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…
Warnings: torture and abuse, animal sacrifice, gun violence
At the end of the last book, Cecile was free from Trollus, while Tristan betrayed his father and used his people to get her free, so this book is about consequences for him and a mission for her. She is hunting down Anushka and hoping that the upper echelons of Triannon society is where she will find her, which is why she finds herself back in her expected life, in her mother’s opera house. Tristan, however, is being tortured for treason, while his father the King has appointed his younger son, Roland as heir. He wants to revive the rebellion, but outwitting his father’s complicated schemes might be too much for him. When Cecile is forced to make a promise to the King, and Tristan one to his people, both are bound by those with a deadline to finish their tasks, deadlines that compel them to drive themselves hard until exhaustion or even death.
The first half of the book has a wandering focus but a good pace, and while Cecile’s was a slower arc, Tristan’s had a more engaging PoV, which balanced it out. The second half had a change of pace and tone, with the story’s romance arc making it to the forefront, as they reevaluate the cost of their relationship. I still felt it was a bit rushed when it came to romantic development, because it didn’t really allow time for Tristan’s change of circumstances to settle into his character. Another character relationship that didn’t get its due was Cecile’s relationship with her mother. It was complicated, sure, with her mother’s reasons for estrangement, and Cecile showing a rebellious streak as she has to do her investigating, but at times, her mother also felt like a stranger to her, someone she doesn’t really feel much for, but then later on, it also feels like more importance is given to her?
Moreover, I felt the book overall hanged more on the identity of Anushka than how to defeat her, and the former was so heavily hinted in the text that I blame the characters for not recognizing who Anushka was. And with that ending, I felt a bit lost as to why those characters were not given more of an appearance earlier in both books (or at least more than the one scene), since they obviously are going to be major presence in the finale of this trilogy. Overall, while this was an interesting sequel, with good arcs for both main characters, I felt it relied too much on the ‘mystery’ of Anushka.
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