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!

✌💛

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