Thank you to Titan Books for sending us early copies of Wintersong to review!
In the deep woods of Bavaria, Liesl has grown up with stories of the Goblin King and his underground realm. Intertwined with her life, the stories have inspired her musical compositions and been at the head of her Grandmother’s superstitions. As Liesl grows older and begins to help run her family’s inn, as well as looking after her younger siblings, her dreams of music and the Goblin King begin to slip away. However, when Liesl’s younger sister Kathë is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl realises that her childhood fantasies are a reality, and has to journey to the goblin’s underground realm to save her sister. A story of sacrifice, family and mythology, inspired by Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’, Wintersong is a magical, dark fantasy debut from author S. Jae-Jones.
Wintersong has been on my to-read list ever since I came across it on Goodreads – Labyrinth has always been a favourite film in our house, so when I heard that this was a more adult loose retelling of Labyrinth, I was all for it!
Wintersong follows Liesl – the eldest of three siblings who has long given up on her dreams of writing and creating music. Cast aside as the ‘ugly, talentless sister’ next to her beautiful sister Kathë, and her brother Josef who has a great talent for playing the violin, Liesl has made do helping her parents run their inn and secretly writing pieces of music for Josef to perform. With a once musically talented and now alcoholic Father, and a Mother who was the beauty of Salzburg until the family had to move to the backwoods of Bavaria, Liesl has become the one to hold her family together. I found Liesl to be a really interesting character and so easy to connect to – usually with this sort of book, you’d find a character with her struggles to be quite whiney, but Liesl carries her burdens willingly and will always be ready to sacrifice herself for the sake of her family.
“There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort
of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.”
Liesl’s relationship with her sister Kathë was far from perfect – Kathë was jealous of Liesl as she was the only member of the family who wasn’t musically inclined, and Liesl jealous of Kathë for being more beautiful than her – but the pair’s devotion to each other really made the character development in this book for me. I would have loved to have seen more of Josef, as I really loved the parts that he was in, and the way that he continually encouraged Liesl to follow her dreams even whilst she was dedicated to helping him start out his musical career in the best way possible. Family was such a key element to this story, and in my opinion this aspect of it was executed so well.
The Goblin King, I absolutely adored. S. Jae-Jones got him spot on – his voice, his internal conflicts, and can we just talk about how perfect his appearance was? I knew that, however he was described, I’d picture him as David Bowie, but he was most definitely based off Bowie’s appearance in Labyrinth – the long, pale limbs, the light fluffy hair, the pointed features – and to be honest, when his ‘mismatched eyes’ were mentioned, I teared up just a little bit – it was such a perfect hidden tribute to Bowie. I was also so thankful that he wasn’t just a typical anti-hero (although, I do love anti-heroes); he has a past and he has character development, and despite his elusiveness towards Liesl for a large part of the book, you do get to understand him more as the story progresses.
“Now the days of winter begin, and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride.”
Plot wise, Wintersong was very much split into two halves – the first, in which Liesl attempts to save her sister from the Goblin King, and the second, where Liesl is staying in the Goblin King’s Underground Realm. Both halves were very different (the first was far more of a journey/adventure style story, and the second followed more of a character growth plotline) but I loved both halves (if anything I think I preferred the second half), and despite their differences, I thought that they fit together so well. Liesl’s voice, attitude and entire character changes from one half to the next; to begin with, she’s still very much submissive to her family’s needs, but after offering to take her sister’s place in the Underground, she decides that it’s time to live as she wants now that she isn’t responsible for her family. She grows more daring with the Goblin King and begins to compare the child she was in the world above to the brave woman that she has become. I couldn’t help but compare Liesl and the Goblin King’s relationship to that of Marya and Koschei in Catherynne Valente’s Deathless: it was an intense romance with both parties battling for their own will before reconciling to the middle ground.
“I surveyed my kingdom. Chaos. Cruelty. Abandon. I had always been holding back. Always been restrained. I wanted to be bigger, brighter, better; I wanted to be capricious, malicious, sly. Until now, I had not known the intoxicating sweetness of attention. In the world above, it had always been Käthe or Josef who captivated people’s eyes and hearts – Käthe with her beauty, Josef with his talent. I was forgotten, overlooked, ignored – the plain, drab, practical, talentless sister. But here in the Underground, I was the sun around which their world spun, the axis around which their maelstrom twirled. Liesl the girl had been dull, drab, and obedient; Elisabeth the woman was a queen.”
It is quite a long book – 500+ pages – but I found it to be a fairly quick read as both the writing style and the world were just so immersive. In fact, I could have happily read another hundred pages or so of the story – anything to mean that that ending wasn’t so excruciatingly heartbreaking. The companion novel to Wintersong is currently due to be published next year, and even though Wintersong itself hasn’t even been published yet, I already need that next novel…
Wintersong is published in the UK and US on the 7th February 2017.
Are you planning on reading Wintersong? What other 2017 releases are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!
Love Becky @