Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
BEWARE: SPOILERS FOR DAYZZ
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.
The cover reminds me more of Beauty and the Beast than anything haha!
A haunting story, lush with magic and a flow that resplendent to the music she effortlessly composes, the Wintersong has many outstanding components to it that sets it apart from other YA novels being released today. There have been many retelling of stories but Ms. Jae-Jones remakes Christina Rossetti’s “The Goblin Market” into her own story.
“The Goblin Market”
I read the “Goblin Market” in my Children’s Literature class and I remember being both enthralled with the story and slightly disgusted with the underlining message of young girls being cautious or they will be taken and sold into prostitution. I recommend definitely reading the “Goblin Market” before reading the Wintersong to get the full affect.
The beginning of the novel draws you in immediateily:
The novel opens up with a story of girl who plays with a boy who is the Goblin King. When they play, the Goblin King is incessant about the girl marrying him. Like how can you not be drawn in with an opening like that? This is a foreshadow to the further trials ahead and set up the notions of romance playing a major factor in the novel.
The characters in the novel are both complex yet also flat.
Liesl is the “plain” sister who envies her prettier, more vivacious sister, Kathe. Katie in turn, is described as vain and careless and is shamed for wanting pretty things and to wanting to live wealthy. How dare she not want to live in poverty!? Let the slut-shaming continue! Father is a drunk, mother is a fading beauty, grandma is “crazy”, and the brother is a reluctant genius. That makes up the musically gifted family, which I think could have been patiently set up more.
We later learn there is more to Lisel and Kathe, which is expected. Lisel must push herself; she needs to learn to be more selfless and not hide behind her brother and embrace that she is a musical prodigy. Lisel has such musical talent but because of the time period, she cannot claim her talent because of her sex. I totally feel you girl! I like how Lisel embraces herself and wants to change but there are times where I want to roll my eyes as she constantly bemoans how she is not beautiful. Like get over it, sistah, not everyone is Beyonce!
I feel bad Kathe most of all, which is strange. Like in “Goblin Market”, she is the girl who is taken by the Goblins and eats their fruit. She is considered a fire that burns too quickly while Lisel, who is more demure, is considered more desirable. Kathe is the only one in her musical family who is tone-deaf and cannot play an instrument so she constantly feels left out, especially because her entire family gives more attention to Josef.
The Goblin King is a tortured soul who made a decision that has trapped him immortality. I feel bad for him of course, but he is such a martyr and even Elisabeth bemoans this aspect of him. Basically, The Goblin King falls in love with Elisabeth when she is a little girl because of her music. Which is a little creepy but cool. He wants her music more than anything, more than her body, which constantly irks her. I guess that would annoy me too in a way; the most beautiful male in the world loves my soul more than my body–how dare he!?
The Goblin King:
There is a legend that the Goblin King comes out in the winter, when the barrier between the Underworld and the Earth is thin, to look for his bride. No one really believes in this story anymore except for the Grandmother, who is considered crazy.
Lisel has forgotten that she and the Goblin King were friends but she is still fascinated with him and the story and composes most of her music to him.
The scene with the fruit sellers is truly perfect. Maybe because I read the original “Goblin Market”, I noted the themes of greed, temptation, and gluttony. Like the story, Kathe, who is considered weaker, eats the fruit and it is Lisel who needs to save her.
We do eventually meet the Goblin King, who is strangely beautiful. I am unsure how I would feel if he was described as ugly like the other goblins. I imagine it would have a Beauty and the Beast layer to it as well. He taunts Lisel with he knowledge he has kidnapped her sister but does make it obvious that she is the one he wants.
The games he plays with her are cruel but necessary. Lisel has kept her true self hidden from the world so she needs to embrace her true self and talents to find the courage to save her sister.
Clever and magical, the Underworld is the home of the goblins and the Goblin King. Lisel makes a grand sacrifice to save her sister, which is her soul and must marry the Goblin King to also save the world.
The romance between The Goblin King and Elisabeth blossoms after they marry but in a slow, building way. Elisabeth wants to consume him and wants to explore these new feelings but the Goblin King wants to wait and appreciate the time they have together before she dies. The women the Goblin King marry die because the goblins need the energy they produce to survive. Which is pretty weird. So Elisabeth, who knows this, is annoyingly embarrassed and is mad at him. She goes off for pages about unattractive she is and all that jazz. She is a musical prodigy yet she cares only about her plain appearance.Other than that aspect, the romantic scenes are HAWT!
The Book Lingers/Elizabeth becomes Annoying:
I am unsure whether I found Elisabeth truly annoying or if is because 100 pages could have been trimmed. I mean how can many pages can we read of Elisabeth being self-conscious, her asking the Goblin King if she is pretty, and her being unable to write her music? This is what truly annoyed me and I cannot give this the five star rating it deserves.
The book has beautiful imagery and the writing is flawless. When the author discusses the music–my little tone-deaf ears and untried fingers–go crazy. You can tell that Jae-Jones loves music and for her to weave into her story, it was truly a pleasure to read.
This is a great novel that needs to be appreciated for its finer qualities. This is a great winter read, especially if you are currently buried in 12 inches of snow like me!