Nothing - I repeat, nothing - beats a good old-fashioned fantasy romance. Something about the combination of a high-stakes romance and magic gets to me every time. In that regard, the Malediction trilogy more than delivers. STOLEN SONGBIRD, the first book in the series, is a Labyrinth-like story about a human girl who is kidnapped to be the bride of a troll prince who is imprisoned along with his people under a giant mountain. It's hate at first sight until she realizes the tenuous position he holds in his court, and how much he has grown to care about her after getting to know her. HIDDEN HUNTRESS takes place where the last book left off, after Tristan, the prince, has released Cecile for her own good to be back among the humans. She's resumed her singing career under the care of her mother, but the bond between her and Tristan remains, and she can sense that he is in trouble.
One of the major twists of the last book - SPOILER - is that Cecile is actually a witch. Humans and trolls have different types of magic, and while she and Tristan are separated, Cecile begins to really tap into her power ... including dabbling in the Dark Arts. Tristan, meanwhile, is subjected to all manners of torture for his "treachery", as both is father and his father's enemy, Angouleme, have wasted no time in scapegoating him for their own foul purposes, turning even Tristan's sympathizers against him. He's helpless to do anything to aid or protect Cecile, even though he knows she's in danger, because the witch who cursed his people is still around, and Cecile is the key to finalizing her revenge and destroying both him and the rest of the trolls for good.
I love it when sequels build off the previous books, and HIDDEN HUNTRESS made Cecile a force to be reckoned with while also developing the romance between Cecile and Tristan. I'm a huge fan of captive romances but it was great to see them reunite on equal footing. Tristan never got a chance to court Cecile, even when he was falling for her, because it was too dangerous. In this book, he gets to court her for real and it's actually romantic. There's also new characters - Cecile's mom, Genevieve; Sabine, Cecile's best friend; and Julian, her mother's young lover/protege. We also get to see more of Lessa, who was introduced towards the end of the previous book and really becomes a menace here.
Did I guess the major "twist" of this book pretty early on? Yes. It was pretty obvious. Do the hero and the heroine spend most of this book separated? Yes. Is this book more character-driven and less action-driven than the previous book? Yes. Those seemed to be the biggest criticisms of those who were disappointed by the sequel, and that's fair. I would venture to say that HIDDEN HUNTRESS is a different sort of story than STOLEN SONGBIRD, as this is more of a "girl finds and develops her secret powers against dark forces while trying to protect those she loves" story whereas the prequel is "girl is kidnapped by a boy she falls for, and their star-crossed love is hated by everyone" story. Cecile has much more agency in this book and the romance is much more companionate than lustful.
That sequel was evil AF, but I guess it was only a matter of time before magic made its way back into this world. Thank goodness I already own book three, but I think I need a break before diving back in. There were a lot of new developments in HIDDEN HUNTRESS and I need time to process them.
4 out of 5 stars