Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Narration: Erin Moon, Eric Michael Summerer
Publisher: Audible Studios (2015)
Genre: High fantasy, with some romantic elements
Length: 14 hours, 30 minutes
My Rating: 3 stars = I liked it
Please note: I won a copy of this audiobook from the author, without any conditions attached.
Cécile de Troyes has a promising musical career ahead of her, until she’s kidnapped and sold to the troll king. She is married to the reserved and sarcastic Prince Tristan in hopes of breaking a curse laid on the Kingdom of Trollus five hundred years earlier. She wants to escape but finds herself involved in the hidden kingdom’s politics, especially the plight of “half-bloods,” who have mixed human and troll parentage and are treated as slaves by full-blooded trolls.
The author created an interesting cast of supporting characters, many of whom have complicated motivations and interesting backstories. Cécile shows a great deal of resolve and an ability to meet new challenges and situations. She is smart, headstrong, and impulsive, characteristics that I like a lot to see in a protagonist. The general mood of the book is Renaissance France, most of the character names are French, with court politics and factions. The half-blood subplot is inventive and adds a richness to the story as Cécile realizes what life in Trollus is like for those with partially human heritage. (And presumably any children she has by Tristan might face a similar fate.)
What I didn’t like were the chapters narrated from Tristan’s point of view. These seemed to have existed simply to relate information that Cécile could not have known or to respond to what she said or did in the previous chapter(s). He is a guarded character, but I never really see his point of view opening up. I generally enjoy multiple POVs, but I think this book would have been stronger if Cécile were the only narrator—or if Tristan was given something closer to equal billing. Trolls in this world are magical, inhuman, and otherworldly. I would have loved to have heard more from him to judge how different he saw the world.
For an audiobook with two voice actors, the sudden transition to a Tristan chapter was at times jarring, especially the first time it happened.
In addition, I found it took a while for the story to get started. The first three chapters are really background and setup. I prefer to know what the characters are up against by the end of chapter one and what the stakes are if they fail. More of this setup could have been included in later chapters.
But those problems do not detract significantly from what is an enjoyable fantasy romance that gets deeper and more complex with every chapter. By the halfway point, I wanted Tristan and Cécile to stop being so stupid and work together (something a few side characters keep telling them). And just as they do move past their hesitations and form a true bond, everything changes. I have the second book in the trilogy on my to-read list. If you like fantasy, court politics, and magic, check out Stolen Songbird.