Actual rating: 3.5
“Hmmm,” the King said, making a face. “I’m not sure this is what we bargained for, boy. We expected the girl to be attractive.”
If I hadn’t been so terrified, I would have been insulted.
“This is the one.”
“Are you certain?” the King asked from his perch on the throne. “She rather smells.”
Mother of God. A YA fantasy without insta-love. Without a love triangle. Without a Mary Sue who constantly complains about different she looks and how different she is from everyone else?!
It does exist.
The premise is pretty terrible, because it screams SPECIAL DESTINED GIRL. It's not. Trust me, have patience with this book. Ignore the ugly cover. Ignore the Mary Sue blurb.
Summary: Cécile de Troyes is a poor girl from a small village in the Hollows who has aspirations of being a singer. She's very, very good, but she's not exceptional. Cécile is returning to her village from a performance when she gets kidnapped and dragged underground. Literally. There was a bounty put on her head for a girl fitting her description.
"She foretold that when a prince of night bonded a daughter of the sun, the curse would be broken.”
Her bounty is her weight in gold.
Trolls do exist. They have a kingdom under the mountain, in a cave. For some reason they want Cécile. Why? Why the fuck do they want her in particular? What purpose do they have for her?
“She meets the criteria given to us by the foretelling. You do sing, don’t you?” the troll woman asked.
“Yes,” I croaked, not knowing why it mattered. “What do you intend to do with me?”
“Why, to bond you to our dear Tristan,” the troll said, smiling at me. “You are to be a princess of Trollus and mother of his children; and in doing so, you will set us all free.”
Fuck that shit. Cécile has her own life. She loves her family. She wants nothing but to escape. Fuck being a princess in an underground city. THESE ARE TROLLS. They want to fucking MARRY her to a troll?!
Not all of them were deformed, but they were monsters still, every one of them. And I was to wed one. To be bedded by one. To bear its children. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to be on my way to Trianon to get everything I had ever wanted. Now, not only had I lost everything – my family, my friends, my dreams – I had just been informed that what life I had left would be spent in an endless nightmare.
The Prince Charming isn't exactly charming. He is rude, he is completely uninterested in her, and he thinks Cécile is an idiot.
“Ha ha,” Tristan snorted. “How dreadfully clever. And speaking of clever, is this to be your bid for escape?” He contemplated my clothing. “In a dressing gown and bare feet? Now tell me, if I go put on nightclothes and slippers, might I join you, or is this a solo adventure?”
My eyes stung. “You think this is all exceedingly funny, don’t you? I’m nothing but a joke to you.”
His brow creased in a frown. “If you’re a joke, it isn’t an especially humorous one.”
He doesn't want her any more than she wants him. Tristan and Cécile are literally forced together for the sake of fulfilling a prophecy that is supposed to save the people of Trollus.
“You are the last person in the world I’d choose to marry,” I hissed.
“I don’t entirely relish the idea myself,” Tristan said, “but sometimes we must do the unthinkable. Because you have no choice, just as I have no choice."
Cécile is supposed to be the chosen one. The prophesied one whose marriage to Tristan will be the salvation of the people of Trollus.
We waited for what seemed like an eternity, then, abruptly, a collective groan of disappointment passed through the throng of trolls.
“Did it work?” I asked, heartily wishing someone would explain what it was.
“No,” Tristan said. “It didn’t.”
Cécile is now a prisoner. A princess of the Trollus, but a prisoner just the same. She is a human, hated and reviled as an inferior creature among the trolls.
Her story doesn't end there, because there are so many undercurrents lying beneath the mountain. An uprising is taking place. The prophecy might not be what it seems. There are traitors in the royal court, waiting for the chance to strike.
Tristan himself is not the offhanded, ruthless prince he seems. He has secrets of his own. For their mutual survival, and for the cause, Cécile and Tristan must join forces, become reluctant allies, in order to free the people of Trollus.
“I will ignore you. Be cruel to you. And you must play along. Act sad and unhappy. Never give anyone a reason to think I’ve shown you a moment’s kindness or that I’ve confided in you in any way. And above all, never let anyone suspect that I care one way or another whether you live or die, beyond how it might impact me.”
The fate of many rests upon their mission.
The Setting: An cave underneath a mountain, and it is GLORIOUS. Carved masonry. Fantastic, magical underground gardens. Phantom, fairy lights. It is tremendously opulent, a stunningly beautiful jail to Cécile.
