STOLEN SONGBIRD is rather like an amalgamation of Hobbit The Movie and Alice in Wonderland, telli...moreOriginally posted at A Bookalicious Story.
STOLEN SONGBIRD is rather like an amalgamation of Hobbit The Movie and Alice in Wonderland, telling of young Cécile's unwitting abduction to Trollus, homeland of the trolls, beneath the Lonely Forbidden Mountain, a magical tale full of intrigue, deceit and whimsical, off-with-her-head monarchs. As her debut book and start to a new fantasy series, STOLEN SONGBIRD's pretty amazing!
A (not so brief) Rundown
Under the fallen rocks of the Forbidden Mountain is rumored to be home to a whole city of a mystical species - the trolls. To enter Trollus, one must navigate the labyrinth of tunnels and evade the sluag, a slug-like creature that nullifies troll magic and strikes fear even in the hearts of the mighty trolls. It is said that Trollus contains piles of gold and riches (ahem Erebor), but many who ventured in never returned.
Cécile de Troyes is a farm maiden of Goshawk Hollow but with the voice of an angel. During a trip home from the city one day, she came upon an old friend but was kidnapped and brought to Trollus to marry the troll prince, Tristan de Montigny. Apparently, the trolls were cursed centuries ago by a human witch to never be able to step foot out of the mountain and a prophecy was told that a marriage between the troll prince and human girl with hair like fire, blue eyes and an "angel's voice" will break the curse.
But it didn't.
Cécile has always dreamed of the romantic wedded life her friends have gossiped wistfully about, but Tristan is far from a loving husband. He is one of the most handsome dudes she has ever laid eyes upon but he is also crude, rude, mostly cold and always confrontational. He picks fights with her at every opportuninty and sleeps on the couch. But in the darkness of the gardens where Cécile goes to sing to calm her riotous emotions, Tristan lets down his guard enough for her to see another side of him - the kind, gentle and loving side.
As Cécile comes to know, Trollus is not just about the amazing architecture and beautiful glass gardens (no sunlight). Humans and half bloods with little or no magic are seen as little more than slaves and any small misstep gives their owners the right to sentence them to be left in the tunnels to be sluag fodder or anything the owner sees fit. A rebellion is brewing and the factions are not clearly delineated. Tristan may seem like an insolent brat six out of seven days, but Cécile knows there is defeinitely more to him than he's showing. What does he do in the early hours of morning, sneaking out of their room and palace? Where does he factor in in the rebellion? And what has any of it to do with her?
Kudos to the author for her effort to reimagine trolls - from 3m, club-swinging, wart-covered monstrosities (I'm thinking of the one in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) to an intelligent, magic-wielding race. Some look human (just 10000000 times more beautiful), but some are disfigured and some not even remotely human-looking. However apart from that, the concept is really just taking the characteristics of Shakespeare's faries and naming them trolls. Jensen's trolls can't lie which makes them experts at the art of manipulating words, their promises are binding, their thank-you's are favors to be repaid, they have True Names which enables full control over the troll whose name is known, and one of the side characters, Anäis (yes, their names have lots of squiggly-wiggly or dots on top of their alphabets) mentioned that the name for their people isn't trolls, it's "Fai--" then she stopped herself. Well now, it's not that difficult to complete her statement now.
So I didn't really buy the "fresh" new idea of trolls.
But the plot is full of political intrigues, deceptions, and dangers for our protagonist that I was pretty invested in her story. It may be subjective though because like the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, STOLEN SONGBIRD is about Cécile finding out about trolls, their issues (the social discrimination and off-with-your-head variety) and her transformation from scared maiden to strong woman who found love and her determination to help in the rebellion. There is a sort of non-ending at the end, a sort of closure but we're not even close to the true ending. Just like how Bilbo and the dwarves were dropped off some god-forsaken cliff in the middle of nowhere and the Lonely Mountain was a speck in the horizon and the show ends. Yeah, something like that.
Not to say that it wasn't a good read (Goodreads, haha), Jensen had a very descriptive, simple yet witty style of writing. I loved the typical, easy countryside way of life at Goshawk's Hollow (Gordric's Hollow?!?!), the terror Cécile felt when she was in the sluag tunnels, the awe she felt at Trollus and her heartbreak when she thought that she was doomed to have a loveless marriage. There were quite a few secrets revealed along the way and plot curves dished out, and the alternating POV, which most of the time serves only to unveil secrets early and lessen suspense, worked pretty well here.
