Summary: (Taken from 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.
Thoughts: While I won’t deny that Stolen Songbird was a very entertaining read that takes the troll myth one step further than I originally expected (leading to some fascinating potential future outcomes for the series), I will be honest and say that there are some things in the book that made me quite uncomfortable. I will say that, for the most part, the book doesn’t exactly present these things as particularly positive, so it’s not like it’s a book that talks about how awesome it can be to be kidnapped and married off to some guy who doesn’t like you and be mentally violated. But the mental violation stuff turned out, in the end, to be one of those things that could all too easily be seen as, “I got raped, but then got together with the guy who did it, so it’s okay.” Not exactly how the book presented it, I’ll grant you, but given my discomfort at the forced mind-bonding, and then the way Cecile and Tristan end up falling for each other, in no small part because of said bonding, it came across as a touch squicky for me.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the novel. There were so many political layers developed, especially for a YA novel, where right and wrong weren’t so set in stone and there were a lot of factors to consider beyond, “Let’s free all the trolls” and “half-bloods should be equal to full-bloods.” Complex, like reality, and Jensen’s way of expressing how much things are multi-layered while still making it comprehensible to readers deserves some praise. Ditto her writing of scenes when Tristan, who is defying his father the King and working on behalf of the half-bloods to improve their lives, has to act disdainful of half-bloods and humans and just be a right royal dick about things.
I could write at length about that alone, in honesty. Thanks to the viewpoint of Cecile, who is linked to Tristan and thus senses his emotions, we get to see Tristan acting like a hard-nosed and disdainful person, but we also get glimpses into what he’s thinking and feeling about the things he says. And rarely does Cecile ever mention that he’s obviously lying or that he feels conflicted while he says those things, or some similar thing. In fact, to her it often appears as though he completely means what he says. On the surface, this could appear as a sloppy oversight on the author’s part, ignoring the mental link until it’s convenient to have it appear at a later scene. For my part, Jensen’s writing and having so much between the lines convinced me as the book went on that this was less a case of sloppy writing and more a case of Tristan wrapping himself so well in his role as the spoiled better-than-thou prince that in that person, he almost believed the things he was saying himself. Quite befitting of a prince who has secrets, and fitting well with the rest of the story, in which layers of meaning and misdirection feature heavily.
I may go on at length about this in another post, even. There’s quite a lot worth saying.
Jensen does well at setting up a larger world, of which the reader only sees glimpses. It makes the story feel larger than it is, like there’s a world outside Cecile’s home village and her later home of Trollus under he mountain, and though none of the story takes place in another location, it very much feels like it’s one small part of a complete world, with people and places and cultures that exist but we’re not getting to see. I like it when it’s obvious that the author has done world-building beyond merely what’s shown and explicitly stated, because it makes me want to read more of the series, to explore more of the world. And it’s not often done, at least not so well.
Add that to the strong hints that trolls are not what people think them to be, and you’ve got a story that’s sure to garner interest. I won’t say much on that subject here, because half the fun is in figuring it out for oneself, but let’s just say that it gets pretty obvious by the end, as to what trolls really are (at least a close comparison by our own real-world mythology), and that adds another layer of intrigue that practically has me chomping at the bit to read more and uncover the greater truth!
Overall, in spite of some content that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, I very much enjoyed reading Stolen Songbird and following the events surrounding Cecile and Tristan. The alternating back-and-forth perspective served well to illustrate both sides of the situation, and Jensen’s engaging and fluid writing style pulled me along effortlessly. There was more than enough to make me want to revisit the series again later, and I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series. Very well done, and an excellent addition to the YA shelves!
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)