Wintersong by S. Jae Jones
Synopsis: 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.
About the Author: S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and the author of Wintersong (Thomas Dunne 2017). When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the Pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and her blog.
Genre: young adult, fantasy, retelling, romance, historical
More Info: hardcover, 448 pages, published by Thomas Dunne on February 7, 2017
♪ Above: The Family Inn was crowded with spectators for Josef’s performance. The market was also filled with people and hidden goblins alike. I feel that these settings don’t play too much of a part, except for the introduction of urgency and the loss of Lisel’s sister.
♫ Below: The Underground is like a labyrinth, confusing and hard to escape from. There are instances in which the Underground is filled with Goblin King’s subjects and times where no one is to be found. I thought the dynamic of other characters fluctuating from minimum to maximum was fittingly disturbing. The Goblin King, Twig and Thistle are the most prominent figures below. But, there are also changelings and their introduction into the novel was abrupt.
♪ In-Between: The Goblin Grove in instrumental to the connection between human and goblin. This magical space is set out in the forest. It’s a small wood where Lisel first met the Goblin King. It’s one spot she and Josef play their music freely. The goblin grove is a classic YA setting with both fantasy and modernity.
♫ On and Off Action: Wintersong is not particularly plot driven. Part 1 is the most action based, with trips around the above world, events, and Liesl attempting to save her sister. Part 2 is mostly focused on self-discovery. The second half of the book is filled with description, dialogue, and drawn out explanations of emotion and music.
♪ Unexpected: This was not the story I was expecting when I picked up this book. As a YA, I was ready for romance and adventure. While I don’t dislike the turn this novel took, I feel this novel is geared more towards an older audience.
♫ Focused on Music and Identity: Liesl’s self-discovery was the basis of this novel. The music too, is a crucial and highly integrated aspect to the plot. As I am not much of a musical person, many of the instances involving music and expression were lost on me. The scenes were beautiful, but, I guess, over my head.
♪ Liesl: Liesl is the oldest of her siblings and the least noticed. Kathe outshines her in beauty and Josef has taken the stage for music, as a male prodigy. I feel that her oppression was partially self-made. Yes, her father constrained her, but she also gave her musical focus to her brother. She was slightly oblivious, which left me frustrated with her character. I appreciate the love she has for her sister, despite her jealousy. I wish her relationship with her sister was developed more, face-to-face. In the second half of the novel, she goes through a transformation. However, to find herself she must be broken by sex, not liberated. This along with her obsession with sex afterward, leave me feeling disturbed.
♫ Goblin King: There were some phrases like “the austere young man” that were repeated way too much. However, the Goblin King was a very complex and multidimensional character; at times he seemed like two different people (a reflection of both his human and goblin counterparts). He was hot and cold towards Liesl, which bothered me, especially after the extreme lengths to which he went to trap her. He is religiously devout, musically practiced, and mischievously inclined. By the end of the novel, I came to respect him a little more.
♪ Liesl’s Family: Liesl’s father is a patronizing drunk. I disliked him for lowering Liesl’s self-esteem and influencing Josef’s music in almost detrimental ways. Kathe is whimsical and beautiful. She hides her true emotions behind her smile and secretly longs for freedom. She cares more for her family than she lets on. Josef is scared musician. Without Liesl, he would not be as successful as he is. He is a gay character, and through his love he finds stability. Kathe’s fiance is also Liesl’s crush at the beginning of the book. I was afraid there would be some love triangle, but don’t worry that crisis is averted. His purpose is superficial and I don’t particularly enjoy his character because of the mess he made in Liesl’s family.
♫ Twig and Thistle: Twig and Thistle are interesting additions to the Underground. They are Liesl attendants. Sassy and filled with gossip, they add humor and background to the story.
♪ Connection: I personally didn’t connect with the characters in this novel.
♪ Bipolar: I found out that Liesl is considered to be bipolar. I can see some of the signs looking back and am glad that mental illness is represented in a main character in this YA book. I stumbled upon this information through Once Upon a Bookcase’s Wintersong Review who discovered the representation for the author’s, S. Jae Jones’, blog.
♫ Dark: This book had a dark, sexy, menacing, vibe to it. It is not your typical, fluffy YA.
♪ Cover: The cover, which is absolutely gorgeous, is what first got my attention to read this book.
♫ Incredible Writing: The writing is fluid, detailed, and lyrical. I can understand the obsession with this debut writer, because her writing style is unique and amazing.
♪ Missing Information/Confusing: Throughout Wintersong, I got confused. I felt like I was missing information, or new elements were suddenly thrown at me. There were sections where I felt that I lost pieces of time, so I didn’t always understand the time frame. The book was also cliffhanger-ish, which left me hanging and wanting a full resolution.
♫ Influences: Inspiration for this book include Labyrinth, David Bowie, “The Magic Flute”, and Phantom of the Opera (source)
♪ Overall: This book is not for me, but I can understand the appeal for other readers.
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