Wintersongby S. Jae-Jones
Published on February 7, 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
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Did you beware the goblin men? Or did you fall under the spell of the Goblin King himself?
Wintersong is a magical song of a story, woven with lyrical prose and a simmering romance that will make you swoon. Drawing inspiration from the movie Labyrinth, this new YA fantasy will have you composing to your own Goblin King.
When I first went to read this book, I couldn’t get into it and it wasn’t the book, it was the then-me. Then I decided to give it another go after some time passed but not before I was convinced to watch Labyrinth first (now that was quite the experience). I think if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have noted the subtle nods to the movie within the book. The first half of Wintersong reminded me of the movie more than the second but if you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t think you’ll miss out on anything.
Now I’m a bit conflicted about this book. It’s divided into parts but I felt like there was a natural break in the story between the first half of the book and the second. The first follows Liesl as she attempts to rescue her sister from the Underground, lorded over by the Goblin King. The second is her romance with the Goblin King. I don’t feel like that’s much of a spoiler since it’s all but said in the synopsis. My struggle comes with talking about a book that has two distinct parts that have their own strengths and weaknesses.
The first half moves quick and the tension is high. I devoured it in about an hour, I couldn’t get enough. The constant fear that someone could die, of all things, is certainly something to keep you on the edge of your seat. Plus, the writing is absolutely gorgeous.
Things slowed down for the second half where the romance consumed the plot and had a few swoon-worthy moments. But when I say “slowed down” I mean I felt like nothing really happened. And, honestly, it really didn’t. I should mention that I read that Wintersong originally was intended as an adult book but those not-so-safe-for-work scenes were altered to make it more YA friendly. The problem with knowing this is that I think it needed those scenes. The second half of the book builds to this climax but never quite reaches it and then…the book ends.
Wintersong reminded me a lot of my experience with reading The Star-Touched Queen. I enjoyed the beauty of the writing and there was a story underneath, but the prose and romance masked any tension or action that would’ve kept the pacing similar to the first half.
In short, this book had pacing issues.
But I enjoyed the characters. Liesl is both selfish and selfless, an adventurer but also scared. She was a fun character to read about but I can’t say I found her remarkable in any way. As for the Goblin King, I had the issue with picturing him as David Bowie since I watched the movie right before reading. I expected a crueler character but in the end the Wintersong Goblin King was kind of a softy and I got it and all, but I wouldn’t have minded him being a bit more villainous either.
I think that’s what I was missing: a villain. A true villain. There wasn’t enough conflict, desperation to achieve a goal, after the first half of the story.
All in all, this was a very lyrical read and I will definitely be buying it and reading any future work by S. Jae-Jones. But on its own, my feelings are very mixed on this one. It had its highlights but also its faults. If you enjoy absolutely gorgeous writing and a fairy tale-esque story, then this is a perfect fit for you!