Stolen Songbird is about a young woman, Cécile, who is kidnapped on her way home from the local village and taken to a secret city of trolls located under a mountain. There she is forced to marry the troll prince, Tristan, in order to (hopefully) break a curse that has imprisoned the trolls there for the last five centuries.
I really liked this book. I absolutely had a great time reading it and probably would have finished it all in one sitting if a) I hadn’t started it so late in the day and b) life things like work didn’t get in the way.
I picked up this one mainly for the romance, and in that it did not disappoint. The romance in this one is a bit of a slower burn (no insta-love, yay!) and was it quite engaging. I enjoyed the characters of Cécile and Tristan. I liked that Cécile wasn’t the typical ‘not like other girls’ character. And Tristan, while at first stand-offish, is not the typical ‘oh, I’m so mean, don’t you want to fall in love with a bad boy’ character. I absolutely loved these characters and their layers; this felt refreshing. I read a lot of YA with romance, and romance in the romance genre, and it can all get formulaic after a while. I don’t feel that this story ever fell into that, and even the non-romance aspects of the plot (there are plenty of those) always kept me on my toes.
The side characters were well written too, with much depth. Sometimes they felt unpredictable, because they were so complex. There never was any single motivation or aspect to any character that I saw. I think the characters were probably the best thing about this book.
I liked the magic in this story a lot. There are a couple of different kinds of magic in the book and I thought that was an interesting take on things. The trolls have their kind of magic and there are humans, witches to be precise, that have their own brand of magic. I also like that the magic is important to the plot as well, not just there for show or as an afterthought. Everything from Cécile and Tristan’s bond, to the curse, to the city’s continual existence depended on some kind of magic.
I did, however, find there was something that made it hard for me to suspend my disbelief at times, and that is food. Trollus is a city that never sees the sun. They can’t grow food. The only food supply they have is whatever dwells within the city cavern system and some fish that come in the river that runs through the city center. This is obviously not enough to feed the entire populace. Yes, it’s revealed that there are human traders that bring food (and I’m assuming other goods and resources) into the city which the trolls trade for gold. But with the vast amounts of food that would be needed, it would have to be more than a few traders, it would have to be almost constant caravans coming into the city. If that were the case, then how come many humans don’t know about Trollus’ existence? Surely if there were that many traders coming in and out it would be depleting the local markets (the surrounding area is the countryside), making the locals quite rich, and be quite obvious there is a city under the mountain. And yet…no.
The trolls have magic, so there could have been a magical explanation or solution for the food supply but that’s not the case either. Yes, there is an entire history about when the mountain first fell on the city and there was much starvation at first. Which makes sense. But then traders came and suddenly that was solved? I just don’t think there is enough food coming in and I never really get the sense about there being a food shortage or it being a scarcity society. It feels very much like a normal historical city, except it’s under a mountain where the sun never shines. (Also, how are the humans and half-humans not more sickly looking without any sunshine?) Oh, but wait, the fish from the river. But never once do I remember anyone actually eating a fish in this entire book! Apple, yes. Fish, no. I guess part of an explanation could be that we spend most of our time in the story with the the royal family and other nobles, so of course *they* wouldn’t be starving or eating the most common foods, but I still feel like this aspect wasn’t something that was given enough attention to make it believable for me.
Now, I realize I am being super picky about this food thing when in the grand scheme of things it is not a huge deal. It could be because I just finished reading a guide for writing about food in fantasy settings based on historical times, or it could be that things like this just stick out to me for some reason. Either way, it’s ultimately not something that has to do with the plot, even though it made the world-building feel underwhelming for me.
The only other thing that made me giggle a bit was that the trolls were first seen as such hideous monsters but then Tristan is the most handsome boy ever, because of course he is. This wasn’t actually an issue for me, but it did make me laugh, because of course it did.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. I’m definitely going to read the next one because I’m rooting for Cécile and Tristan’s love story. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything plays out with the curse-breaking and if it does get broken then is it Cécile or Tristan that’s right about the nature of trolls? So many questions that I want to see answered! This was a fun and quick read with a great romance. Rated it 4/5 stars on goodreads.