Wintersong: A Novel by S. Jae-Jones

Wintersong: A Novel by S. Jae-Jones

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: A Novel by S. Jae-Jones
On Sale Date: February 7, 2017
Young Adult, Fairy Tales & Folklore
A Thomas Dunne Book
448 pages
Source: Publisher
My Rating: 5 Stars

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. 

Written with lyrical prose, Wintersong vividly renders a coming-of-age tale inspired by fairy tale and classical music while giving a sly nod to Labyrinth, this is an exquisitely told tale of a heroine's journey.

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

“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.”

WINTERSONG is the story of a young woman who goes Underground to rescue her sister, only to find herself instead. What makes this story so compelling is all the wonderful elements entwined into Wintersong. There are echoes of Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera and Mozart. Poetry and myth, and the movie Labyrinth. 

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti comes to mind first with its ominous tones and themes of temptation and, of course, those sly goblins. When Liesl makes a bargain with the Goblin King to rescue her sister from his Underground lair, the atmosphere and tone reminded me of Hades and Persephone. There, the Goblin King is so much more than it first seems and his relationship with Liesl is slowly and sensually revealed.

Many readers are going to find the nod to the 80’s cult classic movie Labyrinth vastly appealing with its dark and enchanting Underground world created by S. Jae-Jones and a Goblin King that is equal parts alluring, mysterious and dangerous. He is the epitome the wounded anti-hero who needs healing through a heroine’s love. 

“You are a man with music in his soul. You are capricious, contrary, contradictory. You delight in childish games, and delight even more in winning. For a man of such intense piety, you are surprisingly petty. You are a gentleman, a virtuoso, a scholar, and a martyr, and of those masks, I like the martyr least of all. You are austere, you are pompous, you are pretentious, you are foolish.”

The Goblin King did not reply.

“Well?” I asked. “Do I have the right of it?”

“Yes,” he said thickly. “Yes, you have the very soul of me, Elisabeth.”

Liesl is all sorts of complicated and the emotions she brings to the story simply drew me in making my connection to her real and heartfelt. The unbreakable bond of sisters, her love and loyalty to family, and her musical nature made her journey to the Underground something much more than a trip to save her sister but rather an awakening.

“I am,” I said slowly, “a girl with music in her soul. I am a sister, a daughter, a friend, who fiercely protects those dear to her. I am a girl who loves strawberries, chocolate torte, songs in a minor key, moments stolen from chores, and childish games. I am short-tempered yet disciplined. I am self-indulgent, selfish, yet selfless. I am compassion and hatred and contradiction. I am … me.”

Haunting, romantic, lyrical, hopeful and cruel, Wintersong should appeal to fans of dark fantasy and fairy tales. Written with a lush and sensual voice, Wintersong is recommended to readers who enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen, Cruel Beauty, A Thousand Nights and Stolen Songbird. I can’t wait for more and I’m crossing my fingers for a companion novel.       

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