Stolen Songbird: Review

April 24, 2014 2014, 3 star books, fantasy, Kim 59 ★★★

Stolen Songbird: ReviewStolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
on April 1, 2014
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 469
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy...

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.

This is a beautifully written book, with strong characterization, a beautifully eerie and atmospheric fantasy world, and an interesting political climate to explore. And yet, I thought its heart skipped a beat or two.

The world building is solid and engaging. I felt wholly transported to this silvery, dark world. A place of shadow with a only a sliver of the sun or the moon ever reaching it. Even the small portion of the book spent Earth-side has a clear and vibrant brightness to it, a cheery farm town feel. I did find I kept getting distracted by the name of the world: Trollus. I kept seeing “Troll us” and asking myself, “Is the author trying to…troll us?!” I think a little bit, yeah? View Spoiler »

The tone and mood are similarly matched to the dark and magical feel of Trollus. There is a sumptuousness to this world full of stylish grace, courtly manners, and lavish dresses. The writing is very elegant and has that sort of aristocratic Georgian/Victorian feel that I enjoy greatly in YA fantasy. This very much has that luxe historical fantasy feel.

I thought that Cecile’s characterization was especially well done. She is not the stereotypical “strong female character” simply embodying male traits in a female form, nor is she a passive, pushover character. She’s a fully realized human being and is one of the strengths of the novel. She very realistically acts as you would imagine a normal teenage girl, suddenly captured and stuck in the middle of a situation beyond her scope or control would act. She fights her capture, she breaks down, she gives in, and then she determines to make the best of her situation. It’s both realistic and admirable.

 “And I was done with crying–tears accomplished nothing but exhausting me further and I needed my wits about me if I were going to escape this place. Perhaps not today, tomorrow, or even the next day, but I would stand beneath the sun again. I swore it to myself.”

Where I thought the book was lacking was both in plot and in a realistically built up romance. The blurb mentions that there is a rising rebellion and that Tristan is its leader. There is so very little of any actual rebellion in this book nor is there much plotting.  It is dual POV but mostly told from Cecile’s POV. The few Tristan chapters we get are mostly concerned with his feelings on Cecile and not so much on any political machinations. If the author is merely holding her cards close on Tristan’s knowledge to be laid out in future volumes that is fine, but I fear that is not the case. There are many cryptic allusions to Tristan’s true motives and plans, but we never really get see what they are. It gets frustrating.

Cecile really does make the best of her situation, and escape is consistently in the back of her mind, but there really isn’t much else that happens in this book. Once she settles in and decides to do what she can, her time is spent building relationships with her servants and gathering a greater knowledge of the troll underclass and their struggles. It does lend to the world building and is a credit to the great detail and care that has been put into this story, but it is a lot of build up for little pay off. The blurb even tells you outright that Cecile is a witch, but I regret to inform you that this realization does not come to her until rather late in the story and before she can do really do much with that knowledge. I can only hope that all of this build up will come to mean something in future volumes.

The romance seemed to be missing some steps. It seemed to go from enemies to very wary friendship, and then suddenly “how could we live without each other” love. I understand, and even appreciate, the “bonding” aspect between the characters, but it still didn’t really account for that missing step in their relationship. As part of the troll bonding ceremony, Cecile and Tristan now have knowledge of the others’ feelings in the back of their minds. Neither can have any idea what those feelings mean or what causes them but they can identify the feeling. For instance, when Tristan is putting on a display of hating Cecile (to protect her, of course) she can feel his regret and pity, but has no idea why he feels that way. She just knows that she doesn’t actually feel any hatred from him.

The two really don’t interact with each other much substance until later in the book. Cecile seems to fall in love with Tristan way before the majority of their direct contact takes place. She falls in love with the feelings she gets from him in the back of her mind (and let’s be honest, his pretty face). The little we get from Tristan seems to show the same. The problem is that it’s not enough. Neither one of them knows the other well enough to justify such strong feelings. And, predictably, their love sways so easily once pressure is applied.

What really bothered me was that as much as Tristan professes to love Cecile, and she him, he continually pushes her away, somewhat cruelly I thought, because he can’t trust her. Why not? Humans can lie, trolls can’t. Tristan again and again brings up, quite resentfully (it is not her fault she is human!) that he can’t trust her because she is capable of lying. What would the meaning of trust even be without the ability to lie? And this is also hard for me to get my head around because, to me, the very foundation of love is trust. I could not love someone I didn’t trust. So, perhaps for very personal reasons, the romance just fell a bit flat. Even way past the point where we aren’t supposed to think Tristan is a jerk anymore, I still thought he was a bit of a jerk.

