If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll know I have a habit of falling into book series without meaning to – and this Netgalley offering is no exception. By pure luck, it happens to be a prequel to The Malediction Trilogy.
Below Forsaken Mountain, a plot is being hatched to overthrow the tyrant king of Trollus, and Marc is the right-hand man of its leader. His involvement is information more than one troll would kill to possess, which is why he must keep it a secret from everyone, even the girl he loves. After accidentally ruining her sister’s chance to become queen, Pénélope is given one last opportunity by her father, the Duke d’Angoulême, to make herself useful: she must find proof that the boy she’s in love with is conspiring against the crown. If she fails, her life will be forfeit.
This YA dystopian fantasy is set in a brutal world where those with the most magical ability are in charge – and if you don’t have any magic, or it has been blighted by iron rot, then you are treated as second-class citizens. If you have the ill luck to be born a cross-breed, then it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, you still will spend your life in servitude.
However, there are those at the highest levels of troll society who feel the draconian rules and constant blood-letting are not only wasteful, but also needlessly cruel. We are in the domain of desperate plotters trying to gain some kind of network of resistance against a scarily powerful monarch, along with courtiers scrabbling for more influence. And two young people are caught in the middle of these mincing machines – can they prevail? This is the question that had me turning the pages.
Jensen has effectively depicted the claustrophobic nature of the society, both literally and figuratively, as the trolls’ kingdom extends underground, with the highest echelons living in beautifully wrought buildings. It is the magical power of the highborn family, who have studied and shaped their abilities enabling them to construct this underworld and prevent it from caving in.
I really liked Marc, the disfigured young man so sharply aware of how the iron rot has scarred his face in a society where appearance is all. It is a nifty way to give one of the main protagonists with a lot of ability some valid vulnerability. Whereas poor, beautiful Pénélope is stunning and wellborn – as well as being compromised with the dreaded iron rot, which has been a closely guarded family secret. She also has the misfortunate to have one of the most truly horrible fathers I have ever encountered in fiction – indeed, the Duke d’Angoulême is a really satisfyingly nasty antagonist.
As for the outcome – well I didn’t see that coming! It left me feeling more than a tad winded and as soon as I’ve shaved off more books off my crazily teetering TBR pile, I shall be returning to this series. I want to know what happens next… And if your taste runs to dystopian fantasy brimful of emotion and unexpected plot twists, then this one comes recommended.
While I obtained the arc of The Broken Ones from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.