Series: The Malediction Trilogy #1
on April 1, 2014
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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 »After all, this is a secret fairy book. SECRET FAIRIES!!!!! I don’t like fairy books as rule. She got me. « Hide 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.