Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Read: December 1 – 6, 2016
Format: ARC ebook
My Book Rating: 3.5 Stars
Publisher: Thomas Dunne / St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: YA/NA Fantasy
ABOUT THE BOOK
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 received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
First – look at this cover. Is this not a stunningly beautiful cover? Wow. I want to frame it and hang it on the wall. I love this cover so much. This cover is the reason I wanted to read this book, well, that and the fact that it’s also about the Goblin King.
Now let’s talk for a moment about the 1986 movie Labyrinth staring the fabulous David Bowie and a young Jennifer Connelly. This book is not at all like the movie, aside from the connection with the Goblin King, the taken sibling, the midnight balls, the oubliette, and those weird hand things. You remember that scene, right? “Up or down?” Anyway, that sounds like a lot in common, but it’s really not. It’s the ideas, but the way they’re weaved in the book is very different from the film.
So, back to the book. First, I believe this is billed as a YA. There is a LOT of sex in a book for teens! I would actually classify this more as a new adult novel, or a YA/NA crossover at best. I would not let my kids read this book until they were 17 at the earliest, and even then if they were mature enough to handle it. As an avid adult YA reader, it was fine for me.
This story takes place in 18th century Bavaria and follows Elisabeth aka Liesl, the 19 year old daughter of an inn keeper. She is the oldest, but unlike her younger sister Kath, she is not beautiful, but plain. She is as talented as her little brother Joseph, if not more, but she is a girl, and therefor her talents have largely gone ignored.
S. Jae-Jones has proven that she has a voice to be heard with this book. The prose is hauntingly beautiful. I felt like I was taking this journey with Liesl/Elisabeth. I felt what she felt, I saw/heard what she did. I fell into this world of music and folklore and got lost. This book made me feel like I knew something about playing the violin, when in actuality I have nothing more than a couple of months piano lessons under my belt.
Despite the beautiful prose, this book dragged for me. At times there were pages and pages of nothing happening. Repetition of Liesl/Elisabeth’s feelings and thoughts. This book is actually broken into sections and within Part I I wondered if anything would actually happen. And then it did. And it was fabulous. Part II was strange. Part III is where things got really weird and Liesl/Elisabeth began to act very out of character. I get that she’s changing on this journey, but it was odd. I didn’t like her much here. By the end, I mostly liked her again. Ultimately, this is the story of Elisabeth finding herself, and I think she succeeds.
I did love how vivid the characters were, even the Goblin King who is so shrouded in mystery, became real. I loved how protective Liesl/Elisabeth was of her siblings, especially her close relationship with Joseph.
I didn’t care much for how Liesl/Elisabeth and the Goblin King treated each other. It was obvious they each had strong feelings for the other, but neither expressed those feelings in a healthy way. It was very uncomfortable.
The end of this book is bittersweet. This is a very dark romance. There is no chance of a truly happy ending, no matter the outcome. I won’t tell you what happens, but I feel like the author ended this with the best possible outcome. And with a sequel due out in 2018, I wonder where that will lead us. And I wonder if it will be as many pages!
So, would I recommend this book? Eh…. It depends. This book is very long-winded, but the prose is utterly beautiful. If you like quick paced books, skip this one. If you don’t mind a book to take its sweet time getting from point A to point B, then you may enjoy this one.
Walking away from this book I really am conflicted. I’m still thinking about it two weeks later, which is something all authors want for their book! And if not for
the extremely slow pacing at times, I think I would have rated this book much higher. I’m curious to see what my friends think of this book, if any of them read it.
Wintersong releases February 7, 2017
Preorder Wintersong here
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Will you mary me, Elisabeth? The little boy asked, and the little girl did not yet understand his question was not part of a game.
Time—like memory—was just another one of the Goblin King’s playthings, a toy he could bend and stretch at will.
Dangerous? Little Liesl had asked. Dangerous how?
Dangerous as a winter wind, which freezes the marrow from within, and not like a blade, which slashes the throat from without.
This was the Goblin King. The abductor of maidens, the punisher of misdeeds, the Lord of Mischief and the Underground. But was he also not the friend of my childhood, the confidante of my youth?
“Your sister,” he said, nodding toward Kathe in the crowd, “would prefer pretty enchantments to the stark ugliness of reality, I think.”
There was a grace to every line of his body; elegance was not only in his air, but in the way he moved. Even when he was unsure.
“I—I—“ He was flustered. I relished this bit of power over him, this ability to unsettle him as much as he unsettled me.
The surrounding forest was unfamiliar, lit with the otherworldly glow of starlight. The trees grew into twisted shapes, sculpted by centuries of wind—or a goblin-led hand. They grew as though striving to dance and roam free, only to be rooted fast and trapped by the earth beneath them.
“That sort of passion she inspires in me is all flash and no heat. I need an ember, Elisabeth, not a firecracker.”
He tastes like a winter wind, but the heat of our mouths warms him up, and then everything is languid, humid, hot, like still summer night.
I want to lie with the Devil and would do so again and again, just to feel like this.
“Go to bed, Elisabeth,” he said. “You’re drunk.”
I knew who I was not: my sister. Without my sister to define me, I was unsteady, unstable. I had lost the crutch that propped me up.