What Am I Reading This Week?
Stolen Songbird – Book One in the Malediction Trilogy by Danielle L. Jensen
High Fantasy Young Adult (YA) novels are a serious weakness of mine. If an author is able to construct and describe a totally (or partially) new world not just limited to its aesthetics but how it functions as whole; introduce a love story that doesn’t appear out of nowhere or, worse, the instant the main characters lock eyes offer an interesting plot with high stakes and real conflict; fully develop not only the primary characters but their usually overlooked secondary leads, and make me want to laugh out loud or throw my book across my flat… then I consider that a job well done. They have their names written onto my quarterly book budget.
Stolen Songbird was able to hit all those notes and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, top to bottom.
Cécile de Troyes is a seventeen year old aspiring opera singer on the verge of leaving behind her family farm and small village (in what I assume to be an alternative France) for the city, to pursue her dreams of performing alongside her famous mother. Unfortunately before she can even attend her going away party, she is kidnapped by a ‘friend’ and told that she is being sold to the trolls that reside under the mountain near her home. Upon her delivery, Cecile is not only confronted with the fact that the trolls she heard whispers about as a child were real, but wield serious magic and are in some cases more grotesque and powerful than she could have imagined. She is told that she matches the description of the girl who is prophesied to remove the curse a witch had placed on them five hundred years prior, trapping them in the depths of the mountain.
The trolls believe that ‘bonding’ her to one of theirs will break the curse and they will once again be free to stand in the sun. Prince Tristan is the Heir to Trollus – the city beneath the mountain – and when we first meet him he is rude, sarcastic and also opposed to the idea of being married to Cécile, a lowly human, but is willing to do what is required of him not only as a son but as a future King. Things however do not go according to plan and the curse is still intact after the bonding ceremony.
The rest of the book deals with Cécile struggling to come to terms with her position among the trolls, her hopes of one day escaping and returning to her family and dreams, growing interest in troll politics and her unlikely friendships with those closest to her, including her lady’s maids, members of the troll nobility and even her husband, after a while.
POV Chapters – Not only was the book written in first person, but from the alternating points of view of Cecile and Tristan, as their bonding ceremony caused an emotional link to be formed between the two. Watching them untangle not only their own feelings, but try to interpret the other’s, was interesting and a good story telling technique.
Troll Politics – Trollus is not only populated by the pure blooded noble trolls, but by human-troll crossbreeds who are treated as chattel to be bought and sold at the whim of their masters. The underground resistance sought to tip the scales in their favour, and it was an interesting plot-lin.e I appreciated Cecile’s decision to take part in the resistance and the lengths she went to, to see what she was fighting for.
The Curse – Untangling the mystery of the witch’s curse was a strong plot point and I found myself conflicted over whether or not I wanted it to be broken as very good arguments were made for both. I look forward to the reintroduction of this in the later books.
Trollus, the lights especially – The city exists under a mountain, and therefore there is little to no light available there is, however magic! Each troll is able to generate their own personal orb of light to guide them, I loved the idea of a faintly glowing city and the adjustments that had to be made by not only Cecile as in inhabitant but myself as the reader. Other great aspects were the Royal Gardens made entirely of glass, the river, the library, the goldmines, the labyrinth, and the tree. All of these components added a new imaginative element to reading that I really enjoyed (yay world building!).
Secondary Characters: Zoé, Élise, Marc, The Twins, Roland, The King, Anaïs – I don’t want to ruin anyone’s discovery of back story but I really liked getting to know all the secondary characters and how their lives intersected with and influenced the decisions made by Cécile and Tristan.
There was one too many near death experiences for my taste, but I could see where it was intended to heighten the story.
There are still so many points of the story I want to mention (the book is 469 pages!) but I will leave the best for you to discover. Overall I loved this book, and luckily I have a copy of the follow up, Hidden Huntress, sat right on my bookshelf. I hope to get to it soon.
Let us know in the comments if you have read this book, your thoughts, and what you’re reading this week!