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The Seelie Wars #1

The Hostage Prince

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Lowly midwife apprentice orange-hair Snail, one eye blue, one green, and snobby hostage Seelie Prince Aspen are on the run from Unseelie and Seelie rulers calling down death. Is old drow Jack Daw a friend or foe? Will three questions from Sticksman be the promised favor Aspen cannot keep? Monsters pursue through Unseelie Castle, Unseelie Lands, Shifting Lands.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2013

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About the author

Jane Yolen

889 books2,960 followers
Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.

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5 stars
61 (14%)
4 stars
138 (33%)
3 stars
157 (37%)
2 stars
47 (11%)
1 star
11 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 65 reviews
Profile Image for Brian.
524 reviews7 followers
August 11, 2013
This is a very odd children's book. Knowing the superb ability of Yolen to write fantasy and folklore, I really looked forward to this book, but I was disappointed. The plot was immensely slow, the characters uninspiring, and the whole book reads like a prologue to what must come afterward....and prologues aren't usually book-length.

I finished it, but really lost incentive about 1/2 way through.
547 reviews13 followers
June 1, 2015
***Possible spoilers***

The entire book could be simplified to this: Prince Aspen does something foolish, getting himself (and Snail) into trouble. Snail does something clever (or just lucky), averting disaster. Repeat.

Overall, this was actually a decent story for a children's book. It was just rather annoying to see the same pattern over and over again.
11 reviews
August 24, 2018
The Hostage Prince by Jane Yolen is a fantasy adventure novel following a clumsy apprentice and a hostage prince who lives in a kingdom full of monsters and harsh rule. It follows the unlikely pair as they shift their situation from unpleasant to running from the king's guards. It is a decent book that does a good job of laying the foundation for the rest of the series. It is not boring as it contains plenty of action and excitement from running into different monsters or being closely pursued. It is a bit of an easier read but, it still holds the audience's attention with creative and complex situations. This book would most likely be suited for people from the middle up to high school. This book reminds me a lot of The Beyonders by Brandon Mull with similar character personalities and general situation. The book did have some very important underlying ideas such as it is good to be different and do not let society tell you what you have to do. A really important theme in this book is independence, from character unhappily being pushed around into groups and just falling in line. The Hostage Prince is a good book I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good adventure novel.
Profile Image for Miss Clark.
2,552 reviews200 followers
July 5, 2015
Here was a book I picked up on a whim and enjoyed.

It was just a classic fairy story of the two courts warring with one another, but I liked the characters and the voices of the two protagonists.

Snail - lowly, snarly midwife apprentice, one eye green, one eye blue with red hair, she is a changeling. Everyone else figured that out from the start, right? It is not as if they are trying to hide the fact. I loved how wonderfully snarly and fed up with Aspen she is throughout the story. She is not properly cowed by his royal status and mocks him for his faults and his airs, though not in a denigrating, cruel way like the Unseelie court. In the simple manner one does when someone else is being absurd or obtuse.

Prince Aspen - traded as a hostage in the war to be raised by his father's enemy. Scorned and despised by his "adopted" family, he turns to the one individual who is kind to him, Jack Daw. Of course, Jack Daw is his foe and a master manipulator. He tricks Aspen into leaving the Unseelie lands believing that war is breaking out and that as hostage he will be killed in the morning. He runs into Snail, already imprisoned by the unstable queen because of an incident during her delivery, and together they escape with Jack's kind assistance.

The rest of the book is mostly them making their way through the Shifting Lands* back to Prince Aspen's family only to discover that he has been tricked and brought war to his people. A war that they cannot win.

Aspen's mother frees him and sends him away to spare his life which is now forfeit. She sends Snail with him , giving her the new name of Nomi, meaning loyal. Snail/Nomi just wants to run and live with her new freedom. Aspen, however, is determined to put things to rights and find a way to prevent this war. He admits that he has made mistakes, that the royals are not noble, but he also does truly believe that they are supposed to act with nobleness of intent and spirit. That he has a responsibility to fix this mistake. It was at this moment that I most respected him.

Snail/Nomi reluctantly agrees to accompany him and maybe she can manage to keep him alive long enough for them to find a solution.

The voice is sprightly and lively. I would hope that as Aspen and Snail get to know one another, they may become less antagonistic towards one another and learn to see what the other means before immediately taking umbrage.

