Author: S. Jae-Jones
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Fantasy
Page Count: 511
Publisher: Titan Books Ltd
Notable Notables: Feminism, LGBT characters
Recommended Readers: Y’all like Labyrinth, Fae, and villain love interests?
What can I say about Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones that others haven’t already said before? It’s haunting, dark, mesmerizing, lush, spellbinding, and full of such melancholic longing that the feelings stay with you well after you’ve turned the final page. It’s hands-down one of my favorite novels ever written, in any genre, and I’m stunned by Jae-Jones’ craftsmanship. Every line within is such a treasure and a joy to read, and I’m in love with the beauty of her style.
Plus, I don’t often reread books anymore. I just don’t have time and my TBR pile is out of control. But exceptions were made for Wintersong because it just made me fall in love in a way no other book has done for me lately.
Liesl has forgotten the promise she made as a child to the Goblin King to become his bride. She’s too busy being the oldest, most responsible sibling, trying to see to her family’s needs while neglecting her own, including the urge she has to compose music. When her sister Käthe is stolen by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to follow her into the Underground and play the Goblin King’s games to win her back. But time and the old laws of magic are working against Liesl, and the longer she stays within the Goblin King’s world and his magnetic influence, the more impossible her victory becomes. Faced with an impossible choice, Liesl must decide who she is and what she wants, especially if the mystery of her family and the Goblin King is to be unraveled.
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
Yes, the plot sounds incredibly similar to David Bowie’s Labyrinth, doesn’t it? Except Wintersong is the direction in which I think we all wished Labyrinth had been allowed to go, and because of that, it’s a much fuller story, with the characters and the Underground more fully explored. Liesl is a worthy heroine that is at once selfless and selfish, her thoughts of her family both loving and envious, her feelings for the Goblin King a tangled web of hate, love, lust, joy, and despair. She’s completely real and fully fleshed out as a character, and I frankly adore her.
As for the Goblin King—oh, what to say about Der Erlkönig? As far as a love interest is concerned, he’s perfect in my eyes, by being completely imperfect. He’s arrogant, proud, cruel, and a relentless tease. Completely problematic, this one. He and Liesl are perfect for each other, matching passions with their arguments and desires, which are sometimes in line and sometimes completely at odds. This is a couple that will never be boring.
Then, there’s the character himself and the dual qualities of his nature: one part immortal Goblin King, one part hapless mortal violinist. Liesl catches glimpses of both sides as she grows closer to him, her feelings of love naturally attaching themselves to the human he once was. In this, Liesl and I differ. Give me Der Erlkönig anytime.
“I am wildness and madness made flesh. You’re just a girl”—he smiled, and the tips of his teeth were sharp—“and I am the wolf in the woods.”
Aside from the beautiful language, sigh-worthy romance, and excellent sex scenes, Wintersong finally gave me a sibling relationship that felt fresh and real to me. Or should I say, siblings. Liesl doesn’t just have her sister Käthe to protect but also her brother Josef. Where Käthe is a free-spirit, prone to wantonness, Josef is withdrawn, viewed as the family’s hope for being a genius violinist. Liesl loves and is jealous of them both, Käthe for being the natural beauty she will never be and free in a way she could never imagine, Josef for getting the praise and opportunity Liesl never will because she is not a male.
Despite this, Liesl tries to look out for Käthe and supports Josef with his music in any way she can, but since music is Liesl’s hidden passion, she naturally favors Josef and chooses him unintentionally over Käthe, something the novel explores in an incredibly thoughtful and interesting way. It isn’t that Liesl is being deliberately malicious; rather, it’s the sad fact that we all take the things we love for granted.
In the end, the siblings each have their own roles to play, dreams they wish to fulfill, and hidden depths for readers to discover. No sibling is just a motive for Liesl to use to drive the story, not even Käthe, despite being taken by the Goblin King so he could trap Liesl. Rather, they’re all perfectly imperfect characters that contribute to making Wintersong the dreamy and rich new age gothic fairytale it is.
So if you still haven’t read this one and want to, get ready to get cozy with darkness, wishes, desires, and monsters. Especially the monsters.
I cannot sing this book’s praises enough.
The wishes we make in the dark have consequences, and the Lord of Mischief will call their reckoning.