Hidden Huntress, by Danielle L Jensen [The Malediction Trilogy #2]

✎Title: Hidden Huntress (The Malediction Trilogy book #2)
Author: Danielle L Jensen
Publisher: Angry Robot
Publication date: 2nd June 2015
Rating: ★★★★★ x one million and one

21851568Hidden Huntress, by Danielle L Jensen, is the sequel to the much-praised, fantastic YA fantasy debut, Stolen Songbird. With the closure of Strange Chemistry, for a short time the future of Tristan and Cécile was up in the air—but not for long. Angry Robot soon realised they’d be absolutely mad if they didn’t keep Jensen. Stolen Songbird was praised from here to the moon, and with very good reason.

It is incredible.

Don’t believe me; just watch read it.

And then read Hidden Huntress. Twice. And maybe a third for good measure.

In the aftermath of Stolen Songbird, Cécile’s life has grown complicated. Recovered from her injuries, Cécile is free from Trollus. But she is separated from Tristan, with whom she is bonded—and she feels the same ache from Tristan’s mind that she knows he feels from her. It was a forced union in the beginning, when she was kidnapped and taken under the mountain—said by a prophecy to be the answer to breaking an old witch’s curse and finally freeing the Trolls.

She was only ever supposed to be a means to an end. Only Cécile is nobody’s tool. However, in pite of it all, romance blossomed and now Cécile is just as invested in the future of the Trolls as Prince Tristan is. Except that freeing the Trolls seems to be the last thing the Troll prince wants; hesitant to set free his people and possibly force a new age of servitude upon the humans on the Isle after their inevitable return to power. Freedom for the Trolls could mean tantamount to slavery for the humans.

But nothing is ever that simple.

The halfbloods, part Troll, part human, are second-rate citizens and freedom for them could mean true freedom. But at what cost? With the threat of Tristan’s mad, blood-thirsty younger brother set free along with the oppressed halfbloods, there are more factors to consider than it seems at first glance. And what of the politicking and machinations of the nobles of Trollus and its king? The ruling class is divided in the dark, scheming.  And now Tristan is shut out from that world, completely in the dark. With the discovery of Tristan’s true loyalties, and his subsequent imprisonment by his father, his brother has been named heir in his place—and the balance of power has never been less stable.

When Cécile left Trollus, left Tristan, she was determined to find the witch and break the curse—at least she believes she was. It is only when she is forced into a promise to the king that she truly understands what determination and compulsion feel like. Soon she is exhausted and struggling against all the conflicting urges of finding Anushka, and her doubt as to whether the answer is indeed to free the Trolls. Soon all she can think of is finding the witch. She barely eats, barely sleeps, barely manages to perform and maintain her veneer or normality—all that matters is the promise.

But Anushka has remained hidden for centuries and the Trolls have tried everything. What can one girl do against a centuries-old witch with enough hatred to damn an entire race for the actions of but a few? Cécile is about to find out. Not only did she discover the magic in her line whilst being in Trollus, but she’s since realised that she is powerful. If only she has the courage to push past her limits and commit to the magic, she will find she is capable of far more than she expected.

But magic can be addictive… power can be addictive.

Cécile’s friends are few as she performs with her mother for the people of Trianon, an opera singer by night and a huntress by day, searching for Anushka. The situation worsens with each day and she begins to doubt just who she can trust. Certainly not her mother, with whom Cécile has never had a splendid relationship. And what of her friends? Sabine’s thoughts of Tristan and the Trolls are seemingly set-in-stone and unlikely to change, regardless of what Cécile tells her. Only Chris remains unwavering at her side, dependable and always far more clear-headed than she.

Before long, Cécile grows desperate and her enemies begin to mount: suspicions begin to rise and yet the closer she gets to answers, the more mysteries and questions she uncovers. And then, just when she thinks everything is over, for better or worse, everything changes. In a single moment the centre of Cécile’s world shifts on its axis and nothing will ever be the same again. The extraordinary happens—she makes the extraordinary happen. A small something given to her in Trollus finally makes sense to her now. And she uses it, not realising what consequences her actions will have.

Yet she must still accomplish the impossible and until she does, the promise will continue to push her until either the curse is broken or Cécile herself is dead.

Meanwhile Tristan is struggling. Weak and sickening and doing what little he can on behalf of the halfbloods, whilst desperately trying to secure the tree that has kept the mountain in place over the heads for so long, Tristan has fallen from his father’s favour and bears the marks of his imprisonment and torture. And he can feel his father’s compulsion—her promise—pushing her to her limits. He has played a long game for a long time and although unseen pieces are moving on the board, Tristan knows how to play. Though his allies are few, he is determined to somehow turn things around.

In the end, Cécile and Tristan will find that in order to achieve the impossible, one must do the unthinkable. And in this case, it might just be that a single unthinkable truth shines out as being the only answer to the Anushka riddle. Perhaps the answer was in plain sight all along…

But what will happen if that barrier comes down and the Trolls are freed? What happens if the curse is broken? What happens if there are other things—worse things—being kept at bay? And what might happen if they, too, are freed?

Everything is about to change—again.

Hidden Huntress is perfect. It’s exactly what I wanted it to be and more.

It’s a gorgeous book that surpasses expectations at every turn, and with twists that you literally have to be out of your mind to even guess at (raising my hand, here!). Exhilarating and exciting, Hidden Huntress will keep you guessing right up until the end and then leave you with a hint of sweet success—before transforming the game altogether.

It is a fantasy YA novel with scope and heart and ambition. Cécile is all strength and vulnerability and delicious realness, caught up in things far larger than she is; things she was nevertheless destined by circumstance of birth to become entangled in. But Cécile refuses to be used and she knows what she’s fighting for: for the halfbloods, for Tristan—and for herself. This is the kind of book you want to take everywhere and thrust randomly into the hands of strangers, imploring they read it! You’ll want this book to meet your mother, to serenade it late at night on the library balcony, to build a little shrine to it on your bookshelves. It’s a sleep-with-it-under-your-pillow and hug-it-to-your-chest kind of book. Magical and compelling and overflowing with heart and talent, Jensen has got this down. If she isn’t soon a go-to author for YA SFF, then the world has gone mad and I’m evidently reading a very different copy of Hidden Huntress to the rest of you.  It is impossibly brilliant and rich and vibrant. What else can I say? Jensen will break your heart and remake it from the shattered pieces, newer and shinier and stronger.

5-star copyLove, adore, heart-to-freaking-pieces. This kind of book is why, why, why people need to look more closely at YA fantasy if they don’t already. Let Jensen show you how it’s done. Topping Stolen Songbird was always going to be a difficult task, but naturally Jensen manages it. The bar was set and so she vaulted over it, off into the sunset to a fanfare of praise.

Hot damn, buy this book.

Buy it and fall in love with every word.

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