Stolen Songbird is SUCH an enjoyable novel. Interesting characters, compelling romance, a surprisingly complex moral landscape, curses, rebellions, tyrants and trolls... it all comes together for a book that starts off a little slow but quickly gathers speed for an addictive and emotional read.
Nobody knows what's hidden in the tunnels of the Forsaken Mountain... or at least, those who know cannot speak of it. Under the mountain's heavy stone, under constant risk of collapse, the lost city of Trollus thrives, full of magical creatures desperate to escape their cursed existence and see the sun again. When a prophecy declares that the union between a troll prince and a human girl will break the curse that traps them in the mountain, they arrange for the kidnap of Cecile, a young singer who is dragged into the city she never knew existed and forced to marry the aloof and apparently resentful Prince Tristan.
Yet the wedding does not break the curse, leaving Cecile trapped in a city of creatures who at best think her inferior, and at worse want her dead. Cecile is obsessed with escaping the mountain, but leaving isn't easy when deadly creatures prowl the tunnels beyond the city limits, and one tiny misstep inside the city could lead to her murder.
The kidnap/arranged marriage/escape plotline is compelling, but even more interesting, to me, were the problems within Trollus itself. The city is plagued with class issues, racism and an obsession with blood purity. Slavery and brutality are accepted. In her fight to escape, Cecile becomes tangled up in the city's brewing potential rebellion, and this is where the best character moments, the strongest emotional plotlines, and the most challenging and interesting questions come into play. Cecile wants to escape, but she also wants to help. These creatures are trapped in slavery unless the curse is broken, but the trolls' powers and bigotry mean that humanity may be at risk if they do manage to leave the mountain. Different priorities and loyalties pull at Cecile, who after all has been forced into this situation by kidnap, and the answers to the many moral quandaries are never easy.
All in all, Stolen Songbird manages to combine the fun, the romantic, the challenging and the dark into one fantastic and highly enjoyable debut. Highly recommended!