Author: S. Jae-Jones
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
ISBN-10: 1250079217 (Macmillan)
ISBN-13: 978-1250079213 (Macmillan)
Reviewed by: Kristie
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.
Quick & Dirty: Dark, enchanting tale of music but incredible selfishness with the main characters kept me from completely enjoying this love letter to the movie Labyrinth.
Opening Sentence: Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.
Wintersong is an “older” young adult novel that I really struggled with and I can’t quite figure out why. There were aspects of this novel that I really, really enjoyed but there was something that just lagged for me. I keep going back and forth deciding how much I liked or didn’t like this novel. Wintersong is definitely geared for the older teen. The main character is 19 years old at the beginning of the novel which is “old maid” back when this book was set.
Elisabeth or Liesl as her family calls her is the oldest child in her family. She is musically gifted with the piano and violin but she’s had no formal training. She is quite plain, tall and skinny. Her sister Käthe is tone-deaf but she’s got all the looks and is quite voluptuous. Her younger brother Josef is even more musically gifted with the violin. Their father having given him formal training. Josef is quiet and sickly. Liesl and Josef often play music together.
As a young child, Liesl would hang out in the Goblin Grove and converse with a young boy who kept asking for her hand in marriage. Eventually life kept Liesl away and she forgot all about the young boy. Now, all Liesl wants to do is to write music and she’s quite good at it but her father won’t let her because women just don’t do that kind of thing. Liesl is jealous of her sister Käthe’s good looks. Liesl has grown up believing her grandmother Constanze’s stories about goblins and the Underground were fairy tales until one day she thinks that there may be a grain of truth about the Goblin King. When the Goblin King strikes, taking Käthe to be his bride instead of Liesl she is heartbroken and a wee bit jealous.
Liesl is one-minded about her brother Josef which her sister Käthe points out early on in the story. Liesl only wants Josef to go out into the world and be a talented and famous musician because she cannot. Liesl is so focused on Josef that she allows Käthe to be taken by the Goblin King. Liesl is the only one who can rescue her sister and through a series of strange events she finds herself growing ever closer to the moody, gorgeous Goblin King.
Music plays a huge role throughout the book which I did find pretty awesome but I couldn’t really appreciate it because I have no musical training at all and didn’t know what half the terms she was talking about meant. I do appreciate Liesl’s passion for her music. My heart did break during quite a few scenes for her especially as it dealt with her music.
Selfishness also plays a huge role in this novel and that may have been where I had some issues. Yes, Liesl and the Goblin King eventually learn their lessons but getting to that point was a huge, moody, emo mess. I feel like romance is better when one of the characters keeps giving until the other learned the error of their ways but in this one it just felt like both characters kept taking and taking and taking from the other. Liesl is selfishly redeeming because she does everything she can trying to save her sister but in the end she’s the one who did what she did out of jealousy. She didn’t like the Goblin King valuing her sister more than her. Sadly, I can kind of relate to the selfish side of her so I didn’t hate her.
Let me talk about the comparisons to Labyrinth for a moment. This novel is set back in time so there is nothing like the movie in it but the movie is definitely a muse. Every time I read the Goblin King described I kept seeing Jareth/David Bowie in my head. When a random goblin was described I saw Hoggle. Every time the Underground was mentioned that song started going through my head. Even the ball scene reminded me of the movie. I kept trying to see a younger Goblin King but I just couldn’t even though this Goblin King was no David Bowie. I didn’t feel the charisma.
Overall, I think Wintersong may be a hit or miss with readers. I liked the musical flowy atmosphere of the novel. I loved how it was a love story to the Labyrinth movie. I didn’t like how it seemed to go slow in places, I was just really bored with her brother’s audition which is at the beginning of the novel. As a standalone, I’m not too sure about the ending either. The story does get wrapped up but there are some lose ends that could be open to a sequel.
Despite the blazing fire that roared merrily away in my hearth, I was cold and sheened with sweat. I sat up in my bed, my body aching and trembling, as though I were recovering from a bout of influenza. I was thirsty and hungry, but moreover, I was painfully, desperately homesick. I wanted to call for my mother, wrap myself up in the soothing touch of her work-worn hands. Mutti, Mutti, I wanted to sob. Mutti, I am unwell.
Bak in the world above, Mother and Constanze would have chastised me for lying abed so long. The sun doesn’t rest, and neither do we, Mother always said. Even on my worst days, the days when my monthly courses pressed down upon my womb with an iron-hot weight, the days the futility of my existence threatened to suffocate me, I always found the strength to face the next hour, the next task, the next chore. It was easier not the think of the long road ahead, lest I drown in the mire and muck of my mundane life.
Now without purpose, without responsibility, I did not know how to order my unlife. How to arrange my hours into something meaningful, something worthwhile. The thought of the clavier in the next room taunted me; the notes stained onto my wedding gown crying out to be recorded, remembered. Write it down, a voice inside me urged. It sounded like the Goblin King. Write your music down.
FTC Advisory: Thomas Dunne/Macmillan provided me with a copy of Wintersong. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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