Published by Thomas Dunne on February 7th 2017
Source: Publisher, Netgalley
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Romance
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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.
Travel to the Underground in this magical, lyrical retelling of The Labyrinth. This was one of my biggest anticipated reads for this winter, so I was absolutely ecstatic when I got my hands on it. The cover and blurb drew me to it like a moth to flame – because come on, who would let go of a steamy Labyrinth retelling? I can’t wait for readers to get ahold of this one because everything – from the stunning imagery to the characters with so much heart – makes this one a fantasy not to pass on.
Liesl is the plain one in her family: the eldest child without the talent of the youngest or the beauty of the middle. She is the person most easily forgotten in the room, and she’s content that way. From the beginning, readers are drawn to her easygoing yet pliable attitude where she has a marked focus on her younger brother Joseph’s music education and selflessness towards herself. We are constantly reminded of how she pales in comparison to her siblings, and yet there’s a spark in her waiting to be let out. It just takes the right impetus to galvanize her light to shine.
‘There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.’
Through a series of events, Liesl ends up in the Underground – which she all but forgotten after growing up from her grandmother’s silly tall tales. It turns out that the Goblin King is real… and he wants Liesl as her bride. They play a “game” where Liesl saves her sister Kathe from being drained by the goblin denizens, instead taking her place next to the king’s side where she can let her passions grow without restraint. Soon enough, though, Liesl discovers that being queen has a price – while leaving would also create consequences. She’s caught in a conundrum, all while slowly getting to know the mysterious, ethereal Goblin King who is becoming more and more vulnerable and human in her eyes.
I love how the author ties in music with Liesl’s charater. Liesl is a composer, a creator of music and her passion shines clearly through her work. It’s that kind of passion that draws the Goblin King towards her. She has the quiet grace and strength to last in the Underground, while the previous girls brought down there went out like a bright spark of fire in a quick and forgettable way. You can tell she’s clearly a special snowflake – and yet, she’s not pristine and perfect. Liesl has much to learn and grow from, which makes her characterization much more dimensional.
The plot was a bit slow – more like a sedate movement if anything – yet still full of twists that kept readers enthralled and on their toes. It was woven masterfully with the mellifluous and tangible writing that keeps readers’ eyes glued to the pages. The book is a tad on the long side, yes, but the author certainly keeps us busy throughout it all. We see through tremendous character development, self-discovery and introspection, a smoldering romance… and don’t forget some steamy moments that were nearly combustible.
‘You think too much, Elisabeth,’ he said. ‘Too much about propriety, too much about duty, too much about everything but music. For once, don’t think.’ The Goblin King smiled. It was a wicked grin, one that made me feel unsafe and excited at the same time. ‘Don’t think. Feel.’
The banter between Liesl and the Goblin King would be adorable one moment, progress to something hot and smexy in the next, and become cold and aloof instantaneously afterwards. Jae-Jones does a great job in exploring the intricacies of human nature, and what exactly makes us human in general. There were moments where the Goblin King looked more like a young man than powerful being that Liesl catches a glimpse off, spurring her to discover what exactly happened to the Goblin King, and how he became that way. I also adored how the author expands on the Goblin King’s character. We don’t know his name, no, but we eventually grow to know what he was, what he wants, and why – as well as understand him. At the same time, Liesl matures and finds the balance where her character needs to stay grounded, between love for her family and compassion towards herself.
Love kept the wheel of life turning. Love created bridges between worlds. If there was nothing else I had learned, I had learned that love was greater than the old laws.
I only had some minor complaints though, such as the obvious length of the book where at some points I felt frustration towards Liesl. She made some choices that were difficult and necessary for character growth but still I couldn’t help getting annoyed by. Another exasperating point was when Liesl was constantly comparing herself to her siblings throughout the majority of the first half of the book. It was to the point where I would guess it and it happened (to my amusement). I understand the narrator trying to make a point but girl you don’t have to remind us every chapter. The bittersweet ending had a strong resolution, but definitely left room for more storyline – which I’m excited to read about in the sequel.
Wintersong may revolve around the coming of winter, but the steamy scenes between the characters were enough to melt any cold feelings any reader would have. Liesl’s unforgettable journey of self-discovery and love – for her family, the love interest, and most importantly, herself – was what sealed the deal for me. Coupled with the vivid imagery and flowing writing that allows for no breaks, Wintersong is a majestic symphony of feelings and growth put into one book – a book that readers of all stories should pick up.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Netgalley and St. Martins Press for the review copy!