So, I will probably pick up the rest once the whole trilogy is out.

*Loved that concept - not that it is new, but how they portrayed it and the encounter with the trolls! Great.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Samma Lynne.
75 reviews29 followers
June 29, 2013
Grr. My kittens ate my first review. So let me sum up.

*Lot of things I loved that got muddled in lots of things that I just couldn't grasp or with which I got bored.

*Spent equal amounts of time loving and hating the main characters. Didn't love the not-main-characters until the ones that started appearing in the Shifting Lands and beyond. Except I kind of liked Jack Daw. Sometimes. And the Stickman.

*I am actually insanely excited about the next book because most of the parts I loved the most were in the last quarter of the book. So I have high hopes for the next installment. I just wish this one had kept my interest longer.
1,577 reviews6 followers
February 27, 2018
I almost did not finish this book. I found the plot boring, with too many things happening that weren't explained clearly. The reader shouldn't be given everything on a silver platter, but there should at least be some hint to explain why characters say/do certain things (the insistence on Snail asking Aspen to ask Jack Daw something three times is due to the idea that asking a fairy creature something three times means they need to answer truthfully, but this is never explained). This is the third book of Yolen's that I haven't been fond of, which is a shame because her name keeps coming up as a great author.
Profile Image for Brittany.
299 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2022
I found this book to be a little bit simpler than some of Jane Yolen's other books, but it was written for younger readers, unlike the YA books of hers that I usually read. I loved it though, it had the same clear/clean language and pure storytelling power that I have come to enjoy from these authors. I would recommend it to anyone, especially parents reading to their young children.
Profile Image for Ann.
113 reviews
March 25, 2015
I would actually give this book 3.5 stars. Fast pace, lots of action, should be a strong start to the trilogy. The only thing I felt could have improved were the main characters and their relationship. Needs more work making them seem like companions.
Profile Image for Katrina.
Author 1 book1 follower
January 9, 2020
I think my 11 yo enjoyed this one more than I did. I like many of Yolen's books but this one just didn't ever grab me. I'm not planning to read the next one and my daughter hasn't asked that we read it either, so that may say something...
Profile Image for Rachel.
479 reviews
April 20, 2021
This was a fantasy book my mom picked up for free from our library.

The entire idea of the story was a fun twist, but I didn't like how the author's carried it out. Many spaces within the story didn't move along, lots of scenes felt they needed to be explained better, and characters felt lost amongst trying to feel out the "world" of the story. I really wanted far more of a captured prince's viewpoints and everyday life and these felt rushed and skipped over a bit as if they'd be boring to the reader and therefore unnecessary. [I often find the "boring, everyday" to be the most needful in story building, myself].

This series feels heavy and dark, yet not exactly "scary" in a sense. Yet many aspects didn't click with me like the actual lack of usefulness of the midwives, the kingdom the prince and Snail are in and it's creatures, and the sudden escape from the kingdom and all that unfolded. There are a few kind of creepy characters (such as pictured on the cover), but not much time is actually spent with them for any length of time. The violence comes from the threat of "being eaten" on occasion by these mystical creatures of trolls and such. There is also an escape where characters come in peril but I can't go into that without giving things away.

What I DID like about the story, were the two main characters just have something about them you want to continue to discover their stories and see the journey they undertake and all that happens between them. The world itself is mysterious not only to us, the readers, but to the characters who have never been outside the kingdom.

I will be reading the other two books in the series out of curiosity, but so far the series hasn't made much impact and it isn't a favorite.
410 reviews1 follower
November 18, 2020
Review contains spoilers*****

I have loved Jane Yolen in the past - but this is a miss for me. If I wasn't over half way through and wasn't trying to make a book reading goal for the year I wouldn't have finished it.

Confusing writing. Seelie and Unseelie get used a lot trying to help you sort them out. But they are almost overused in very confusing ways.

The whole plot comes down to this:

Aspen is a hostage to the enemy court to avoid war. He is told by a friend he needs to leave because war is coming and he will be killed. He escapes and takes Snail with him because of accidental proximity. She turns out to be a good friend. The person who tells him he needed to escape turns out to be lying. He gets home, but has to go on the run so he won't get killed by his home court (and family) in an attempt to show good faith to the enemy court and avoid war. They run.

