Title: Stolen Songbird
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: ARC in exchange for honest review
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… 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.
Stolen Songbird was such a pleasant surprise. Not very experienced with the fantasy genre and not very familiar with the Strange Chemistry publishing company, I was a little bit wary about this book…but after only a few pages, I couldn’t put it down. Jensen has masterfully created an entire secret world, which exists under a mountain near Cécile’s hometown, and is made up of trolls and “half-bloods” (children of trolls and humans).And it is amazing.
Besides my weird obsession with things like forced marriage and polygamy, I found so many things to like about this story. Jensen has formed this rich and unique world, the likes of which I’ve never seen anything like before. Maybe it’s just because of my fantasy-virgin status, but I couldn’t help but be captivated by the trolls, their horrific mutations, and fanciful magic.
Along with all of the fantasy elements, there’s also a romance. Cécile is forced to marry Tristan, but it isn’t long before she discovers that maybe he isn’t so bad as he seems. I really enjoyed their relationship dynamic. Some of the things Tristan said had me laughing out loud, and I was rooting for them throughout the entire story. I loved how Jensen was able to write such a great book and still keep a good balance between the plot and the romance. Even though I really liked Cécile’s and Tristan’s relationship, it didn’t take over everything — Stolen Songbird was much more about the political dynamics of the troll government and how the trolls and the half-bloods/humans interacted.
The reason why I ended up rating this 4 stars instead of 5, though, is because I had trouble connecting with Cécile’s character as much as I wanted to. I’ve been thinking about it, and I honestly can’t put my finger on it, but there was just something that was standing in the way of this book being AMAZING for me. I wanted it to be, but for me, it never ended up become more than “really, really good.” I think that part of the reason is because we didn’t get very much time with her in her “element” before she transported to Trollus. Without being able to fully get a grasp of what her life had been like, I had trouble relating to her struggles and truly being able to empathize about her kidnapping.
Another reason why it never fully reached its capacity for me was because of Tristan’s physical attributes. This may seem like a weird thing to complain about, but when Cécile was being introduced to all of the trolls when she first came to Trollus, she was really scared because they were all so physically disfigured. I was excited that, finally, YA literature was going to feature…an ugly male lead. But instead of having Cécile be partnered with somebody who is a little bit more “normal” than the Greek gods we usually happen upon in YA, and become a ground-breaking story in that regard, Cécile is shocked when she meets Tristan and he is *gasp* beautiful. It was just a little disappointing and made me roll my eyes. I think that having Cécile’s romantic interest be less-than-handsome would’ve added some more depth to the story, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. It didn’t really take away from the book much, but it was hard to see such a awesome opportunity be wasted.
One other thing that I want to mention, which didn’t affect my rating of the book but still had me a little upset, was the quality of the ARC that I received. It was a physical copy, and was so badly put-together that, even though I was very gentle with it, entire chunks of pages kept falling out. It was a mess. I could barely read two paragraphs without having to catch another adrift page as it came unglued from its binding. While I understand that Strange Chemistry is a fledgling company that can’t necessarily spend the big bucks on these advanced copies, I actually probably would’ve preferred an e-ARC over a physical copy as poorly constructed as this.