The characters!!! Apart from Tristan and Cécile, I thought that the secondary cast of characters were pretty fleshed out. We get to see glimpses of who each of them were really like and all of them had their own distinct personalities - there is mysterious but fiercely loyal Marc with a face split in half, each half having handsome features but freaky when seen as a whole; the Queen and her sister Duchesse who are joined together at the back so one of them has to walk backwards; the twins Vincent and Victoria who're constantly competing to see who should be Baron/Baroness of their house though their competitions are mostly jokes (like archery but with only one foot on the ground and with blindfolds on).
I don't want to spoiler anything more, but I'd definitely recommend this to fans of YA Fantasy. It's got the complicated political drama, the whole-new-world feel and magical boomz of a good fantasy, it's just that I felt that the plot and emotional development were dragged out too much that sometimes it felt like we were going in circles and the ending didn't give enough of a closure for me.
That said, though, there was a tiny part near the end that hinted at a parallel world that lives alongside Trollus and the outside world. This series is heading in a very promising direction with lots of action, suspense and romance, so yes, I will be picking up book 2 to see where Jensen takes Cécile and the rest of the crew.
~eARC courtesy of Netgalley and Strange Chemistry~ Thank you! :)(less)
POISON DANCE is a fast-paced little read that neatly introduces us to a fantasy world of mercenary assassins and powerful noblemen called w...more*3.5 stars*
POISON DANCE is a fast-paced little read that neatly introduces us to a fantasy world of mercenary assassins and powerful noblemen called wallhuggers. The Guild's leader has recently passed away and the higher-ups are keeping it hush hush. James is a gifted assassin who doesn't necessarily like what he does and the new leader of the guild, but he's good in his trade and his new leader has this preconceived notion that James covets the title of top-dog.
In the midst of all these politicking and the daily bustles of Forge, there lives a dancing girl in a tavern called the Scorned Maiden. Thalia wasn't always a dancing girl, but she's here now with a mission - to kill a wallhugger. That's nigh impossible, what with all the Red Shields perpetually at their beck. She's a resourceful woman however, and she has chosen her mentor by eavesdropping on the tavern's many patrons' conversations - James. It's suicide to even think of assassinating a wallhugger, even if you're just an accomplice. James is a rational man, but Thalia's got outside connections and resources that might just be what James and his pals need to escape this stifling city. So therein begins an innocent woman's lessons in becoming a femme fatale and the (inevitable) romance between her and her enigmatic tutor.
Being a novella with an approximate word count of 14,000, there were parts of the story that were skimmed over perhaps a tad too much. Especially the ending, but we'll get to that.
The plot was engaging, though, and I grew to love the characters. They each have their distinctive characteristics, and I loved the development between James and Thalia. Though the "climax" in their romantic development wasn't all that fantastic, I was still rooting for them all the way. There was another subplot going on but it never got confusing.
I wasn't happy with the ending though! GAHHH, but that's because I'm a very one-track reader. I don't want to spoiler it too much, so you'll understand my frustration when you get there. That, and the ending was the part that was skimmed over the most. Blackburne's writing style was engrossing, up until a particular point and everything was tell instead of show. It was like all the details suddenly up and hid somewhere while everything was conveniently summed up without the hows.
That said, POISON DANCE shows much, much promise and I cannot wait to see what happens in MIDNIGHT THIEF. I'm hoping to explore Blackburne's world in more depth and definitely to see more of James! ;) POISON DANCE reads more like a cross between YA and adult Fantasy, so younger readers should take note.
*An ecopy was provided by Livia in exchange for an honest review.*(less)
I haven't read a Fantasy novel, be it YA or adult fiction, this good since Graceling by Kristin Cashore, or maybe ever. Recommended to any and every f...moreI haven't read a Fantasy novel, be it YA or adult fiction, this good since Graceling by Kristin Cashore, or maybe ever. Recommended to any and every fan of Fantasy, steampunk, and of imperial Japanese tales. Once you get past the intricate - and sometimes excessive - world building of the first quarter of the book, it's constant action, adventure and intrigue. LOVED IT!