Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy #1) by Danielle L. Jensen
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release date: April 1 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
The nitty-gritty: A perfectly paced and thoroughly engaging fantasy, two main characters who may just be my all-time favorites, and a magical underground world that I want to visit someday.
There was only one way to lure Tristan into my company, and that was to sing. As often as I could, I would go out into the glass gardens and do battle with the thunder of the waterfall, my voice echoing through the cavernous hall of Trollus, knowing that no matter where Tristan was in the city or what he was doing, he would come to listen.
After reading many glowing reviews of Stolen Songbird, I was so excited to dive in and see for myself what all the hype was about. And I was not disappointed! Jensen’s debut is skillfully written and beautifully imagined, and the fact that it’s only the beginning of a trilogy is good news for fantasy lovers. For me, everything came together to make this a fantastic read: the stunning world-building, the likeable but flawed characters, the romance, and the suspenseful plot. The magic elements at times reminded me of the magic in the Harry Potter books, so fanciful and original that I felt the same sense of wonder while reading Stolen Songbird that I did when I first read Harry Potter. (However, please understand that I am not comparing this story to Harry Potter at all—I simply mean that I had some of the same feels.) And then there is Tristan, who captured my heart with his sarcastic humor, steadfast loyalty, and growing love for Cécile.
Cécile is a singer who is about to leave home for the first time to move to the city where she can study music with her long absent mother. But on the eve of her departure, she is kidnapped and taken to a secret underground world called Trollus, where trolls live and rule. They aren’t happy about it, however, because centuries ago, a witch cursed the trolls and imprisoned them under a mountain, where they are stuck until the curse can be broken.
Enter Cécile, who has been captured with just that in mind. The trolls believe she is destined to set them free, and so they force her to marry a troll prince named Tristan, hoping their bonding union will break the curse, thus allowing the trolls to leave their underground prison. But—well, you know how it goes. Things don’t quite go the way the trolls expect them to, and before you know it, Cécile is knee-deep in troll politics and palace intrigue, and even though she would do anything to get out of Trollus, she’s beginning to make friends there. Before too long, she will be forced to make some tough decisions—stay and help her new friends, or go back home to the life she’s comfortable with. Nothing in Trollus is easy for Cécile, especially when her growing feelings for Prince Tristan start to complicate things.
I absolutely fell in love with the world building in Stolen Songbird. Jensen has created one of the best underground worlds I’ve ever read about. When I think of trolls living in tunnels and caves under the earth, I think of dark and dank spaces, shadows and low ceilings. But the world of Trollus is magnificent and magical. Yes, it’s dark, but the trolls have their own brand of magic that allows them to light up spaces whenever they need to. They also each have their own magical ball of greenish glowing light that hovers over their shoulders and lights their way wherever they go. When Cécile arrives in Trollus, she is devastated by the lack of light, but she eventually gets her own glowing artifact that acts as a personal flashlight.
One of my favorite parts was when Cécile goes down into the mines—yes, there are mines below the underground city! Trolls mine gold and use it to trade for various things above ground, and in Jensen’s world it’s the half-breed trolls who are forced into this dangerous job. I also loved the glass gardens, where Cécile goes to sing and be alone. Because nothing green can grow in Trollus, the trolls created a magical garden made of glass roses and hedges (hence the rose on the cover of the book).
Both Tristan and Cécile are wonderfully drawn characters, full of complicated personality traits, who grow and change throughout the story. I loved Cécile’s determination and grit, and her fierce loyalty to the downtrodden half-breeds who are little more than slaves. Even though she knows she will never be able to escape Trollus on her own, she tries anyway. She’s the kind of girl who isn’t content to sit around and do nothing, while those around her are suffering.
Tristan, well, I simply adored him! In the beginning, the reader isn’t really sure whether he’s good or bad. He puts on a show for his father, the king (a truly evil character that I hated!), but when he’s alone with Cécile, his actions become tender. Even though he has married Cécile against his will, he swears to protect her no matter what. And Tristan’s sense of humor is what really drew me to him. He is snarky and sarcastic, and you can tell he’s much smarter than everyone around him (except for Cécile, of course.)
I only have one small complaint with the book, but it’s most likely personal and other readers may not have an issue with it. I felt the book went on a little too long, and after one scene that felt to me like the natural ending, I was surprised when the story kept going. It almost reminded me of The Hobbit and its multiple endings that seem to go on forever. But it didn’t detract much from my enjoyment, and when the book did end, I could look back and understand what Jensen had done.
Stolen Songbird was such a joy to read, an exciting story full of action, fully developed characters, and yes, even romance. Jensen fills her world with wonder upon wonder, and by the end of the book I wanted to live in Trollus myself. The ending was a crushing blow (in a good way!), and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to find out what happens. This book is for people who love great stories, no matter what your preferred genre is, and I highly recommend it.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
You can find Stolen Songbird here: