Two Minute Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Saturday, February 11, 2017
Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Genre: fantasy, retelling
Series: N/A
Pages: 448
Published: expected February 14 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

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.

New writer S. Jae-Jones makes an excellent impression with her dreamlike Wintersong. A gorgeously-written novel retelling of Christina Rosseti's famous Goblin Market poem, this debut is smooth, enticing, and darkly romantic. A deft mixing of the mundane and the magical worlds made for a layered, original, and interesting take on the myth of the unknowable, mischievous Goblin King. The atmosphere of Liesl's life is a rich one, and the plot surrounding her is creative and enterprising, tying together themes of love, duty, family, and independence.

Wintersong is an easy recommendation to make for any reader who appreciates ambitious storytelling, authorial sleight of hand, antihero love interests, eerie supernatural worlds and creatures, and/or multifaceted characters. There is a lot going on in these pages, all capably rendered in Jones' truly lovely prose. The romance itself is somewhat problematic given the fluctuating nature of Liesl's situation, but the author is persuasive, clever, and makes her Goblin King undeniably mysterious and alluring to both her heroine and her audience.

Somewhat similar in tone to Naomi Novik's Uprooted, S. Jae-Jones breathes new life into an old favorite and additionally creates several new story elements to make the resulting novel hers alone. Wintersong is the rare kind of standalone that makes readers hope for a series.

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