Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

  Title: Stolen Songbird

 Series: The Malediction Trilogy (#1)

 Author: Danielle L. Jensen

 Genre: fantasy

 Rating: ★★★¾

 In short: a spunky, lovable heroine and a super interesting universe. I’m definitely looking forward to the next books!

Goodreads: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

“Beauty can be created, knowledge learned, but talent can neither be purchased nor taught. And you’ve talent, my dearest girl. When you stand on stage and sing, the whole world will love you.”

Cécile is a farmer’s daughter, as good as a nobody if not for her voice. She has been training to sing for years, and finally, she’s come to the day when she joins her mother in the city to sing on stage. Ha, no, I don’t think so. Cécile is abducted on the night of her going-away party and she’s taken to the deep catacombs under the Forbidden Mountain. All the stories she’s heard are true—an ancient troll city lies beneath the mountain, and she has been chosen to be the bride of their prince. The trolls want freedom from Trollus, and Cécile was supposed to be their solution according to a prophecy by bonding with Prince Tristan. She’s bound to him soon after she arrives, and she can now sense when he is nearby, feel what he’s feeling in the back of her mind. The problem? The prophecy fails. And she is as good as their prisoner. In her search for an escape from Trollus, she finds that the trolls’ situation is far more complex than it seems, as is the uncaring, rude prince.

All in all, this was really good! Looking back at the other fantasy books I’ve read recently, some shudder-worthy examples come to mind (Defy, Frozen) and then some surprisingly satisfying ones (Cruel Beauty, Ruby Red); Stolen Songbird definitely falls under the latter category. It’s free of most of the annoying, offensive traits that seem to plague YA fantasy, like slut-shaming, girl-on-girl hate, insta-love, and the ever-present, groan-worthy love triangle. Also, in Cécile, the story gives us a strong, passionate heroine, who’s neither a wimpy shell nor an emotionless warriorgirl. She doesn’t mope, although she has her weak moments; she’s not some super-special snowflake; she’s a proper, fleshed-out human being, and for that, Danielle Jensen deserves applause. Good on you.

“Hmmm,” the King said, making a face. “I’m not sure this is what we bargained for, boy. We expected the girl to be attractive.”
If I hadn’t been so terrified, I would have been insulted.
“This is the one.”
“Are you certain?” the King asked from his perch on the throne. “She rather smells.”

The supporting characters are so wonderful as well. From the royal family (the complex king, the simple-minded queen, the immensely entertaining Duchesse) to the nobility (Marc! Oh, Marc! Also, Victoria and Vincent, and Anaïs) to even Cécile’s maids, everyone has some importance and depth. 

Then there’s Tristan. The trolls are often deformed, but of course our love interest is drop-dead gorgeous…and the exact opposite, at first glance, of any handsome swoon-worthy prince. Cutting a long story short, he’s pretty much a little brat in the beginning. But he does have his redemption, obviously. Not only is he a really complex and interesting character, the progression of his relationship with Cécile is so glorious I could squeal. It’s nothing like insta-love. Let’s divide it into three phases. Phase One is distrust and dislike. Boy, was this entertaining to read.

“I’m the daughter of the sun,” I said, my mind racing.
“Far cleverer than you appear.” […]
“But the magic didn’t work. You bonded me and the curse is still in place.”
“Correct again. Remind me to choose you for my team if we ever play charades.”

“…the witch had cursed them to the confines of Trollus for as long as she drew breath.”
“If your ancestors were half as irritating as you are, I can understand why.”

Of course, that gradually fades as they learn to trust each other and depend on each other more (SQUEE!). Which brings us to Phase Two. At first it’s begrudging, but the two slowly become friends. Tristan’s complicated secrets are revealed, Cécile and Tristan work together…all the cuteness. And then Phase Three! Which goes from that blossomed, healthy friendship to love. Of course, there’s insecurities that come in the way, there’s problems, there’s disagreements—and then the fundamental truth. Cécile never belonged in Tristan’s world, so how can he keep her there? It’s all so wonderful.

“Tell me you’ll grow strong again. That you’ll gallop on horseback through summer meadows. Dance in spring rains and let snowflakes melt on your tongue in winter. That you’ll travel wherever the wind takes you. Promise me.”

I PROMISE YOU!

Ahem.

I didn’t really have any solid problems with Stolen Songbird. At first I thought there was going to be girl-on-girl hate (there’s even a little note about it on my Kindle) but hurrah, I was proved wrong! I do wish, though, that:

  1. the magic could have been expanded on more. I’m counting on this happening in the next book, so I’m not too worried there.
  2. Cécile’s love for music could’ve been elaborated on. I mean, this was obviously a huge passion for her, and she does sing a lot in the book but I wish we understood her motivations, her love for singing, you know… that kind of thing.
  3. it was shorter. It sort of drags on towards the middle.
  4. the true nature of trolls hadn’t been so heavily hinted at. If you’ve read Stolen Songbird, you probably know what I mean. To me, it was a bit overdone, but maybe that’s just because I pretty much figured it out at the first mention.

I received a free galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from an advance copy and are subject to change.

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