Author: S. Jae-Jones
Source: Received from Titan Books for honest review
Blurb: 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.
Star ratings are usually more of a feeling than an actual thought-out calculation for me but with Wintersong I found myself breaking the story down into four separate ratings. Plot, Character, Romance and Writing. So it only made sense to address each separately - which is why this review is a little different from my normal ones!
Plot: 3 stars
This is definitely the weakest part of the entire novel. It's a very slow paced story - which I knew it would be going in. I was impressed with the first half of the novel which was filled with a sense of danger and plenty of mind games and definitely kept me turning the pages. Unfortunately about halfway through the whole pace of the story changed and it became more romance than story. Which I know won't bother some people - and I love romance so I am actually surprised it was a problem for me. But it did mean that my reading slowed down a lot and I struggled to finish the last little bit.
Characters: 4 stars
I went back and forth on this one. The side characters were excellent - the Goblins (like Twig and Thistle) and the changelings were all magical and slightly terrifying and reminded me a lot of the stories of faeries I was told as a child. And in the human world - Liesl's family felt very real. My favourite was definitely Kathe who is such a complicated mix of frivolous and strong and was so loyal to her family. I would definitely have liked more of her. The Goblin King himself was a very compelling character - almost two characters really. The person he was before he became the Goblin King and then just the King - who is losing his humanity bit by bit. Where the character aspect fell down a bit for me was Liesl. I started by liking her, she was very sympathetic and interesting but as time went on I became frustrated with her and I just failed to connect with her.
Romance: 4 stars
This isn't my favourite ever romance - it's perhaps why the romantic elements of the plot failed to make up for the lack of action for me. I liked the romance for the most part and it wasn't insta-love or unrealistic. The last couple of chapters especially were very good. But whilst I rooted for them to be happy together, I never felt it was as swoon-worthy as I perhaps wanted it to be.
Writing Style: 5 stars
Hands down my favourite part of the whole story. S. Jae-Jones has the most incredibly beautiful writing style. It felt almost lyrical and it definitely swept me in to the story. I found myself thinking about the writing and the world she was creating even when I wasn't reading and it's definitely what kept me reading right up to the end. The writing had a sort of fairy-tale quality to it whilst also being quite suspenseful as well and I just loved it.
Overall, Wintersong wasn't quite what I was expecting but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I preferred the first half and the last couple of chapters to the rest of the story but I was left with a good feeling about the book as a whole and a lot of excitement to continue with this world. I don't know if the next book is a companion novel with different characters or a straight sequel - it could go either way. But I know I will want to read it!