AUTHOR: S. JAE-JONES
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: FANTASY, ROMANCE, RETELLING, YA
ll 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 is another book that I’ve found really difficult to fix a rating for. I first heard Wintersong described as a Labyrinth retelling last year, and it’s been my most anticipated read of this year (or maybe top 3?) ever since. And I hate to say, but it’s a bit of a disappointment.
The start of the novel is gorgeous, plush descriptions and beautifully written. There’s lovely character work and world-building and an exciting plot. 5 stars, book of the month.
Until maybe around the 60% mark (I’m not sure, I forgot to note the page number and passed the book to a friend… bad reviewer!), I think around the section titled, The Goblin Queen. After that, everything felt messy, convoluted and dithering. The pacing was definitely a problem, and I noticed I was skimming pages. Then, near the end, everything seemed to happen at once and felt very rushed.
I thought there were a lot of missed opportunities in the story, which could have been used to create a more satisfactory ending – Josef’s true identity, the way the mantle of Goblin King is passed, the stories of the previous brides – I thought these things were introduced to play a part later, and they didn’t. I don’t need a happy ending, although I would have liked one, but it just didn’t feel complete to me.
Overall, I think this would have been a stronger book with a hard editing, cutting a lot of the later half and developing the ending more. The writing and strengh of the first half though, means that I’ll probably pick up the authors next book anyway.