“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.”
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds-and the mysterious man who rules it-she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Oh how I wanted to love this book. I tried SO hard. It was a wild, heartbreaking, poignant piece of art. It really was exquisitely written – S. Jae-Jones is an incredible writer and every sentence was like poetry that flowed with rhythm and song in its heart. And obscure musical references woven into a unique retelling of Labyrinth? Yes please! I especially loved browsing S. Jae-Jones’ Pinterest boards while reading it – her aesthetic for the book is hauntingly beautiful and gave me goosebumps.
However I didn’t connect with much of the story after the first half. I was hooked at the beginning, thinking it was going to be an adventurous rescue through a twisting labyrinth with some romance mixed it, but it turns out that rescuing her sister was really the platform for a deeply emotional love story that takes over the rest of the book. Which could have been fine, had I been swept away by The Goblin King, but personally he didn’t really do anything for me. He is so dichotomous in character, never falling into a truly likeable state in my opinion. On one side there is the devilish, mischievous trickster who lures and traps Leisl. And on the other, a martyr, sad and penitent and pitiful (sorry everyone who loved him!). I just didn’t root for these two so I struggled through the romance, which was extensive and a little much for my cold cold heart.
I felt that 30% of the book was repetitive and could have been edited out. The whole middle section was slow with not a lot of plot advancement. I also wanted to see more side characters. This is purely personal but I think I would have been more immersed in the Underground if there were more quirky personalities to meet, but maybe because that’s one thing I found so endearing about the movie. But it was pretty much just Leisl and The Goblin King battling each other and their own demons over and over for two hundred pages or so.
Toward the end, Leisl is pondering the components of a sonata and it made me GET the book much more, when up until then I was a little bored. I can definitely sense the author wrote the movements of this book with these components in mind and made me appreciate her intention with the story much more.
Have you had the chance to read Wintersong yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
My rating: 3.5 stars
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, imprint of St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fantasy, fairytale retelling