This takes over 230 pages. If the characters were more compelling and the writing less confusing I might have liked it. But as another review said, the whole thing reads like a prologue. A book length prologue. I'll find a summary of the next two books if I want to find out what happens. I DON'T need to take the time to read the whole thing.

Profile Image for Etta Grace.
32 reviews
April 24, 2021
This was a fun fast-paced fantasy book that takes an interesting look at the dynamic between the Seelie and Unseelie courts - and the unfortunate characters caught up in the middle of it all. The writing is entertaining to read, though the one complaint I have is that the impact of the climax is spoiled by the book's own synopsis. Since it tells the reader straight-out that their runaway starts a war, there's no surprise when that's revealed to the characters, and the build up is a little frustrating because you already know what's going to happen but can't stop the characters from being manipulated. If that was a plot twist, it would be a 5-star book for sure.

That being said, I really liked Snail's character. She's allowed to mess up often enough that she doesn't seem too-good-for-her-own-good, and she has enough triumphs to feel like a proper underdog. Prince Aspen is likable, if whiny and inept, and by the end of the book, he's starting to check himself more often and start appreciating Snail, so I'm curious to see where his character arc takes him in book 2 and the rest of the series. I have hope for the boy yet. I'm eager to see what happens in The Last Changeling!
Profile Image for Sammy.
46 reviews6 followers
February 24, 2018
The Hostage Prince was a good book though probably a bit below my reading level. I won't hold that against it since I knew that going in. I had figured out the twist well before it happened and the writing style was a bit confusing sometimes- giving extensive background information in the middle of dialogue- but aside from this it was an intriguing book with likeable characters and a world that is easy to understand.
Profile Image for Loretta Marchize.
Author 6 books35 followers
March 4, 2019
I really liked this book! It was actually pretty good. I just picked it up from the school library and wasn't expecting a ton. Anyways, I'm going to see if I can find the rest of the series. It was a little confusing at times, but I enjoyed the characters. That was certainly a strong point to the authors.
More of a middle school novel, not really any content. Mentions of birth, as the girl is a midwife's assistant. Also mentions of death, but not really any actual death.
Profile Image for Emma.
142 reviews7 followers
January 5, 2022
maybe if I were still in the target audience I would like this better but it’s definitely written for kids who have just started on longer chapter books with its style of writing and characters.
Also the fact that one of the MCs practically drops an F bomb in chapter three seems very out of place. I’m 21 so I’m used to such language in books I read but this book is for 10-12 year olds and younger.
Profile Image for Wina.
793 reviews
February 2, 2021
Fantasy for ages 9-12, this is another trilogy where I needed to read them all. Great stories, great characters, wonderful array of races, there is a war--so serious stuff going on, great ending.
#2 The Last Changeling
#3 The Seelie King's War
Profile Image for Burningfeather.
116 reviews
March 5, 2021
I actually enjoyed this simple book. The overall plot is simple and short and overall not much happens. But, it did build up the characters and the situation that I'm curious to keep reading to see what happens.

It's a nice small book to read quickly.
Profile Image for Sha.
980 reviews34 followers
December 28, 2017
A bad case for of reader/book mismatch. But I would have loved it as a kid.
224 reviews
January 28, 2018
I enjoyed the entire series. It is written for a younger audience.
1,086 reviews
March 16, 2021
Enjoyed this YA novel. Fantasy with plenty of suspense, weird creatures, and a delightful heroine, a slightly heroic hero.
Author 4 books1 follower
December 9, 2018
Couldn't get into it - will try again when I'm not so busy.
Profile Image for Jaina Rose.
522 reviews65 followers
August 7, 2015
This review is also available on my blog, Read Till Dawn.

Honestly, just look at that cover. Does this look like a good book to you? Snail's leggings are truly hideous, and Aspen . . . well, he kind of looks like a girl. Which is kind of ironic, thinking after having read the second book.

Yeah, I've already read the second book as well. Because while The Hostage Prince looks very mediocre from the cover, it's actually really, really good. My mother, who also read it, was willing to make a special library run the day the second book (The Last Changeling) came in, even though she'd been running around all day doing errands, just because she wanted to read it so badly. She finished it that same night.

