By: S. Jae-Jones
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Publication Date: February 7th, 2017
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 poetic and beautiful and as lyrical as the music that drives the plot. Jae-Jones is an obvious talent, rendering classic fairy tales into something not quite new, but fresh. The world she has started to create here is an intriguing one, and I can’t wait to explore more of it in the upcoming sequel.
The thing I loved most about Liesl is her selflessness and sacrifice. She offers herself in exchange for her sister, gives up her music to run her family’s inn. She is easily overlooked, not the talented one or the lovely one, but the homely one. Her drive to be wanted, desired and appreciated is relatable and is an influential factor in her decisions. Her passion for music is palpable, her love for her sister and brother equally so.
I love Liesl, but i did not love the goblin king, and therein was my problem. I couldn’t quite pin him down, he was capricious in a greatly unappealing way and I couldn’t, and didn’t have much desire to, understand his character. Liesl enters the relationship looking for love and acceptance, to feel wanted. The goblin king consistently tells her that what is on the inside is what he is attracted to, a very good message especially for YA, except that he repeatedly reinforces the idea by telling her that he doesn’t find her attractive. And since there was never any connection made between Liesl’s interior making her exterior more attractive, it felt more like he was using her for the ideas, the “inside” that he was attracted to, than anything else. Also, there is an aspect of their relationship that develops later and “changes” Liesl and I just felt… squicky. And there was also the bit where any progress they made in their relationship, any swoony scenes that held promise, would end up with a fight or one of them, mainly the goblin king, backing off and ignoring the other.
And the ending was terrible. It was awful. It tore your heart out and jumped on it. For funsies. But it was beautiful. But felt underdone and incomplete and went against some previously established lore in the novel.
Wintersong is beautifully written and establishes Jae-Jones as an author I’ll keep my eye on, because while I didn’t love the book, it was an enjoyable read.
S. Jae-Jones, called JJ, is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and the author of Wintersong, forthcoming from Thomas Dunne in February 2017.
Born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, she lived in New York City for ten years before relocating down to Dixie, where she is comfortably growing fat on grits and barbecue. When not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skydiving, taking photographs, drawing pictures, and dragging her dog on ridiculously long hikes.
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