The third and final book in Danielle L. Jensen‘s THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY picks up right where its predecessor left off: with the death of the witch Anushka and her curse upon the trolls lifted. Now they’re able to leave their city under the mountain, which is bad news for humanity since they’re led by the deranged prince Roland and his puppet-master Duke Angouleme. Their first objective is to overthrow the country and subdue all its people, and only Tristan and Cecile, the star-crossed lovers whose marriage was meant to prevent such chaos, can stop them.
Working within the tangled web of magical rules and regulations that have been established in previous books (such as trolls being unable to lie, but also able to extract unbreakable promises from humans), Jensen brings together her remaining cast to figure out a way to peacefully resolve the conflict between humanity and troll-kind. An added complication is that it’s against Tristan’s own family that he must fight, and the arrival of powerful fey monarchs — the Winter Queen and the Summer King — who have their own agendas in play.
Warrior Witch (2016) is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, with the usual seriousness being applied to the fantastical elements, and appropriate consequences for the difficult decisions that were made throughout. Tristan and Cecile come across as good-hearted young people desperate to do right by the greatest number of people, and remain true to their intentions even in the face of suspicion or misunderstanding.
The supporting cast isn’t quite as vividly-drawn, and some of the final confrontations a little anti-climactic, but the ending has just enough bitter-sweetness to elevate the story from your typical YA fantasy.
Not everything works — the previous book dealt with the demise of a character who had been impersonating someone very close to Cecile, but here the emotional fallout is hardly dwelt on and it seems to have had no psychological on her whatsoever. There’s also the implication that Tristan’s father deliberately played up a tyrannical personality so that his people would be all the more loyal to his eldest son — but this hardly makes him any more sympathetic, or his behaviour as a parent any less abusive. They’re two odd missteps that chip away the integrity of what has otherwise been a very “realistic” fantasy trilogy, and were worth exploring in more detail.
One more thing: the chapters alternate between Cecile and Tristan’s first-person narrative, but because the chapters are so short, the constant switching between the two of them can get confusing. I’d be halfway through a passage and realize that I was still in Cecile’s head, when in fact it was Tristan who had taken over the narration. It wasn’t too bad in Hidden Huntress when each one would get consecutive chapters before switching over, but in Warrior Witch it can get rather dizzying.
But it’s a worthy send-off to an enjoyable trilogy that combines the familiar tropes of the genre with several new and interesting innovations. Jensen writes with a clear and not-too-flowery prose, and is especially good in bringing the world Cecile and Tristan inhabit to life: from the beauty of the troll kingdom below the mountain, to the opulence of Cecile’s opera house, to the warm and summery realm of Arcadia.