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Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

The second installment in the Malediction trilogy has more action, intrigue, and magic than its prequel. Will Tristan figure out how to play the political mind games within Trollus before it’s too late? And can Cecile hunt down an immortal witch with the power to break the curse on her true love?

Title: Hidden  Huntress
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Series: The Malediction Trilogy
Publish Date: June 2, 2015
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robot
Source: Purchased.

Publisher’s Description:

Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.

Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.

Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.

To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…


Kat Mandu says…

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!! Please do not read on if you haven’t read these books. You have been warned!!! 

This is one of those trilogies that once you read the second one or third one, questions readers may have had in the book before it seem to clear up and get answered. For me, sometimes when I was reading the first one, I was so distracted by all the action of a particular scene that I find I didn’t quite understand what was happening until it was either mentioned or “remembered” by a character in the next one. I think after reading Warrior Witch, I may understand more of the events that occurred in Hidden Huntress.

That being said, I wasn’t necessarily confused about anything. I really, really loved how much this book had in it – from Cecily learning blood magic and breaking Tristan from the curse, to Tristan making a play against his father that the practically psychic king didn’t see coming; and finally, to discovering the real identity of Genevieve – aka Anushka. There’s a lot going on here and despite the length of the book, it tends to move fast and keep you entertained.

Though I’m not dissing the romance genre here, I did like that romance wasn’t the main focus on this, mostly a side mission as both characters seemed to realize their greater purpose could be to work together, love together, win together. The characters aren’t so lovey-dovey, and at some points even question their purpose together. But for the most part, they have their own missions.

I wish the fight scene with the dragon had been longer. It seems strange to me that Tristan was able to take down an entire frost dragon without assistance, while everyone watched. Though I do picture him as a younger version of Luke Evans now. Mmm. Sexy. Anyway, I get that he’s powerful, I just find it strange that everyone kind of stood around. In a way, I suppose he might have been the only one to do any damage to it but when he was talking about preparing to fight the otherworldly creatures, that must mean humans stand some small chance? I don’t know. That whole scene kind of threw me for a loop.

I guess the thing that didn’t quite make this a five-star rating for me was the huge spoiler alert included near the very beginning. In it, readers are aware that Genevieve is drugging Cecile and questioning her about the trolls and this is just such a major hint that I knew who the bad guy was automatically. I know that some authors like readers to know ahead of time what their characters don’t but I wish the mystery would have remained in this particular book. It kind of just snuffed out that elegant mystery for me that I would have appreciated so much more.

Overall, my thoughts are kind of everywhere with this one, as it is fresh in my mind. But I really enjoyed reading this one more than the first one. 

Our reviews in this series…

  • Stolen Songbird
  • Hidden Huntress
  • Warrior Witch *coming soon*
  • The Broken Ones *coming soon*

Other recommendations…

If you enjoy young adult high fantasy with a little bit of romance and magic, I’d suggest other trilogies like Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha series, The Elemental trilogy by Sherry Thomas, and Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire & Thorns.

Talking to Dragons by Patricia M. Wrede

Daystar is all grown up and off to the Enchanted Forest on his first adventure. Armed only with a sword and good manners, Daystar is kicked out of the house by his mother, Cimorene, and told to figure out what he’s supposed to do. But when it comes to the secrets of the Enchanted Forest, discovering your destiny isn’t always easy.

TitleTalking To Dragons 
AuthorPatricia Wrede 
SeriesEnchanted Forest Chronicles 
Publish Date: September 1, 1993
Publishers: Houghton Milton Harcourt
GenreMG/YA High Fantasy 
Publisher’s Description: Always be polite to dragons! That’s what Daystar’s mother taught him…and it’s a very wise lesson–one that might just help him after his mom hands him a magic sword and kicks him out of the house! Especially because his house sits on the edge of the Enchanted Forest and his mother is Queen Cimorene.

But the tricky part is figuring out what he’s supposed to do with the magic sword. Where is he supposed to go? And why does everyone he meets seem to know who he is?

It’s going to take a particularly hotheaded fire-witch, a very verbose lizard, and a badly behaved baby dragon to help him figure it all out.

And those good manners certainly won’t hurt!


Kat Mandu says…

Although this book was written by the author first, it’s actually the last in the series and takes place quite a few years after the events of the first three books. Daystar, the son of Cimorene, has no idea that it’s his duty to rescue his missing/sleeping father, Mendenbar, and all the while stopping the wizards forever. But first he’s gotta navigate through the Enchanted Forest.

