In her debut novel, S. Jae-Jones has created a fantastic, mystical world where superstitions are definitely warranted and the monsters aren’t all what they seem to be. Dark, seductive, and utterly beautiful, Wintersong takes you on a wild journey filled with magic and music and dreams of a more enchanting future.
This review may contain mild spoilers for this book (What I consider spoilers might not be what you consider spoilers but I thought that I’d put it out there just in case). READERS YE BE WARNED!
Sarah from @thebooktweeter on Instagram recommended that I read this book and after she posted nearly a picture a week about Wintersong for a solid two months, I caved and read it (You can check out her review of it over on her blog). I can absolutely see why she loved it so much and I can honestly say that I love it just as much! This book will definitely be staying on my top 10 list for quite a while – probably until the end of the year when I have to start over for 2018.
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.
Wintersong is a YA, possibly fairy tale, retelling of Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market and the Labyrinth (1986) movie. I believe I have seen Labyrinth (1986) before but the only thing I can remember about it is that I thought it was possibly one of the strangest movies I had ever seen, right alongside The Dark Crystal (1982) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). I can’t accurately remember what actually happens in the movie but the book didn’t seem nearly as weird as I remember the movie to be. In this version the plot is incredibly romantic, fabulously mysterious, and completely immersing.
Wintersong is set in a land of forests and magic (what appears to be 18/19th century Bavaria) and the influences of the geographic area and time period make for a unique tale. The story relies on the superstitious beliefs of that time to introduce the concept of the Goblin King and the Old Laws. Honestly, it almost feels as if you are reading an original fairytale – one of the darker, more horrific versions meant to teach lessons to children.
Adding to the utter uniqueness of this book is the magical beings it revolves around… GOBLINS! Never have I ever read a book that had goblins in it (at least in a big capacity). Most of the time when a fantasy novel has goblins in it they are all portrayed as ugly, horrendous creatures whereas in Wintersong, the king at least, is said to be quite good-looking (UNDERSTATEMENT!).
Character Appreciation/Disdain (Sometimes a rant but what can you do?)
Liesl: This girl loves her family and would do anything for her siblings to the point that she puts her own dreams on the back burner to ensure that theirs are realised. While rescuing her sister may have been a necessity to her, the resulting events may have been just what she needed to truely explore who she was meant to be.
The Goblin King: It’s hard to make one character both villain and hero but the Goblin King manages to be both and we (me and every other person I know who has read this book) absolutely adore him (I think that our love for him may have been amped up by the relationship between him and Liesl which everyone was shipping and which, frustratingly, for the majority of the book, only consisted of more sexual tension than you could poke a stick at).
Constanze: Our dear suspicious little grandma kind of reminds me of the grandmother out of Mulan, only more superstitious and old-person-like. She just wins at life.
If Wintersong is any indication of S. Jae-Jones’ writing style then I think I have just found another auto-buy author. The writing in this book is captivatingly gorgeous and drew me in from the first page. Lyrically written and filled with beautiful and elaborate descriptions, this has to be one of the most excellently penned books I have ever read.
So many good things have been said about this book and, by God, they are all true. The writing was gorgeous, the characters were gorgeous, the setting was gorgeous, the story was gorgeous… Everything about this book was just gorgeous even though gorgeous really isn’t a strong enough word for it! (It has come to my attention that I may need to invent a new word that means gorgeous to the 10th power). If you are a fan of Hunted by Meagan Spooner, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, or Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series then I can’t recommend or gush about this book enough, it is truely magical and a book that I think everyone should read at least once.