Posted in Book Review

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Read Dates: December 25, 2021 – December 28, 2021
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Owned hardback

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From Goodreads:

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

“Will you marry me, Elisabeth? the little boy asked, and the little girl did not wonder at how he knew her name.
Oh, she replied, but I am too young to marry.
Then I will wait, the little boy said. I will wait as long as you remember.
And the little girl laughed as she danced with the Goblin King, the little boy who was always just a little older, a little out of reach.

Listen. I LOVE David Bowie. I also LOVE the movie Labyrinth. I also pick up every single book I can find that claims to be a retelling of such or even just one that is inspired by the film. So… when I heard about this one, I ran to my local bookstore. They didn’t have it. So like any rational person on the face of the Earth, I bought it and had it rush delivered to my house. Perfectly reasonable, I know.

So anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the story. I admit, it was a bit slow going in the beginning… but then… but THEN…

I also have to mention how incredibly giddy it made me when I read a sentence that was taken straight out of the movie Labyrinth but used in a different way that fit this adaptation. I marked them all with my cute little sticky notes and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t clap after placing each one down on a page.

“I’ve given you everything you’ve ever wanted. I’m tired of living up to your expectations.

So Liesl is a plain girl living in the shadow of her beautiful sister, Kathe and her talented brother, Josef. She loves music but she is forbidden from practicing it or taking classes to hone her natural talent for it. One day while running an errand at the market for their brother, Liesl and her sister Kathe run into some merchants that turn out to be goblins. The goblins isolate Kathe and spirit her away to the Goblin King. So begins Liesl’s journey to the Underground (**squeals internally**) where she must find a way to rescue her sister and beat the Goblin King.

I must admit, I didn’t care for Kathe at all and I really did dread having to read about her. But I suspect that was the intention. Kathe is beautiful and she knows it. She flirts with all the boys she meets. She enjoys nice things like shopping, accessories fashion, and fancy confections. She’s just a lot. For my personal taste at least. Maybe that’s your thing?

Josef was a bit the same for me. He’s very timid. Liesl is living in his shadow but he is also nothing without her. He’s very emotional and lacks any self-esteem. Liesl helps him navigate through those feelings. When she leaves, he literally has no idea what to do. It’s wild. He is the baby brother though. So I guess it makes sense.

I just didn’t really want to read about anyone except Liesl and the Goblin King. But, of course, most of the beginning chapters of this book were about Liesl’s family. Which is fine, I mean, we have to learn about the things that make our main character tick. But, while we’re on the subject, this was a big reason for my taking away of stars (cats). It’s not the book’s fault in any way, it’s mostly a fault of mine. I love music but I have no clue about composition. A lot of this book was about composing music. Those parts would lose me a little bit. Especially in the beginning where that was 90% of the main focus.

Liesl was enjoyable to read. She is strong and independent and level-headed even though she is very unsure of herself and lacks self-esteem. This was ok with me, though, because it fits the character. As I said before, she lives in the shadow of her siblings so this totally makes sense for her. Where her sister was told how beautiful she was by everyone she came across and her brother was told how talented he was in music, Liesl was never given any compliments where her talents and looks were concerned. She was always just the glue that held the family together. She took on keeping her family happy and her household running smoothly.

Also, I did enjoy the way the author wrote Liesl as being “plain” and “unattractive.” Even the Goblin King admits that she’s nothing to look at. The focus here is that there are other traits a person can have that make them wonderful. This is a constant throughout the story and I found that so refreshing. At no point did Liesl gussy herself up and make herself beautiful. She didn’t need to. All she needed was the one thing she was sure of about herself: her music. I was incredibly impressed by the consistency with this as well as how much it was pushed on the reader.

The Goblin King… *sigh*. He was so interesting. I kept wanting to know more about him. He captivated me. He was hot and cold and he came and went as he pleased. He was just… I don’t know… mysterious. There was also some indication that he was a broken man, regardless of his immortality and his stature. Which I guess makes sense for the next reasoning for deduction of stars. I got a bit dizzy with the back and forth of their relationship. Every time they came together it was good and then it was bad. I was left feeling incredibly confused about the two of them which left me not believing how they felt about each other by the end of the story. The relationship part just wasn’t there for me. It felt toxic. Maybe that was the intention. I don’t know. I do intend to read the second book to hopefully find some clarification.

“Oh, Elisabeth,” he said, “I would go anywhere with you.”

