Vine; The Preservation Jar, about the same prince, now repentant, and his wise teacher who hope to change the course of the evil forces plotting to overtake River Vine; and Tattered Rhapsody, and the feisty Miss Charlotte, the indomitable heroine who would give up all, even her beloved music, to keep her sister, Anna safe. By the time you’ve finished Tattered Rhapsody, you’re primed to dive into Fallen. Oh, and the shorts are all free on Amazon Kindle so no excuse not to read, eh?
Tattered Rhapsody begins with Charlotte performing on the piano for her teacher and a few college recruiters, the scrappiest pianist ever to grace a stage. Her hands are raw, cracked and painful looking, but her demeanor is pure steel and musical genius. Her teacher praises her to the recruiters, angling for a scholarship. The same teacher later tries to convince Charlotte why she should take the scholarship, but Charlotte refuses to leave her sister behind and under the “care” of several less than competent adults. You don’t need to have read the back stories to start in on Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, but it will prime you for the novel and launch you into a magical and most unsettling world of fairy magic where grudges rarely die, but humans often do.
Fallen picks up right where Tattered left off. Charlotte has agreed to take the scholarship on the condition that Anna go with her, and the girls are on a bus headed to their Aunt Gail’s where they will live while Charlotte attends school and follows her musical aspirations. We get early on that there is trouble in the girls’ home, a father who’s died, a mother left grieving and unable to cope, and an aunt and uncle that are more foes than friends. The particulars are unraveled slowly, like pulled taffy, the nefarious and horrific nature of the girls’ situation worse than hell, and Charlotte refuses to leave Anna to face that alone. For her part, Anna seems a bit vapid and you may find yourself questioning why Charlotte has remained so loyal when she receives so little in return.
So off to Aunt Gail’s the girls go with everything maybe working out for a change, but then the inevitable snafu: the bus breaks down and the passengers are rescued by another bus, but this one smells funny, like death and decay under everything shiny and new — in addition to being a good fighter, Charlotte’s super power is her sense of smell — and the driver and his helper are more than a bit odd. Before the next 24 hours are up, Charlotte will have crossed over into a land that defies logic. “Charlie” will fight anyone and anything that preclude her from keeping Anna safe, but if she needed to be badass before, here in River Vine Charlotte and Anna’s lives depend upon it.
If you enjoy stories about magic, good versus evil, and the fight for justice, then Fallen Princeborn: Stolen guarantees hours of reading pleasure. I think you’ll agree with me that Miss Charlotte may be the gutsiest, most combative heroine to ever to burst the shackles of your heart.