Goblin Kings and deadly games--two of my favorites. Read on for a review of Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.
Deep in his terrifying realm underground, the cold and forbidding Goblin King casts a dark shadow over nineteen-year-old Liesl. Her grandmother had always warned her to follow the old laws, for every year on the longest night of winter the Goblin King will emerge into the waking world in search of his eternal bride. Sensible and plain, Liesl knows it's her duty to keep her beautiful sister safe from harm, but she wishes only to indulge in her wild, captivating music, composed and played in secret in the Goblin King's honor.
When her beautiful sister Käthe is stolen by the Goblin King, Liesl knows she must set aside her childish fantasies to journey to the Underground and save her. Drawn despite herself to the strange, beautiful world she finds--and the mysterious man who rules it--she finds herself facing an impossible choice. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Set at the turn of the 19th century, when young upstart composers like Beethoven were forever altering the sound of music, S. Jae-Jones' richly imagined debut spins a spellbinding tale of music, love, sisterhood, and a young woman's search for self-actualization.
I'm going to start this out with a little story of my own. When I was about 11 years old I watched the movie Labyrinth for the first time. And I loved everything about it. I was instantly enchanted by the world and Jareth the Goblin King, and I've been secretly hoping for a new story that captures that same goblin magic ever since. Wintersong was it. Right from page one I knew it, and I was hooked. My 11-year-old self might not have appreciated this book like my adult self does but it really is everything for fans of the elusive, mysterious Goblin King or any similar legends--Labyrinth all grown up. Dark, sexy, magical, thrilling, heartbreaking. The dynamic between protagonist Leisl and the Goblin King kept me on the edge of my seat through the entire book, wondering how their deadly game would play out and who would win. The world of the Underground and its inhuman inhabitants are equal parts sinister and seductive, and the way the characters' love for music worked within the story really surprised me. Anybody who knows me can attest that I have no musical skill or knowledge, so I was afraid I'd be lost when I realized the role classical music and composing played, but even I was able to follow and appreciate it, and it adds another dimension to the characters, tying them together in sometimes unexpected ways.
Since I try to keep these reviews spoiler-free I can't quite specify my one gripe with Wintersong, but I was a bit disappointed by how it played into a certain expected cliché for the genre. Based on the buildup I was hoping for a twist that would take me more off guard, but technically the execution was good enough I can forgive it. And given that there's a whole second half to this story in the sequel Shadowsong, I'll hold out hope that I haven't seen the whole picture yet.
Of course everybody has their own thoughts on clichés, so if they don't bother you absolutely give Wintersong a shot. And if they do don't count it out completely; there are definitely plenty of surprises to enjoy, too, and I'm excited to see where book 2 goes.
Final Score: 4 stars
Decide for yourself - Buy Wintersong here!