Author: S.Jae Jones
As part of my New Year’s Resolution to actually read the books I’ve received as part of the #otspsecretsister project since participating in rounds from August 2016-January 2018, one of my books for February was Wintersong, a book I received from my second #otspsecretsister Jinger. I was really excited for this one as I’d never read anything based on Labyrinth before and I’d heard a fair bit of hype about it, plus I love music, so I thought a fantasy where music was a huge component would be a good one for me. Sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations and whilst I enjoyed the first half or so, I found myself getting bored the longer the story went on. The pace was insanely slow and the plot, what little there was of it, was confusing at times. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds―and the mysterious man who rules it―she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Dark, romantic, and powerful, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.
I liked that the story was a retelling of more unusual tales, you have the movie Labyrinth, the poem The Goblin Market, German mythology and various aspects of other mythologies as well, so I liked that, it felt very different to anything else I’d read before, which was nice as often retellings tend to all be of the same five stories that have been done a million times over.
I liked that the chapters all had names, but I wish they’d been numbered too, I find it a lot easier to keep track of where I am in a book if the chapters are numbered.
The pacing was incredibly slow. I’m talking ridiculous levels here. It was over a hundred pages before Liesl and the Goblin King even really properly interacted and still after they did, it felt like the author was just playing for time until Liesl inevitably escaped. I just felt like nothing was happening, and my eyes were kind of glazing over, waiting for the next thing to actually happen. The overly long chapters certainly didn’t help matters. I reckon you could have cut a good 200 pages from this book without really losing anything.
I felt like the worldbuilding was kind of flat? I mean we’re in this underground lair with this mysterious character, these goblins and these changelings who are created from wishes, it’s a pretty cool setting, but it’s not really explored at all! Same with the world above, it’s this kind of 17th/18th century AustriaI, but we don’t really get to see any of it properly. The wish magic was kind of cool, but again, it gets shafted in favour of the romance.
The writing was nice but it felt kind of insubstantial because nothing was really happening, it’s like the words were pretty on the surface but there wasn’t really anything beneath because neither the characters on the plot felt like they had any purpose to them. Also by the end if I read “austere young man” one more time, I would have screamed.
I liked the inclusion of music, I knew some of the basic terms because I used to play clarinet but some of the others went over my head. I liked the idea of music playing a big role but in practice, most fantasy readers probably aren’t seasoned musicians and so classical music terms mean very little to us!
I would have liked it if Liesl’s relationships with her siblings had been explored more, it’s clear that they’re very important to her and Kathe is the whole reason she goes Underground in the first place, but they could have been developed so much more. Honestly I didn’t really care about either Kathe or Josef, they both felt flat to me, so I couldn’t understand why Liesl did either.
As for Liesl, I wasn’t overly keen. I get that the author was trying to do something different by having a YA heroine who was defined by her talent rather than her beauty but everytime Liesl described herself as plain it made me want to scream Like hon, yes we get it you’re plain, we heard you the last few hundred times you said it. I don’t know, I just didn’t feel connected to her, didn’t feel like I could root for her.
A lot of the time I honestly just felt confused. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, it felt like I was having to do a lot of reading between the lines to work out what was happening and it was exhausting.
The Goblin King was intriguing, but also frustrating, because we never really got to know him very well, even in Liesl relationship with him, he was always this kind of mysterious, spectral figure. Their romance kind of took over the story and I wasn’t really interested in that, because I don’t really love age gap romances between immortals and humans. There was a bit of sex, but honestly from the blurb I was expecting way more and this is an unusual thing for me to complain about because I don’t really like sex scenes in books! It’s not that I minded that the romance didn’t get overly sexy, I was glad it wasn’t but it felt like the book didn’t offer what it had promised in that area. It was also annoying that Liesl had to discover her self-worth through her relationship with him and not through herself, that’s not a great message to be sending young girls.
It’s honestly hard for me to say more because I was so confused most of the time, so I didn’t really have an opinion on much and even if I did, there wasn’t much happening to have an opinion on. The ending in particular was kind of anti-climactic, everything had been building to that point and then it just stopped.
Overall, this story had so much promise and potential in the beginning, but quickly dovetailed into something incredibly confusing. It could have been an amazing story, if I only had actually been able to comprehend what was going on!
My rating: 2.5/5 stars
Bechdel Test: FAIL-Liesl barely interacts with other female characters after the first half of the book and when she does, their conversations are always about men, if not initially then they always come back to men.
My next review will be of Orphan, Monster, Spy by Matt Killeen.