Along the way he meets a very feisty fire-witch named Shiara, a couple elves, Antorell, and the old gang – Morwen, Telemain, Kazul, and of course, his own father. I find it’s interesting that his magic works a little differently than Mendenbar’s, but has similar effects, as it’s very good at getting him out of trouble.

This story has a lot of dialogue and kind of drags in certain spots where everyone is just arguing or plotting, but the plot is a lot more engaging and makes up for it. I’m very fond of the way the author kind of makes this a stand-alone novel, so that readers don’t have to read the first three to understand the story. Though, if you had read the first three, you’d probably know exactly what was going on and wouldn’t have to wait.

When I first read this series back in grade school, I actually read this one first and loved it, so I read the whole series backwards. It gave me a very different read and one I enjoyed. Now that I’ve read it in its chronological order, I realize that I probably missed quite a few details going backwards. 

Regardless, no matter how you read it, this is a great series for kids and adults. If you like some reimagined fairy tales, magic, and adventure, you’d love the Enchanted Forest chronicles. I know I enjoyed rereading it.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

If you like dragons, magic, and adventure, you might try Susan Fletcher, Tamora Pierce, or Diane Duane.

Stolen Songbird by Danielle Jensen

Kidnapped by trolls, Cecily must unravel a series of secrets about her captors while planning an escape. But falling in love might change all her plans…

TitleStolen Songbird 
Author: Danielle L. Jensen 
Series: The Malediction Trilogy
Publish Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Genre: YA High fantasy
Source: Purchased.

Publisher’s Description: For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the mountain. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she realises that the trolls are relying on her to break the curse.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind: escape. But the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time…

But the more time she spends with the trolls, the more she understands their plight. There is a rebellion brewing. And she just might be the one the trolls were looking for…


Kat Mandu says…

Hello readers! We’re catching up on some reviews from our high-fantasy read-along. In Stolen Songbird, Cecily is taken by a man named Luc, who’s only interested in trading her to the trolls for some gold and other treasures. Thrown into the the dark world of Trollus, Cecily discovers that her kidnapping was no mere coincidence as she finds herself betrothed to the prince of the trolls and “bonded” through magical means. In a mix of terror, luck, and curiosity, Cecily slowly unravels the details of her captivity, the politics of Trollus, and even her strange attraction to Prince Tristan. As Trollus becomes dangerous in all sorts of ways – even for her – she knows her only hope at survival is to escape forever. But leaving Tristan, the “monster” she steadily falls for, may be harder than ever.

This has an interesting premise – for one, not many YAs have trolls. Especially good looking and intelligent ones (not that they’re “trolls” per se, a secret you read farther on in the book). I love the political games that the king, the queen, other key players, and even Tristan play and that Cecily doesn’t really have a say in any of it, though she quickly learns her role in them. She’s the one prophesied to break the witch’s curse that holds all the trolls beneath the mountain. So with a little magic, adventure, and romance mixed in, it makes for a great read.

I love that this series doesn’t have a love triangle. For me, it didn’t really even have romance at all until much later in the book when Cecily and Tristan learn they both have need of each other’s company. I mean, at the beginning, they hated each other. They were forced to marry just to fulfill the prophecy. Of course, when that doesn’t work, she becomes a prisoner. I like that Tristan realizes that she’s there against her will and wants to protect her (after all, he didn’t particularly love the arrangement either), but that doesn’t mean he insta-loves her. Hell, they spend the majority of the book pretending to hate each other (and actually doing so at times).

Cecily isn’t the bravest or strongest, but she knows how to manipulate and she does what she can to learn how to get around Trollus. She makes frenimies along the way and it’s interesting to see that after all she’s been through, she can still learn to care for the people who have about as little control as she does over her life.

I’m fascinated by the plot and eager to see where this magical story line takes Cecily and Tristan in the next book, Hidden Huntress. Until then, four stars from me! 

Other recommendations…

…you might try  Strange, Sweet Song by Adi Rule, Gates of Thread & Stone by Lori M. Lee, and ….

