☩Title: Stolen Songbird (Malediction Trilogy #1)
☩Author: Danielle L. Jensen
☩Publisher: Strange Chemistry
☩Publication date: 3rd April 2014 (UK)
Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen, is precisely the kind of book I’ve been waiting for from Strange Chemistry. I’ve read urban fantasy, I’ve read science fiction, I’ve read paranormal romance and I’ve read the weird in-between mysteries. But what I’ve not really sampled yet is a really, really excellent fantasy that sweeps me away to another time and place entirely. Stolen Songbird represents the reason I started reading in the first place; books that open up another world and invite you to step right in. Jensen gave me what I’ve been waiting for—she even gift-wrapped it in layers of intrigue, implied mythology and folklore and a genuine insta-hate-insta-love relationship that not only made perfect sense, but was utterly, heart-poundingly addictive.
Cécile is the would-be damsel in distress, kidnapped from her home and her life and taken deep below ground, under a cursed mountain and into a city that she never even believed still existed. Forced into a union against her will and told there is no hope for escape, Cécile finds herself in the delicate position of having absolutely no power, no knowledge to aid her, and nobody to turn to. Until, of course, things slowly begin to change. Soon, Cécile finds herself caught up in a web far larger and vaster than she could ever have imagined and with her options limited, she must learn to play a game of politics so intricate it will take all she has to even learn the basics. All she wants is to escape, but when she realises she might just be the only hope of an entire race she thought were monsters or never existed at all, Cécile begins to reassess her whole life and what she thinks about everything—including her future and that of the very same monsters who keep her captive.
But I said “would-be” damsel in distress. Nothing about Cécile says wilting flower and before long she takes control of her own captivity, devising her own plans and putting into play her own machinations and plots. Cécile does happen to be yet another fiery redhead in YA (what is it with the whole redhead = fiery/feisty equation?) but I’ll overlook it because she totally rocked the show. She is smart, savvy and incredible. She easily adjusts to whatever situation she finds herself in and despite going through all the silly motion that become the pitfalls of stereotyped YA heroines, Cécile admits her silliness, her mistakes, and takes charge of whatever solution is at hand.
On the subject of stereotypes being bent and remoulded, Tristan is a veritable dream when it comes to reminding people that boys can be self-conscious and insecure and feel the weight of expectation and pressure. He isn’t as cold and as strong as he acts and at Cécile’s side, whatever iciness makes up the façade of his exterior is melted away, leaving only that which must remain in order to remain true to plans embroiled in a lifetime’s worth of delicate scheming.
And boy, if this book isn’t packed full with delicate scheming. It has more angles than a protractor set. During her time in the city, Cécile meets people and her opinions begin to change, spiralling out of control until she can do nothing but apply herself to the same cause as Tristian. Except… there are secrets Tristan keeps close to his chest that Cécile cannot fathom, creating an impasse between what they both want and are both working towards. They may think they are working towards the same outcome, but are they sure that they both want exactly the same thing?
When Cécile discovers more about herself than she ever imagined possible, everything changes. There is a fight ahead, a struggle for what she most wants, what she most desires. But to achieve anything, she must do the impossible—she must do what the trolls have failed to do for centuries. But the curse must be broken and now that Cécile knows how, she will stop at nothing; because sometimes, one must do the unthinkable.
I adored this book. It helped that in Tristian, I saw a lot of Cassandra Clare’s Will Herondale, a character I’ve been sorely missing since The Infernal Devices ended. It’s not that the characters are the same, but that the same elements that made me love Will are present in Tristan. And in Cécile, I found my Tessa Grey again. It’s a good feeling and one that made me love Stolen Songbird all the more fiercely, because it felt like returning to the embrace of friends.
I don’t usually coo over romance—sure, I love love—but I don’t go gooey-eyed over couples and their ups and downs often. But Tristan and Cécile hit the spot, pull you in and refuse to let you go. Reading Stolen Songbird saw me just as trapped as Cécile and the trolls under the mountain. The pacing, delivery, the everything was utterly captivating and excellent and even though it’s only January, I can see this book being way up there at the end of the year. The cover is stunning—dark and emotive and the colour scheme is perfect; the hint of architecture in the background; the rose!—and is one of my favourites. I read a paperback ARC of this, but let’s just say this baby is getting bought and shelved, because it’s so pretty and so, so good. Achingly good. In fact: this book hurts it is so perfect.
If you’re looking for a YA fantasy full of magic and mystery and intrigue and romance and wonderful, heartfelt characters that you could easily accept to be trapped under a mountain with, then don’t just read Stolen Songbird—inhale it. Deliciously written in two POVs that are deep and personal and completely intertwined with one another, this book is at once like hot chocolate on a rainy day with a cat on your lap, and a shot of something wicked when you’re feeling wired. There’s nothing I even remotely disliked, and a list as long as most Welsh train station names of things I loved.
Stolen Songbird was a dream to read, a dream to adventure through, and a nightmare to leave. I didn’t want to wake up—and neither will you.