The thing about Liesl, though, is she doesn’t take any of the Goblin King’s crap. She goes toe to toe with him and never backs down. She’s fiercely protective of her family and she’s willing to do just about anything to ensure their safety… including outwitting the Goblin King. She wants to beat him, yes, but she also wants to know him. She’s always had a thing for the Goblin King, ever since she was a kid. She remembers playing games with the Goblin King when they were young and she has always fantasized about the two of them being together. So when she’s basically dropped in his lap, of course she feels that pull to learn more about him. I just… I don’t know. I didn’t believe it when all was said and done.

I feel the need to tell you guys, too, that if you’re not a fan of a less than ideal ending, then this isn’t the book for you. I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but just know, there is little resolution at the end of this book. No fairy tale endings to be found in this one. It’s honestly kind of a sad ending. However, I’m hoping that the second book will clear this bit up for me so I refrained from letting the ending reflect in how I rated the book as a whole.

One last thing I think is worth mentioning: this is labeled as a young adult novel but, well, it’s not. It certainly didn’t feel like one. The language (not foul, just… poetic?), the sex… it just didn’t feel like a young adult novel at all. I just wanted to mention this, though, for those who might be wondering if this book is ok for their younger reader. Expect them to read quite a few sex scenes. None of which are overly detailed or super explicit but it’s very clear what they’re doing.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the little snippets we got from the author calling back to David Bowie’s Labyrinth. I enjoyed the concept and the world-building. I SO enjoyed the magic. It was an, overall, enjoyable read!

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

Read Dates: November 21,2021 – December 1, 2021
Publication Date: November 6, 2020
Source: Owned hardback

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“You are perhaps the one thing in Midscape I find terrifying.”

Maybe there’s something wrong with me… there’s probably something wrong with me.
So when I saw this book had a Hades and Persephone/Beauty and the Beast type feel, I was ALL IN.
Those are two of my absolute favorite stories. Again, because there’s probably something wrong with me. Stockholm syndrome you say? Yes, please.  

Anyway…

So this book is about a girl named Luella. She lives in a town where, for centuries, the elves have come to take a human queen. The human queen brings about the seasons and prevents the elves from being plunged into an eternal winter. In exchange for their human queen, the village receives longer life spans and protection from the wild fae and other dangerous creatures that lurk outside their borders. Unfortunately, the human queen has not presented herself and the elf king is growing impatient.

Luella is a healer within her village and she believes she is just an ordinary girl. But when the elf king comes to demand his human queen, she is revealed to have the same magical abilities every human queen before her had and is whisked away to Lafaire, the Elf King’s kingdom. She has to learn the ways of the elves and endure their harsh and unusual treatment of their human queen as well as learn how to use her new powers. Most human queens are discovered at a young age and are trained to use their magic, but Luella was not.

Let’s start with Luella. I actually really genuinely enjoyed Luella throughout the book. She didn’t exasperate me like so many main female characters in stories similar to this do. She trusted herself and questioned the things that her predecessors had not been willing to. She truly wants to do good for her people and she believes going with Eldas is the right thing to do for them. She does feel sad, however, that she is leaving her village as their only healer. The people in her village even donated money so that she could go off to school to become a better healer. She feels indebted to them, yes, but she also just feels this love for everyone in her community. It’s also hard on her as she is carted off as a plague has broken out in her village. She’s just an all-around great character with a good head on her shoulders who just genuinely cares. It’s refreshing.

Eldas. Now, of course, he’s tall and brooding and mysterious… so… Yea. He had my full attention. Eldas is just as duty motivated as Luella. He wants to do right by his people and he wants to keep his subjects happy and comfortable. He feels the need to continue on with this tradition of taking a human queen to bring about the end of winter. However, he also feels a bit trapped by this old tradition. Not to mention, he has started to maybe start to have feelings for Luella.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the plot of this book and where it was heading. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. This was honestly such a good read with two incredible main characters and equally enjoyable secondary characters who just made my heart so happy. The entire thing was so so so good. The plot, the character building, the relationship building with not only our two main characters but with all the other characters as well. The story was just *chef’s kiss*.

I will say, there were times when I was desperate to have chapters showing Eldas’ point of view. But this didn’t take away from my liking of the book at all. I was still so entranced and so enchanted by the whole thing.

Now, I will say… there’s not a whole lot of “adventuring” in this book. I typically like my fantasy books to have a bit of adventure if only for the sake of seeing this world the author has envisioned for the characters. This book takes place, for the most part, in the Elf King’s castle. So, if you’re off-put by a book without adventure, this isn’t the one for you.

I honestly enjoyed the simplicity of this story though. It was just the story of two people bound by duty who lived for others but in the end, helped each other find themselves. It was incredibly enjoyable and I honestly got a lot of David Bowie’s “Labyrinth” vibes which is pretty much an instant two thumbs up from me!

✌💛