Stolen Songbird is one my favourite books in a long time and had I read it last year, it would have been a strong competitor against books such as Clockwork Princess for the top spot. Luckily, however, I didn’t read it last year and therefore didn’t have to make that impossible choice. Instead Danielle L. Jensen has set the bar very high indeed for any book I am to read this year.
Since Clockwork Princess, I’ve not devoured a book so quickly, especially given that I was playing audiobook for my brother with this one. But neither of us could resist the incredible pull that Stolen Songbird, with its brilliant characters, entrancing magic, and fantastic stories had over us. We just had to keep reading, no matter if it got later into the night then we had originally planned.
Stolen Songbird starts with Cécile’s kidnapping by one of her acquaintances to be sold to the trolls that live under the mountain, or so say the old legends that Cécile only half believes. But the trolls are very much so real, as she discovers when she finds herself in the city of Trollus, buried under the mountain and trapped there by an old curse. Before she has truly had the time to register what is going on, Cécile finds herself bonded to the crown prince of Trollus, Tristan. And being bonded means far more for trolls than marriage does to humans.
Tristan isn’t any happier about the situation than she is, and they don’t get off to the best start together. He makes her feel unwanted, lesser for being human, and she can’t help but see the non-human in him, the ‘monster’ from the stories she has heard. But there is a lot more to trolls than Cécile first believes there to be. In Trollus, politics and magic are the most important things, and as she possesses no magic, Cécile pulls herself away from fear and despair, and decides to learn all she can, so she can play a part in the intricate intrigues of the trolls.
And Cécile has an important part to play: the trolls expect her to break the curse. As she gets to know Tristan’s friends and the half-bloods of the city better, she becomes more than just a tool, she becomes a force in her own right, refusing to let other people dictate what her life and decisions will be.
Opposite Cécile, as the other POV of the book, is Tristan. Seemingly cold and uncaring at first, Tristan is far more than just the icy exterior outside. Tristan has spent the last few years of his life building himself up to the man he is now: incapable of lying as all trolls are, he has learnt to bend his words to suit his purpose. But Cécile is melting away the exterior he has so carefully built up, and Tristan himself isn’t sure what he thinks of that.
Their relationship was one of the most compelling relationships I’ve read. I cared about every word exchanged in between them, every action they took towards the other in a way I don’t usually. I like there to be romance in a book, but I’m not normally on tenterhooks the entire way through the book wanting the characters to get that chance to get together, no matter what circumstances are trying to keep them apart. In that, Tristan and Cécile were very much so like Will and Tessa from Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series. I wanted them together.
Stolen Songbird is filled with amazing characters: from Marc and his quiet melancholy and fierce loyalty to Tristan, and the twins and their many quirks, to Trip who works in the mines and shows Cécile the other side of Trollus, the cast is more than varied and all the characters feel wonderfully fleshed out, neither human nor troll being left out.
This book was a wonderful adventure, full of intrigue and mysteries that made you want to just keep reading, and made it very hard to leave the world behind when the last page was turned. Jensen hooked me within the first few pages and never let go, the pacing perfect throughout the story. Stolen Songbird was the book I had been waiting to read for a long time: a totally enchanting trip into YA fantasy, with the perfect measure of romance, adventure, and intrigue.
On top of it all, and despite a set up where Cécile could very easily become a ‘damsel in distress’ stereotype (she does get kidnapped and is forcibly married to someone!), Jensen expertly avoids this and makes Cécile one of the strongest and most likeable YA heroines I have encountered. Add to that the fact that Tristan is so gentle and caring on the inside, as well as being the more insecure one in his relationship with Cécile (he is afraid she would lie to him, whereas he can’t), and the strengths of this book just keep on coming.
There are too many good things about Stolen Songbird for me to list them all. Suffice it to say that I didn’t want this book to end, I didn’t want to have to leave the cast and Trollus behind. Tristan and Cécile will certainly be a pair that I look forward to returning to, and book two of the Malediction trilogy is already on my list of anticipated reads for next year whilst Stolen Songbird has already set a very high bar for any book to top it as my favourite book of the year.