And here’s a more minor peeve: there’s a very strange presence of fat hatred in this book. The Evil King is overweight and his weight is constantly brought up in Cecile’s narration as a fatal fault in his person. This is a character who has truly committed a lot of bad deeds but she just brings up, again and again, how he is fat and it is done in such a petulant way. When Tristan has been entrusted with a sacred task Cecile thinks it, “had a lot more to do with him not wanting to drag his fat arse all around Trollus each day than trust his son.” And many more similar thoughts. It sat uncomfortably with me.

Still, I enjoyed this book. Besides the weird fat hatred, Cecile was a strong character in an “everyday gal” kind of way. I enjoy watching characters work within their limitations and overcome them. I wish that Tristan had been as fleshed out as Cecile so we might have more understood his trust issues. Yet the world building is great, the writing is solid, and the secondary characters are memorable. I am intrigued enough to want see how it will all play out. There’s clearly a lot of potential in this series. I fervently hope to see Cecile learn more about her witch heritage and grow and control her powers. I am especially interested to see how exactly Cecile and Tristan will come to fulfill the prophecy they failed at in the beginning of the story. It is clearly more complex than any party has heretofore seen and there is much potential for some mind blowing storytelling. Likewise, there is a lot of room for Cecile and Tristan’s love to grow and mature and I would very much welcome that. I will be keeping my eye out for Book #2.


kim teal







59 Responses to “Stolen Songbird: Review”

  1. Aqsa Naveed

    I enjoyed this book mainly because, TROLLS. I have never read a YA fantasy with TROLLS and I just squealed and flailed and in the end gave the author a round of applause for this attempt because I enjoyed the book.

    I totally understand what you’re saying about the romance! Wish it could have built up to a little something more and plausible, but nonetheless I liked Tristan and Cecille together. Their banters and dialogue had me eventually shipping them. They were so cute.

    Great review! I’m going to keep a lookout for the next installment! Can’t wait to see your thoughts on it. :)

  2. Amanda

    I haven’t seen this one and I’m totally intrigued by the idea of trolls. What a fun and different concept! Thanks for the review!
    Amanda recently posted…GoT Update

    • Kim

      Yay I’m glad to hear it’s intrigued you! The troll concept is a refreshing one. It certainly can’t be said that it’s overdone! This book is pretty generally beloved. I hope you enjoy it. :)
      Kim recently posted…Open Road Summer: Review

  3. Katie @ Spirit of Children's Literature

    Thank you for this thoughtful review! This definitely sounds like the kind of fantasy I would enjoy and I’m especially happy to read that this isn’t a typical female heroine. We need more of those! I’m also very intrigued with the troll element in the story–now I absolutely have to read this! I think it would be a good one to review on the blog as well.
    Katie @ Spirit of Children’s Literature recently posted…#AtoZchallenge: “X” is for Xenodocheionology–Love of Hotels

    • Kim

      If Cecile sounds like a heroine you’ll enjoy then you’ll definitely like this book quite a lot! If what bothered me about the romance doesn’t bother you (and I’m in the minority here) then there’s a good chance you’ll love it. The troll society is certainly…interesting. There’s more I could I say about that but then I’d be spoiling. :p

  4. Sarah F

    I don’t think I’ve heard of a book about trolls before. It sound interesting, though I’m worried about the rushed romance. But I think I’ll still read it to see what I think!

    • Kim

      It’s just weird because I wouldn’t necessarily call the romance rushed it just…missed a step or two. There aren’t any declarations of love until later in the story but, to me, I just didn’t see the basis for it. There wasn’t enough direct interaction between the two to justify it. Does this make sense? Anyway, I’m in the minority here. Most people thought it was wonderful and I hope you will too!
      Kim recently posted…YAuthor Talk with Claire Legrand

  5. Janice

    I’ve never read a YA book set in the world of trolls before so I’m excited to see what the world-building in this book is like. Added to my list!
    Janice recently posted…Adult Fail

  6. Karin Shaim

    I really loved reading your review, it made me be aware of things I should be before reading this book,thanks!

  7. Kelley

    This is the first that I’ve heard of this book and by the summary alone it sounds like something I’d really enjoy. And based on your review I think I may look for this book at the library and give it a try one day of the summer. Enjoyed your review!

