I received an ARC of the second book in this series.
2 out of 5 stars.
Bryn is a troll and works as a tracker, a special agent of the troll kingdom tasked with tracking down changelings left with humans and bringing them back to their real parents and people. Everything is going well until someone starts targeting changelings still in the human world. Even worse, it looks like the same criminal who tried to assassinate Bryn’s father years ago and has been on the run ever since. As the plot thickens, it looks like what they hoped was a few random attacks is a mysterious political plot spanning several kingdoms.
These two books are essentially political thrillers masquerading as fantasy. The troll people are not portrayed as otherworldly beings like faeries usually are. Instead, they are completely human, just with weird skin, hair, and occasional powers. They send their children out as changelings for financial reasons, drive Hummers and Jeeps, and wear designer clothing. It sounds like a neat way to go, but for me it spoiled most of the reasons I read fantasy. The characters rarely use their abilities and personality-wise, they are too human-like. If I wanted to read about tracking down criminals and uncovering political intrigue and plots I would read those genres. I don’t, so it is disappointing to find something in one of my preferred genres that is almost completely focused on those plot elements.
Bryn’s job is to uncover a plot against the elite and track down a fairy terrorist. This might have been an interesting crossover, but not enough attention was paid to the fairy elements. I read like someone had taken a Robert Ludlum book and given the characters fake spock ears. It did not integrate enough to be compelling or convincing.
The books make some interesting points about loyalty to superior officers coming up against personal ethics that could lead to some fruitful discussion, but since it is done in the context of monarchies, it loses a lot of its relevance. It would be interesting to talk about whether soldiers in the Middle East should be able to ignore their commanding officer’s orders if it means avoiding war crimes without being charged with treason. It is less interesting to talk about what loyalty we owe to a monarch, since most North American and European countries (whom I presume are the intended audiences) have decided that we owe monarchies who order us to do stupid or criminal things no loyalty, and maybe we should take away most, if not all, of their power altogether.
Bryn is an adequate character, but we do not really see much of her thought patterns or emotions. Her two personality traits are her obsession with her job and her crush on her boss. I did not really get to know her that well and she does not have any of the quirks or rich inner life that makes characters real.
The system built around changelings, as it was represented in these books, is completely unconvincing. The one changeling we see closely is immediately convinced to leave his parents and takes quite happily to his new life, despite not being ill treated by his human family at all. The troll world is built up on the premise that many of their most important children spend their entire childhoods in one world, but then are expected to effortlessly transition into being royalty in a troll kingdom, knowing that their parents abandoned them for monetary gain. It is an interesting, even great premise, but the ramifications are not explored at all. There is no resentment or massive emotional scars crippling this society, and there really should be.
These books fell flat for me. Neither the characters nor the world captured my attention enough to make up for a plot I really did not find interesting. There is going to be a third published, but I do not think I will be reading it.