Terrifying monsters, daring escapes and a kingdom on the verge of war…
Unlikely companions Snail and Prince Aspen find themselves thrown together on the adventure of a lifetime. Due to a series of misunderstandings, they end up on the run, having adventure after mishap after scary, thrilling escape. When they reach Aspen's kingdom, they learn to their horror that their actions have divided the country and plunged it into violence. Every minute counts: it is time for Snail and Aspen to figure out a way to stop the building war—together.
The Hostage Prince is a fast-paced, funny, exciting fantasy novel for young readers. And who better to start tweens on their journey than Jane Yolen (“America's Hans Christian Andersen”—Time) and her son, Adam Stemple!
Yolen and Stemple—the mother-son team behind Troll Bridge, Pay the Piper, and B.U.G.—deliver a fast-paced adventure, first in a trilogy, which draws on fairy myth and lore. Aspen is a Seelie Prince who has spent half his life living as a royal hostage in the bustling Unseelie Court. Snail is an accident-prone midwife's apprentice anticipating the birth of the Unseelie Queen's new child. When the two are thrown together on the eve of war, through manipulation and dire circumstance, they form an uneasy partnership in order to escape the Unseelie Lands. However, that's just the beginning of a long and dangerous journey as they face off against ogres, trolls, and other otherworldly creatures. Aspen and Snail's friendship, which grows against all odds and in spite of several snarky exchanges and awkward moments, is a warm contrast to the unpredictable and capricious world of the Fae. The tone alternates between tongue-in-cheek and surprisingly dark, but the end result is an entertaining, thrilling fantasy with a host of endearing characters. Ages: 8–up. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (June)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—This fantasy features third-person narration from alternating points of view and an interesting bunch of magical creatures. Aspen is a "Seelie" prince held hostage in the volatile "Unseelie" Court as part of an uneasy truce between the two kingdoms. When he learns that war has been declared, he flees the castle, joining forces with Snail, a midwife's accident-prone apprentice. Their escape takes them through dungeons, caves, and Astaeri Palace, which are all described with just enough details to capture the magical atmosphere. The most exciting moments involve encounters with an ogre interrogator; the river-dwelling mer; and a hungry, pregnant troll. The enigmatic Sticksman who ferries the heroes to safety and a crafty drow who misleads the prince to further his own villainous scheme are also intriguing secondary characters. Aspen and Snail are refreshingly atypical heroes: Snail's prickly personality gets her into as much trouble as her clumsiness, and Aspen is neither brave nor clever. Nonetheless, they are quite likable, and both gain strength and self-confidence as their adventure progresses and they learn to trust each other. The final chapters, which include a fairly uninvolving imprisonment and escape, slow down in pace, but they also set the stage neatly for the next book in the series, leaving plenty more to learn about the Seelie/Unseelie conflict and the intriguing relationship between the prince and the apprentice.—Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR
Two standard character types--a spunky lower-class girl and a prince without a kingdom--reluctantly bond in a series opener that features colorful aspects mortared together with tired tropes. Snail is a midwife's apprentice in the Unseelie Court, which occupies a harsh, chaotic castle brimming with many kinds of fey. Snail's midwifery role is strictly prescribed, but she's clumsy and tends to stumble into trouble. Elsewhere in the castle lives Prince Aspen, called the Hostage Prince since he doesn't belong to the royal Unseelie family--he belongs to their enemies. By birth, he's the third successor to the faraway Seelie throne. Seven years ago, each court sent a son to their enemy's home as a hostage against the possibility of war. When a drow's lie and a queen's hostility send Snail and Aspen tumbling into a frantic escape from execution, they grudgingly work together to cross changing landscapes and reach his Seelie family--which doesn't offer the safety they expect. A comical troll birthing scene, an ending twist and an intriguing riddle that Aspen's charged to carry balance out the uneven creativity and the fact that Snail's plucky impudence--a central aspect of her characterization--receives only the thinnest justification. This isn't the absolute freshest fantasy for this age group, but the prince's boldly impossible plan will carry readers forward to the next installment. (Fantasy. 8-11)
Jane Yolen (www.janeyolen.com) needs no introduction! She has been called the "Hans Christian Andersen of children's literature" (Time) and has won countless awards for her wide-ranging body of work -- picture books, poetry, nonfiction, middle-grade fiction, YA novels, and novels and poetry for adults. She was also the editor of her own imprints at Harcourt (Jane Yolen Books and the reprint line Magic Carpet Books), where she published best-selling authors Patricia C. Wrede, Bruce Coville, and Anne McCaffrey, among many others.
Adam Stemple (www.adamstemple.com) is the author of wo novels for adults, Singer of Souls and Steward of Songs (both Tor), as well as a musician ... and Jane's son! They have collaborated on two "rock 'n' troll fairy tales" (Pay the Piper and Troll Bridge), and our own B.U.G. (Dutton).