Stolen Songbird is every bit as exciting and enjoyable as I had hoped it would be. A lot of times, several reviewers in the reading community will love a book so much that it draws my attention. But not always will I also be in agreement with that same love. Fortunately, Stolen Songbird turned out very well, with a progressive storyline, witty and likeable strong characters, a fascinating back-history, and written exceptionally well.
On her way home from the city, Cecile de Troyes is kidnapped and sold to Trollus for her weight in gold. Upon her arrival, she learns that a prophecy foretells that a human female (with her description) must be bonded with the Prince of Trollus, Tristan de Montigny, in order to help lift the curse on Trollus keeping the trolls confined to living under the mountain.
From that very instant, Cecile knows that her only hope is to remain vigilant and find a means of escape. But as she continues on with her new life, she learns of court conspiracies, hundreds of years of a curse set upon Trollus by a human witch, and a rebellion brewing in secret, lead by none other than Tristan. Half-bloods (the offspring of a troll and a human) are treated like slaves and scum by the pure-blooded trolls; trolls remain indignant that humans are fragile, lesser beings with no power and are treated accordingly. And so as a sympathizer, Tristan will do whatever it takes to free the half-bloods and rule Trollus with a kind and equal hand.
Of course, his father is ruthless and evil, which means that Tristan needs to figure out how to get past the current king before he can see his hopes come to fruition.
As the days go by, Cecile realizes that she too would like to see the half-bloods treated equally, and she, too, would like for their cruel treatment to cease. As her relationship with Tristan grows from a reluctant marriage slowly into something meaningful (friendship, trust, love), she joins Tristan’s battle to help the half-bloods stop their oppression. On top of that, she learns of her own magic powers as a part of a line of witches.
There’s a lot going on in this story, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem too overwhelming. It’s a typical court conspiracy plot with a ruthless tyrant, age-old prejudices against those deemed to be of lesser worth, and so on and so forth. Stolen Songbird was brought to life with the characters and the setting of Trollus, without which the story might have just been another high fantasy with political intrigue and a story of the underdogs fighting back against their oppression. There were moments where I had trouble grasping the setting, the timeline, and sometimes even the fact that Trollus is eternally in darkness that each troll or half-blood always has a troll light following them around.
But I nonetheless loved following Cecile and Tristan as the days go by with each new event and each new discovery. Cecile turned out to be extremely resourceful and level-headed in most situations. Tristan is the typical savior of his people who is manipulative and intelligent as he needs to be. And the relationship between the two is a lovely sweet one built on respect and friendship, which I enjoyed. The insta-attraction was a bit much to take in, but at the very least it wasn’t insta-love and the two aren’t compelled to be too stupid about their romance… at least not so far.
At the very least Cecile isn’t the cynical sort and is more realistic and practical about her own physical attractiveness, which makes it easier to stomach the fact that YA characters will forever be perfect and beautiful… even Tristan, a troll Prince. Because while almost all of other trolls in the royal family have their fair share of disfigurement and deformities (due to the interbreeding of pure-bloods and whatnot), Tristan is flawless and handsome… Of course he is; heaven forbid a YA heroine ever have to fall in love with someone who isn’t perfection, though I guess the fact that he’s a troll is supposed to make up for that.
Nonetheless, the romance was still a sweet one and I like that their love is built on much more than simple attraction and love and first sight and the full “Fated the Be Together” bullcrap. At the very least, Tristan and Cecile have built their love on mutual admiration of each other’s personalities and capabilities, a mutual respect of each other’s ability to cope with their rough situations, and a bit of witty banter here and there.
I really liked all of the minor and side characters, although I can’t for certain say that they really stood out all that much… except main Anais, but even she seemed to be overshadowed by our main couple.
Nonetheless, this book was very enjoyable and I look forward to the rest of the books in this series soon.
The only thing that might have bugged me is how Cecile’s resourcefulness and her strength started to weaken towards the end of the book. Whereas I admired her for being able to get around those who would do her harm by being capable of holding her own and being quick to think on her feet, the ending of the book swept her into a more Damsel in Distress scenario. She seemed helpless against too many things all of a sudden, and all the knowledge she’d been making herself acquire seemed useless. Her actions tended to do more harm in the long run despite the good intentions behind them. And I dearly hope that her strength grows as the series progresses.
There’s nothing I get frustrated over more than a hero or heroine with no forward progression, or who seems to have all the potential for forward progression, but only manages to take a few steps forward before slipping all the way back to the beginning. Or even a hero or heroine who has a lot of potential to have forward progression, but takes the longest time to achieve that end goal, usually occurring in the last hour of the adventure.
I can feel the strength, the potential, and the determination in Cecile. I look forward to seeing where she continues to move forward towards in the next two books of the trilogy.
Overall: Very enjoyable, very likable, and a potentially good epic high fantasy for young adults, pending the rest of the series’ progress.
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