The thing about the Seelie Wars books is that they don't pull any punches - sometimes literally. As middle grade fiction goes, this series is surprisingly dark and full of violence (a lot of it implied, but some deaths actually shown). This makes the tale that much more gripping for the main characters, and makes me love them that much more for not being like the people (er, creatures) around them. Because they live in a world of ruthlessness, where any sign of mercy or sympathy is treated like a deadly crime, their own behavior becomes that much more endearing. I love the way that they begin the book behaving the way most people of their respective classes would to each other (the prince completely in charge, Snail completely submissive), but then the wall between them breaks farther and farther down as the story progresses. There just reaches a point when you're in danger and it's more important to grab someone's hand and drag them away than it is to ask their permission for touching them, you know?

Snail makes for a great main character, because she's not a huge rebel. Honestly, I'm sick of stories about girls raised in servitude who spend all of their time revolting. Snail is the low of the low, and she knows it. She understands her own position of weakness, and while she may get a little bitter from time to time (when the nobility get especially capricious), and she never loses her own self-respect, most of the time she just goes along with however things are going. She begins to gradually lose this mindset of needing to "keep her place" as the story goes on and she develops a friendship with Aspen.

Speaking of the prince, he's not always the brightest bulb. But then again, I think that goes along with his upbringing. He's basically just meant to be a placeholder to keep war from breaking out between two kingdoms; there's really nothing he can be expected to actually do with his life besides that, so he hasn't exactly gotten a lot of stimulating training or anything. I love him a lot, though, especially as the book goes on and he begins to discover things about himself and how the world works that he had never even considered before (for example: just because someone isn't born into royalty, doesn't mean he or she is good for nothing more than cleaning up after you - she might actually make a great friend, too).

So yeah, I'm a huge new fan of the Seelie Wars series (and of Jane Yolen's!), and I can't wait to read the third book. Keep an eye out for my review of book two, The Last Changeling, in the next couple of weeks!
Profile Image for KidsFiction Teton County Library.
274 reviews2 followers
July 18, 2014

Chris’ Rating: 3.5 Stars
Aspen, a Seelie Prince is being held hostage by the Unseelies, while an Unseelie prince is being kept at the Seelie court, in order to prevent war from breaking out between the two fae nations. Snail, a clumsy apprentice midwife is prepared to assist with the birth of the Unseelie queen’s next child, should they be the chosen midwives. When the only person Aspen considers to be his friend tells him that war is on the wind (and as such the hostage prince will be sacrificed) Aspen decides to flee for his life, since remaining with the Unseelies will do nothing but ensure his death. For Snail everything goes wrong when the midwifes in her birthing room are accused of a plot to kill the queen. They join up near the dungeons and soon both are fleeing for their life.
The hostage prince has some entertaining characters, an interesting world and although I wouldn’t consider it a humorous book overall, it was at times pleasantly funny. Having known a few midwives, I found myself questioning some of the methods and thought processes of certain characters in the book. I still haven’t decided how much I liked it…so rather I’ll go with the pros and cons.
Pros: 1. The world/concept/plot is interesting, but not overly complex. While no book is entirely original, the feel of this book was different from a lot of Children’s Fantasy I have read…in a good way. 2. The humor (when it manifests) is well placed and the order of things seems to flow decently. 3. I want to know more about the stickman (as brief as he was in the book) and the Trolls/shifting lands added a lot to the picture (all 2nd half of the story).
Cons: 1. The two main characters aren’t very balanced, although their quirks are entertaining together. Aspen is almost invariably the “noble” haughty idiot who cannot do anything, while Snail solves all of the problems (or simply gets lucky). Yes it can make things funny, but eventually it got annoying. 2. For me the story was very predictable and I was surprised how easily Aspen was duped. Yes he was young and idealistic; but if I recall right Snail was even younger than him (Snail particularly didn’t act her age…but then both are fae after all). 3. My biggest qualm was with the synopsis and blurbs on the inside of the book, which are very misleading. It made it sound like at least a portion of the book was going to be the main characters figuring out how to prevent the war they were accidentally causing (which made the travel and introductory style of the book more disappointing because it didn’t cover what was advertised). Instead Aspen and Snail don’t even start to consider even finding a solution until the last pages of the book. That part of the blurb should have been left off and added to book #2.
369 reviews
October 7, 2019
Cute children's story about discovering who is and isn't your friend.
Possibly the start of a fun adventure, but I can't tell yet.
I read the two sequels. Okay, but not worth my time.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 65 reviews

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