Book Review: Wintersong

Published By: Thomas Dunne
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Page Count: 448
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult/New Adult - Fantasy

I love retellings, but this was one I have been excited about for months. I wasn't familiar with the lore surrounding the Goblin King, so I started doing some research into the folklore. I know that I should be well versed in this because of the movie, Labyrinth, but I must admit I have never seen more than the first twenty minutes of that movie. It terrified me as a kid for some reason. Interesting enough, I learned in my interview with S. Jae-Jones for the Wintersong blog tour that she was inspired to learn about the Goblin King lore because of David Bowie's role in Labyrinth. While I try to summon up the courage to put my irrational childhood fear to rest, I kept my mind occupied with Jae-Jones' interpretation of the fabled king of the underground.

The story begins with Liesl as she works at her family's inn in Bavaria and struggles to keep her family on track. This can be difficult with an alcoholic father, a musically gifted younger brother who needs training before its too late to make a career of it, and a beautiful younger sister who has no deserve to wed her handsome and dependable fiancee as she craves adventure. Liesl spends her days dreaming of being the heroine of her story rather than the one who lingers in the backgrounds of her family's stories. She wants more, but never truly believes that she is worthy of such goals. She finds herself plain and only moderately musically talented. Her siblings took all the gifts and left her feeling like the beginnings of an old maid who will be wed to the inn long after everyone else has gone away.

In spite of Liesl's low opinion of herself, she does allow herself to fondly remember the one time in her life when she felt like the valued sibling. As a child, she danced and sang with her friend in the woods. Over time she came to realize that he was the Goblin King and he wanted a wife, but when it came time to put aside childish things, he faded largely into the background, his memory only rising to the surface in Liesl's dreams and private musings.

Everything changes the moment her younger sister eats a piece of goblin fruit. The game has begun and Liesl must decide how far she is willing to go to save her sister from spending her life as the Goblin King's wife. She takes off for a wild adventure in the underground in an attempt to reclaim her sister and bring her home, but she will soon learn that the Goblin King does not give up easily and he will be the hardest foe she could ever face.

Wintersong is rich with vivid details, gorgeous prose, and compelling lore. Ultimately, this is a story about family, love, and sacrifice. It is a story I will be returning too. It's so immense that I know rereading it will reveal new nuances that I missed the first time around. I look forward to reading this one without thinking about writing a review or dealing with the flu and a sinus infection which slowed me down a bit. Wintersong is like a cup of dark hot chocolate with swirls of raspberry and just a slight hint of whipped cream - dark with just a hint of lightness.

One Last Gripe: I should caution readers that this is a lengthy novel that does require some patience in the beginning, but there will be a payoff. 

Favorite Thing About This Book: It's beautifully written. The atmosphere of this one is intense and all consuming.

First Sentence: Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.

Favorite Character: Liesl

Least Favorite Character: Liesl's Father

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.