I have had a long standing fascination with the Goblin King, and S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong seemed like just the book I would adore. I wasn’t far from the mark. Fans of my childhood obsession, Labyrinth, and Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market will find that Wintersong is the right blend of dark and light. If you like the Stolen Songbird series or The Hollow Kingdom series, you will want to see what this book has to offer. I will say this felt a little heavier than your average YA, something I wasn’t prepared for, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. I gave this book four stars.
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.
This book is a lot of work to read. The ornate writing is full of vivid imagery and the historical setting is carefull detailed and crafted, but those two characteristics will be a turn off for some readers. The central issue, the gender of the main character, is going to be lost on many modern readers who don’t feel their gender really limits their options. Still, it is a fairy tale bound to enchant, particularly older readers who grew up watching Labrinyth and thinking about the seductive goblin king. The book does play heavy on the sacrifices that love demands, and that dramatic and heart-wrenching romance could appeal to teen readers, but this feels like a story that will appeal to adult readers of YA more than actual YA readers. Some sensuality and situations means this is best for the older high school crowd.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.