  8. Summer/Sunny

    Oh no. I’m very grateful for the superb world-building (a must in fantasy especially), but the romances where they seem to skip steps always bother me. I want to yell, “THIS IS NOT REAL.” Love reading your review!
    Summer/Sunny recently posted…Review: THE HUNT by Stacey Kade

    • Kim

      Why thank you! Yes, missing steps in romance is *especially* frustrating for me because the romantic component is nearly always my favorite part of a book. *sigh* The world building and characterization were great, though. I’m looking forward to reading Book 2. I have high hopes.
      Kim recently posted…Classic YA Discussion: Anne of Green Gables + giveaway

  9. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    I’m actually in the middle of reading this right now, and I’m kind of on the fence about it. I’m only at 27%, and I’m in complete agreement with you that the writing is beautiful, but I feel like the foreshadowing needs a more delicate hand. Eh. With the forthcoming holes in the romance development . . . we’ll see, I guess. The fact that you had problems as well, but are still keeping an eye out for book 2 gives me hope though ;)
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Review: Generation V by M.L. Brennan

    • Kim

      Yeah, from my experience if you’re on the fence at 27% that will most likely stay the same through to the end. The foreshadowing was definitely heavy handed-I was wondering at some points whether I was supposed to be picking up on things or whether they were intended as sly references because sly they were not. At the end of the day though I did like it, I just don’t have any particularly strong feelings for it. I feel like I’ve read enough series that didn’t start out strong but really hit their stride in the subsequent volumes that I’m willing to give it a chance. The synopsis for #2 was just released the other day and I’m definitely intrigued. I’ll have to check in and see what you end up thinking about this one!

  10. Kari

    Towards the beginning of the review I was thinking I should add this to my TBR list… but without the strong plot and everything else… well, it sounds like it wasn’t what it could have been. I’m still going to add this to my TBR list, but I don’t feel like I need to go out and buy it or borrow it from the library right this moment.
    Kari recently posted…Midnight Garden | Anne of Green Gables Giveaway

    • Kim

      I don’t know, maybe I was just in a grumpy mood when I read this because the vast majority of readers did not have the problems I did! The only way to find out is read it yourself. I hope you love it when you get around to it. :) You can come back and yell at me if it end ups being a five star. :p
      Kim recently posted…Classic YA Discussion: Anne of Green Gables + giveaway

  11. Melliane

    oh it’s too bad when the romance and the plot don’t follow, because it’s something really important. But the writing style sounds really intriguing and I confess I’m curious to discover it now. Thanks for the review!
    Melliane recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #91

  12. Larissa

    I’m one of those people who enjoyed this novel like crazy and gave it 4.5 stars :p Still, I quite easily see and understand the points you make. I actually agree with a lot of them too.

    The worldbuilding and characterization of Cecile were definitely my favorite parts of this book (: I found myself actually very much invested in Cecile as I loved reading her narration and found Cecile to be very realistic. The worldbuilding allowed me to be truly immersed in Trollus and I just loved learning more and more about Trollus, whether its political struggles and the history of it. I also adored the side characters of Stolen Songbird,they were quite fleshed out. I can only hope we see more of Marc. Anaïs was also brilliant, breaking the stereotypical mean girl trope on all levels.

    I actually enjoyed the relationship, but I can see where you’re coming from by describing it as quick in terms of the jump between enemies/friends/lovers. It was because it was quick, however I still managed to enjoy it personally as I think the author handled it well. I felt like the trust issues between Cecile and Tristan just added to the realisticness of Stolen Songbird. Relationships often face issues like that and it was interesting to see Danielle tackle it (:

    Lovely review! It was quite interesting to read and I enjoyed seeing a different viewpoint of the novel (:
    Larissa recently posted…Midnight Madness Newsletter (48)

    • Kim

      Oh I’m jealous. I wish I’d had your reading experience! I really liked Cecile a lot. But my affection for her just wasn’t enough to carry the story. The worldbuilding I agree on but also wasn’t enough. Oh boo what is problem? Haha. I liked the secondary characters a lot as well! I was especially fond of Marc. I actually liked him better than Tristan and would love to see him get as much of a happy ending as is actually possible for him to have, the poor dear.

      Yeah, the relationship was just missing that crucial “getting to know each other” phase for me. I know that they could feel each other’s feelings but without the context for those feelings it just wasn’t enough for me and that makes me so sad! I wish I was able to love this as much as everyone else.

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the review and the book! :)
      Kim recently posted…Classic YA Discussion: Anne of Green Gables + giveaway

    • Kim

      Three star reviews are funny like that. Even with myself, sometimes a three star review is “bad” and sometimes it’s “good.” It’s just strange how that figures in my mind. This one is definitely a “good” three stars, though! And I am delighted to hear that my review made you want to read this! Sometimes I feel like, “What is even the point of reviewing a book that’s not a 4 or 5 star?” but then comments like yours remind me exactly why! Sure, it’s more *fun* to discuss books you really loved but more critical reviews can be really helpful! So thanks. :) I hope you’ll love the book!
      Kim recently posted…Classic YA Discussion: Anne of Green Gables + giveaway

  13. may

    Love Seraphina and Graceling so it got my attention when you use those words to describe this book. I need the relationship to be solid and believable though…

    • Kim

      I haven’t read Seraphina (yet!) but in my opinion this quite a different book from Graceling. The only similarity in my mind is that they’re both YA fantasy with a strong romantic storyline. Very different writing, atmosphere, plot, and characters. I think it’s definitely worth giving it a shot, though. Everyone who isn’t me loves this one.
      Kim recently posted…Classic YA Discussion: Anne of Green Gables + giveaway

