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.
Song For This Book: Four Seasons: Spring by Vivaldi
Why? Vivaldi is mentioned many times throughout this book, and with the number of references to violin, and this is my favourite violin piece.
This book has been all over the book world for a while now, and with all the references to music and the fact that it was supposedly based on the film Labyrinth, I really wanted to check it out. Not to mention, the cover is absolutely fantastic, and that may or may not have been a deciding factor for wanting to pick it up before I even knew what it was about. I’d also seen a lot of great reviews, so I went into this book with pretty high hopes.
And to be honest, I was pretty disappointed. There were some really great things happening, but there were also quite a few things that just drove me bonkers. I almost stopped reading half way through, but I was rather curious to see where the whole thing was going, so I powered through. I’m not even sure it was worth it, but here we are.
The Good Points of Wintersong (because there were some):
I loved the world building in this book. It was rather simple in terms of how the underground worked, and the places we were introduced to, but it worked so well. It made it easy to keep track of how it was set up, how people and goblins integrated into the world, and how it connected to the real world. Creating a world such as this can be really hit or miss, but Jae-Jones got it spot on, and I loved it.
I loved how music played into the whole thing. Be warned: if you’ve had no musical training, it is a bit technical, especially in terms of vocabulary. You won’t miss anything story-wise if you don’t understand, but it may get a bit annoying. The best thing about it, though, was that the music technically had no power over the world. Liesel wasn’t changing the world with her music, but rather it was a personal thing for those involved. As someone who works in a field where music is used to effect change in people’s lives, I appreciate this approach, and loved how it was managed throughout the story.
There were lots of lovely little things in this book. Connections and references to the film, Josef’s character being gay but it not being a big deal, the music details that I loved as a musician myself. None of them were big things or made a huge difference to the story, but were just nice things to stumble across.
I really enjoyed the first third or so of this book as a whole. Great writing, great characters, cool introductions to the world and it’s people.
The Downsides of Wintersong (ready for this?):
The other two thirds of this book, to be honest.
This book is slower than molasses in the wintertime. It takes a billion years for anything to happen, so that by the time something does, you’ve stopped caring that you wanted it in the first place. This book could have easily been half the length and we wouldn’t have missed a single, important plot point.
Liesel is an idiot. Every time someone told her not to do something, she went and did it anyway. And I get that temptation is a thing, and it can be hard to resist, but it’s hard to care about a character who does nothing to help themselves. She also goes on about how selfless she is when it comes to the people she loves, but is incredibly selfish throughout the book. And she whines. Constantly. I was kind of hoping by the end that she’d just get eaten by a goblin or something, just so she’d shut up.
I normally knock sex scenes for being pointless in reviews, but this wasn’t the case in this book. They actually made sense in the plot and how they were used, whether or not I agreed with how they were done. But can we please stop perpetuating this myth that sex changes you as a person? Liesel gets laid and it’s like she’s a new woman, with every problem in her life fixed and she’s able to write music again. This isn’t how it works. Sex is great, don’t get me wrong, but it does not make you a different person. We need to stop this idea, if for nothing else than the sake of the kids reading this who assume that’s what’s going to happen.
Also, on a similar note of myths we need to stop perpetrating – if a woman is properly turned on, there’s a dang good chance that she’s not going to bleed the first time she has sex. Supposedly, Liesel was super into what was going on, so what were you trying to prove? That she was a virgin? Because those things do not go hand in hand, and the last thing we need is more kids growing up thinking this is true. This book is still categorized as YA, so we need to be conscious of those of an impressionable age reading this.
Also also, IT IS NOT OKAY FOR SOMEONE TO PRESSURE SOMEONE ELSE INTO HAVING SEX WITH YOU, REGARDLESS OF YOUR GENDER. Liesel pushed and pushed for the Goblin King to sleep with her, even after he told her no. I legit thought she was going to rape him at a couple of points. If the roles were reversed and the Goblin King was doing the pressuring, people would be losing it. The fact that Liesel is a female does not make it okay for her to pressure him into sex.
I thought this book was going to be a fun, Goblin-filled adventure, and I got a romance instead. And it wasn’t even a good romance. It was boring, and if they didn’t talk about love every two sentences, you honestly would not know. There was nothing romantic about this pairing, and they just make each other miserable. And then we finally start getting some interesting stuff going down that I won’t mention because spoiler, and we still are focusing on this boring romance!
I know this was set in the olden days when woman’s rights and lifestyles were limited, but this book makes the feminist in me cry. For someone who composes (which women were discouraged from doing) in that time and wants to make it big, her entire life revolves around her man. Her self-worth revolves around her man. Hell, her ability to compose revolves around whether or not he’ll sleep with her or likes her at that time! By the time the characters actually banged, I was hoping that Liesel would just get eaten by a changling or something, because I was so sick of her.
All in all, I’m so disappointed in this book. It had so much potential and could have been such a wonderful way to keep Labyrinth alive, but it turned out to just be another dull, slow, somewhat anti-feminist story that kind of surprised me with the number of high ratings it has received. Please don’t base your opinion of the film Labyrinth off of this book, because you will be missing out on some serious Dance Magic. This has gone on fairly long now, so let’s just move on, shall we?