Pulse: The Trial by RA Crawford

In a society ruled by women, a group of human girls working toward becoming PULSE soldiers must prove their worth in a deadly trial no human has ever survived before. And if the barely uninhabitable planet they drop on doesn’t kill them first, the other women just might.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitlePulse: The Trial 
Author: R.A. Crawford
Series: Pulse? Series still TBA
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publish Date: December 2016
Genre: YA Dystopian
Source: Provided by the author.

Publisher’s Description: Forty of Earth’s most dangerous women compete to become warriors in the interstellar empire known as PULSE. They must endure a Trial on a death-planet filled with monsters and betrayal.

Only three will survive. And the war hasn’t even begun.

It’s a future like you’ve never seen before: one populated by amazing (and often unfriendly) aliens and a Humanity that is 100% female. A paradise in some ways, a prison in others, this handful of extraordinary women must fight to stay alive in a brutal universe, enduring an onslaught of deadly challenges, just to join the fight against a star-spanning threat they can scarcely imagine.

THE TRIAL is the first in an action-packed adventure series for all ages, crammed with creatures, combat, courage … and some of the most fascinating new characters you’ve encountered in years.

Join PULSE! See the universe! You might even survive…


Kat Mandu says…

Pulse follows two young girls, Stella and Faye, not to mention a myriad of other women (both alien and human) as they work to become enforcers for PULSE, an intergalactic space organization that goes from planet to planet and frees women from “the evil” of men (and men in general). They’ve been training for ten years, which is nice because in order to become soldiers, they must first pass a brutal trial on a wicked planet full of dangerous terrain, deadly enemies, and harsh conditions. From the moment they jump off the spaceship and have to fall to the surface, to the final confrontation as they attempt escaping, Stella and Faye have to be at their best to succeed – or else perish like every other human before them.

This is action-packed and full of fight scenes between the girls, monsters, and human nature. It’s reminiscent of the violent competitions in the Hunger Games, especially since the story is narrated by you guessed it, all women. These girls are tough and fierce, and Stella and Faye make a great duo. I liked the bonds between them and how tested their relationship became in the darkest moments of the trial.

However the writing just didn’t do it for me.

For one, I don’t mind descriptions of certain battle scenes and etc, because you’ve gotta have great visuals, yes? However this was often way too verbose in places, making you wonder what was actually happening in between three full paragraphs of unnecessary details. I found myself struggling to follow along.

Another thing is that I didn’t understand the narration. I’ve read several third-person perspective books, but none have been this chaotic. The thing that irked me the most was the shift to characters that weren’t important to the story line. For example, at the very beginning, you hear from Stella’s mother – but why? What role does she have to play in the set up, beyond offering “mental” support for Stella at random and infrequent moments? Switching to characters who don’t play a valuable role is a waste of space. Why did we have to hear from Haley right before Stella went to fight her in hand to hand combat? I felt that switching so often distracted from what the story was trying to say. I wish it would have stayed within the confines of Stella/Faye’s head (and I guess, Koot at times).

Sadly, I could not connect with any of the characters at all. I liked that they had various personality traits but I just didn’t feel for any of them, despite their situations.

I didn’t understand the unrealistic battle between Stella and Haley either. The girls have been rivals for quite some time now and they can’t stand each other. Okay, that works. A little high school drama never hurts anyone. BUT IS THAT A REASON FOR WANTING TO KILL EACH OTHER? My god no. This was my final sigh moment, even though I continued to read it. How could someone go from simply hating someone for stupid reasons – Haley often beat Stella in combat, for example – to wanting to kill them? Nope, nope, nope. It just went to an extreme level that was just…again, unnecessary.

I also missed the actual world-building. A world ruled by all women? Okay, that’s awesome. Now why? Do I need to know every detail of how the world came to be? No, I mean, even Divergent and Hunger Games had very vague reasons on how their worlds ended up like that. But these girls are going through all this trouble – this life-threatening trial – to prove themselves. Okay? Why? To free women, okay, that’s a good reason, but it’s not enough for me. Are men savages in this world? Are they corrupt? Why are these women fighting to prove? That lack of information just doesn’t work for me.

Despite all this, Pulse is not a bad story. I mean, I’ve seen the reviews on Goodreads and a lot of people really love it. I liked the action and the excitement but the rest was not for me. 

Other recommendations…

…you might try The Gender Game series by Bella Forrest, Man Hunt by K. Edwin Fritz, and The Monster Within Idea by R. Thomas Riley.