(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
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…
I had serious doubts about how Hidden Huntress would turn out, given the fact that Cécile and Tristan are now separated and their relationship was the absolute highlight of the first book. Their banter also provided quite a bit of comedy relief given the relatively dark atmosphere of the story. However, I didn’t really need to worry because although there are some places where this book suffers from Book 2 Syndrome, it is a solid book on the whole.
We meet Cécile as she’s trying to find her place in society: she’s on stage almost every night singing opera, just like she dreamed. Except now she’s really not happy because she’s separated from Tristan, has to deal with her overbearing perfectionist mother and is missing Tristan terribly. Yet she manages to function like a relatively normal human being, going about her daily routine while secretly involving her friends in the search for Anushka. Things are frustrating for her but they’re going well considering Tristan’s predicament: he’s been disinherited and thrown in jail, tortured regularly with iron to suppress his magic. It’s pretty horrific and it’s understandable that when Cécile meets with his father, the king, she makes a promise she might not be able to keep. And troll promises work on humans in strange ways, ways that the human in question might not have anticipated. It’s Cécile‘s hasty (but understandably so) promise that really kickstarts the main events and action in the novel.
Once again, the characters are incredibly well developed. Cécile is still very much her own woman but has to learn to rely on her friends and her brother in order to help her hunt Anushka. She also has to come to terms with her mother and her mother’s expectations of her as a budding opera singer (which includes the entertaining of men). Tristan also really has to confront his past arrogance in his schemes and learn to think in about four dimensions in order to anticipate his scheming father’s every move. He does a few incredibly rash things but since it’s in the name of restoring a semblance of equality to Trollus I think some of them are understandable, if not entirely justified. One of the characters that really stood out for me was Anushka. We don’t really learn much about her until the end of the novel but wow, her backstory makes her cursing of the trolls entirely understandable. Trust me, whatever you’re thinking her backstory was, it’s actually much worse. You really do feel quite a bit of sympathy for her…temporarily.
The plot is not the most fast-paced, unfortunately. Sometimes Danielle Jensen gets caught up with the Cécile angle of the story and neglects Tristan’s very important scheming, which really needs more page time in order to be fully understood and appreciated. She could have cut some of the opera scenes with Cécile in the name of trimming down the plot and that’s coming from me, an opera lover. I think Hidden Huntress is definitely a solid sequel to Stolen Songbird but the plot just lacked something that the first book had. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is, but it seemed like there was something missing in this second book that was definitely there in the first. That’s not very helpful, I know, but it’s true. Although, to be fair, the cliffhanger at the ending was massive and makes me want to read the next book immediately. I also loved the fact that the origins of the trolls are explained a little more even if we’re still lacking in a full backstory.
Basically, Hidden Huntress was a decent sequel but it definitely suffered from Book 2 Syndrome in some spots. I’m absolutely still going to read the third and final book in the Malediction Trilogy but I do feel this one could have been better.
I give this book 4/5 stars.