  14. Valerie

    Hmm, I’ve had mixed feelings about whether I actually want to read this. On one hand, I really love world-building and characters, but on the other hand, I want action! If it’s just information on the world, I feel like I’ll get bored of it easily. I might try it out if I spot it in the library over the summer.
    Valerie recently posted…ARC Review: Second Star

    • Kim

      Well, I will say that there are some pretty good action scenes towards the end so there is that! I think it’s definitely worth checking it out either way. For what it’s worth I’m also the odd one out–most everyone else just *loves* this book. Hopefully you’ll be in that group!
      Kim recently posted…Classic YA Discussion: Anne of Green Gables + giveaway

  15. Pili

    I really loved this one, Kim! But yeah, Trollus as a name kept making me want to giggle all the time! And I went for this one because it was about trolls and then I discover *spoiler spoiler* sneaky author!! I’m still very much invested into the book and series now, so I don’t care that trolls are *spoiler*! Btw, the title for book 2 has just been revealed today! ;)
    Pili recently posted…Xpresso Book Tour Blog Tour for Recruitz by Karice Bolton!

    • Kim

      Ugh that spoiler. SHE TOTALLY TROLLED US!!! I kind of admire that, though. A little bit. Grudgingly. Eurgh.

    • Kim

      It is such a relief to hear you thought the same. When I’m apparently the black sheep (even though I still did enjoy this one, it just wasn’t love) I’m always sort of wondering, “Where did this go wrong? Does the fault lie in my own measly brain?” Ha. So yes, thank you!

    • Kim

      Yes, the troll concept was definitely original and interesting. There’s an intriguing mythos surrounding the troll society and all may not even be as it appears exactly! But you’d just have to read and see what that is. :) I’m glad to hear you’ll be reading it. I hope you just love it!

  16. Ally

    Thank you! You put exactly what I felt about the book into words. After I finished I was very puzzled by all the glowing 5-star reviews. It was a very quick, enjoyable read but definitely lacking in key areas. Great review!

    • Kim

      Some of my favorite comments are the ones exactly like yours: when the black sheep find each other! I can see why this book has so many 4/5 star reviews, but when a strong romance plot exists in a book I give it so much weight compared to other elements. Romantic components are always my favorite and they can make or break the story for me. When there are key steps missing, like there are here, it leaves me with a somewhat empty feeling of the book. Bummer.

  17. Carina Olsen

    Great review sweetie :D Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t fully love this book. But I’m glad you enjoyed it :) I have seen so many people like it. So I will be buying it soonish, I think, hih. I’m glad you found the writing to be beautiful. <3 That is always important for me. But aw. I'm sorry you felt like the romance was missing something. Hope I won't feel the same, but I probably will. Sigh. But it all sounds pretty amazing, still :) Thank you for sharing. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: My Collection

    • Kim

      You know, reading is such a personal experience and you as the reader are always bringing your own thoughts and feelings to sort of project onto the characters and story. That was my main problem with this book. There are certain scenarios and behaviors that get ticked off my personal peeve list and cruel arguments about finding it hard to trust would be one of them. Everyone else seems to *love* this book and I do so hope you will be among their number!

    • Kim

      Yes, definitely. I wish there’d been more action and more romantic development. Those are my two problems in a nutshell. The ending sets up perfectly for a much more interesting and dynamic second book so we shall see!

    • Kim

      It’s certainly an enjoyable read if a bit lacking. It’s definitely worth a shot, though!

    • Kim

      Oh it’s definitely worth the read! Give it a try. Everyone but me simply *loves* this book so you will hopefully be in that happy majority. I did like it, I was just disappointed by what I felt was the lack of development in the romance.

  18. Michelle{bookhangovers}

    I’ve been anticipating this one’s release only to find out that none of my local bookstores sold it. So I ordered it online and finally received it yesterday in the mail! Love the cover.
    My expectations are set high for it b/c I’ve seen NOTHING but 4/5 star reviews. Yours is actually the first that I’ve seen lower than a 4. I’m glad you still enjoyed it and I really appreciate your thoughts and review on the book. Can’t wait to get into it and share my thoughts!
    Happy Reading xoxox
    Michelle @Book Hangovers
    Michelle{bookhangovers} recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Princess of Thorns

    • Kim

      Oh yay! I’m glad your copy finally arrived! Ha, I guess I am a bit of the black sheep here even though I still honestly did like this book. I just don’t love it it in the way most everyone else seems to. I will be keeping an eye out to see what you end up thinking. I hope you’ll just love it. Most people don’t seem to have the problems with the romance that I had so that should be reassuring!

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