Fountains and statues graced every corner. In place of greenery stood gardens of glassworks sculpted into trees, bushes, and flowers. The delicate displays would not have lasted more than a month exposed to the elements above ground. Then again, hailstorms likely did not trouble Trollus.
The history of the trolls were well explained, as was the myths surrounding the prophecy.
Oh, and those legends about trolls? They're just not true.
Almost too late did I see the beam of sunlight crossing his path.
“No!” I gasped, throwing my weight into Tristan, knocking him down sideways into a narrow alleyway.
I eyed the beam of sunlight that was still too close for comfort. “The sun.”
“Everyone knows that trolls turn to stone in the sunlight,” I said.
His astonishment faded and to my horror, he started to laugh. Reaching out one arm, he waggled his fingers in the sun. “Oh, the stories you humans come up with,” he gasped out, and my cheeks burned.
Cécile: The main character, one of the two narrators. Cécile is the kind of heroine that I like. She is NOT special. She never proclaims herself to be different. She is strong-willed, but never bitchy. She neither fall into insta-love or insta-lust nor does she allow her heart to overpower her sense of rationality.
Cécile makes mistakes. She learns from them. She is not perfect. She admits her wrongs. Cécile is almost completely alone in a foreign land where she is reviled for the fact that she is an inferior human among trolls, and her persistance and attitude is just what I hope to see. She is strong, compassionate. She admits her faults, she recognizes when she fucks up.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. But what good were my regrets? I’d ruined everything and still he’d come for me when I’d needed him the most. I’d told myself to make the most of my life in Trollus, but instead I’d made the least of it. The worst of it! Because of me, the only other person fighting for my freedom was dying.
Cécile is properly angry at being kidnapped, but she does not waste her time moping. She puts her time to good use, she devotes her time to a better purpose, and she overcomes her own prejudices of the trolls, as she comes to know them.
“Trolls,” I finally said, “are supposed to be ugly.”
My thoughts turned to Marc, who was always kind to me when no one else was. “They aren’t ugly.” I bit my lip, trying to find the right words. “More like beautiful things that have had the misfortune of being broken.”
Other Characters: Very well done. I love the depiction of other females in the books. There is no slut shaming, there is no debasement of other women. There is bravery and sacrifice in other women's duties. *cheers*
And let's just say there is a troll in the book named Marc, who won over my heart.
He was perhaps my brother’s age, and particularly handsome. The light of the orb reflected in his silvery grey eye as though the glow came from within. I’d never met anyone in my life with eyes like his.
The two sides of his face, so flawless on their own, were like halves of a fractured sculpture put back together askew.The lack of symmetry was more than unsettling – it was shocking, gruesome even. One eye higher than the other. One ear lower than the other. A mouth marred by a permanently sardonic twist.
Be not fooled by his appearance. Marc has a heart of gold.
The Romance: AWESOME. AWESOME. No insta-love?! FUCK YEAH! YEAAAAAAH!
Sorry, I get a little overexcited.
Cécile and Tristan's relationship is so well-built. Mistrust into alliance into friendship into love.
Tristan is such a complicated character, his mission and purpose unwavering. He is prepared to make sacrifices of his life, his heart, for his people. He is a man on a mission, and I love it.
Almost every action I took or decision I made was designed to affect circumstances months, years, even decades down the road. I’d always thought it was the prudent way to live, but now I feared I would wake up one day an old man, with my past wasted and no future left to live.
I absolutely adored how Tristan and Cécile come to trust and rely on one another. Their romance is one of sacrifice, because they are devoted to a cause higher than their own. If you love someone, you have to let them go.
“Under the sun, with your family. That’s where you belong.”
It was beautiful seeing them love one another while knowing they come from two different worlds.
Trolls cannot lie by nature. They are bound to their words. Humans are not so.
“Why?” I slammed my fists down on the table. “Why can’t you believe me? Why don’t you trust me?”
“Because you’re human, Cécile. You can lie, even to yourself.”
They have a lot of miscommunication, a lot of mistrust. There is a lot of difficulty in their relationship, because there are people who will use their love for each other against them. Danger and sacrifice fills their romance.
“Tell me you’ll grow strong again. That you’ll gallop on horseback through summer meadows. Dance in spring rains and let snowflakes melt on your tongue in winter. That you’ll travel wherever the wind takes you. Promise me."
This book's major fault is that it is far too long. Much like my review ^_^
Quotes taken from an uncorrected galley subject to change in the final edition.