Author: S. Jae Jones
Publication Date: February, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“What is eternal life but a prolonged death.”
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.
This review contains major spoilers.
Book hangover commencing… This book was a really nice read. I loved The Goblin King but since I’m a massive Labyrinth fan, that was to be expected.
Wintersong is a VERY loosely inspired/retelling of the film Labyrinth. I think it’s kind of a stretch calling it that though. Yes, there is a goblin king, an Underground and even some goblins; however, hat is kind of where the comparisons stop. Even The Goblin King only has some features of the character David Bowie made famous. I do think it was similar enough that the only person I could actually picture when I read this book was, of course, David Bowie (RIP). It actually probably pulls more from the Phantom of the Opera than it does Labyrinth.
The book starts off really slow. NO! You don’t understand, REALLY slow. I’m one of those people that never finds books that everyone else calls slow actually slow. This one was almost painful at times. It takes about 100 pages to really get to the story. The first 100 pages are pretty much all dedicated to the protagonist’s love of music. The lead, Elisabeth, is basically a wallflower in her family. She isn’t attractive, no one notices her talent and she pretty much lives for her little brother. The Goblin King gets introduced fairly early on in the book but doesn’t go front and center until about 100-150 pages in. That is when the book really starts to pick up, though I would by no means call this a fast-paced book.
Elisabeth goes to the Underground because The Goblin King has stolen her sister, Kathe, and says she is to be his bride. Once Elisabeth is in HIS world, chemistry and romantic tension start to build. I loved the romance between Elisabeth and The Goblin King, it was definitely the high point of this book. They were adorable and I just wanted them together so badly. I was rooting for this pairing the entire time.
I think Elisabeth and The Goblin King were pretty well-developed, they could’ve used a little more fleshing out but I was basically satisfied. The side-characters were a bit weak. I’m not sure that any of them will leave much of an impression on me, even in a week’s time. They weren’t horrible or anything, just a little one-dimensional. The world building was fairly strong as well, with just a few places where it was a little confusing or could have used a bit more explanation.
I knew the likelihood of Elisabeth and The Goblin King being together in the end was slim to none. I still wanted it to happen all the same, I almost wanted a plot hole so these two could be together in the end. Alas, it was not meant to be. The fact that every time they shared more of themselves Elisabeth had to lose part of herself was devastating. Knowing she would soon be dead if she stayed with him. I most certainly shed a couple tears at the end when they had to part so she could live.
There were a couple parts that were confusing as all hell though, the main one being the that the brother ended up being a changeling. Really? That seemed to come out of left field, I didn’t feel like there was anything indicating something was off in that respect – maybe it just went over my head. I guess that the goblins wanted the brother back – he had been able to go back to the above world because of Elisabeth making a wish – and it was time for him to come “home.” The little brother was also dying above because he needed to be in the Underground and have someone love him above ground. It was really strange and not very well explained. I think if you want to throw in a twist like that than you should flesh it out properly. It didn’t add or take from the story so it could’ve easily been removed.
Overall, I gave this book four starts because the main characters – The Goblin King and Elisabeth were fantastic. I cared about them enough to want to keep going even in the slower parts and I smiled when I was supposed to smile and cried when I was supposed to cry – can’t ask for much more really. Still wish there wasn’t such a large musical element to this one but that is just my own personal taste. This won’t be for everyone, it’s somewhat whimsical and quite different than a lot of the trending books currently out. I’d give it a try if it sounds appealing. HOWEVER, I would NOT go into this book looking forLabyrinth – this is not a retelling and if you go into it looking for that than you will leave very disappointed