Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publication Date: 7th February 2017
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.
I really really, really, really wanted to love this book. I wanted this to make me feel how Uprooted did last year, I wanted to be absorbed in a fairytale, I wanted to feel the nostalgia from a book that is inspired by one of my favourite films – To be honest, I would have been okay with just a good story with a couple of nice nods here and there to Labyrinth – but it just didn’t deliver on anything I was expecting.
Whilst I appreciate that Wintersong, like Labyrinth, has a lot of coming-of-age themes attached to it, Liesl was just one of those characters who acts like an insufferable child and constantly moans. When she wasn’t complaining about how she was untalented next to her brother, she was complaining about how she was ugly next to her sister or how she was still a virgin.
For example, there’s a part where she gets drunk and she thinks this in the morning:
“I was unharmed. Intact. Untumbled. I did not know whether to be relieved or disappointed.”
RELIEVED. YOU SHOULD BE RELIEVED. Seriously, it loses a star just because of this line!
The pacing was also quite strange. Normally if I complain about pacing it’s because the middle is too slow or the ending too sudden, but with Wintersong it is because after the first ~250 pages virtually nothing happens. There’s no action, no plot development, just a couple of small events to stop you falling asleep, which is a real shame as you can feel the unexplored potential the story has whilst you’re reading it.
Another issue was that I found it difficult to understand the ‘romance’ between Liesl and the Goblin King. I felt nothing, there was no obvious chemistry between the two of them and it just felt too weak considering the majority of the book is focused on their relationship, with little time dedicated to the development of any other characters. The Goblin King’s character was too cryptic – his actions and past created a lot of questions about him, but none of them are answered fully before the underwhelming ending.
The thing that really saves this book is the beautiful writing that is poetic and gives the story a lovely soft and elegant feel to it. Some of it was so beautiful and I really loved and enjoyed the first third of the book, and I would definitely read a book from this author again for those reasons. That being said, there was definitely some description overkill during Wintersong when it came to the music composition scenes (Which be warned, there is a lot of).
“Instead of tuning the strings to their standard intervals, the Goblin King tuned them to different pitches. He unstrung the middle D and A strings and crossed them before stringing them back to their pegs, leaving him with a scordatura I had never heard used before. Plink, plink, plink, plink. G, then another G, D, and another D.”
It’s great that the author clearly has a passion for classical music and composition that she wanted to incorporate that into her writing, but it fell flat most of the time unfortunately (no pun intended, I swear).
Perhaps i’m just too uncultured to appreciate this book fully (I had to google what a klavier was, ha).