Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

“What’s the use of running, if we are on the wrong road.”

Labyrinth was the first thing that came to mind when approaching this book – which, of course, could have been the point – and that alone peaked my interest, expecting that mythical and imaginative vision. Wintersong lived up to that expectation somewhat, in terms of the familiarity of forests and villages and curiosity, but it came as nothing more than a satisfactory read by the end.

Nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales about the mysterious Goblin King, the muse which her music is composed, but her dreams of composition must be set aside in favour of other concerns. Her sister, Käthe, is taken by the goblins, and Liesl must journey to their realm to rescue her.

“The kiss is sweeter than sin and fiercer than temptation. I am not gentle, I am not kind; I am rough and wild and savage.”

Sometimes it seemed unsure of itself, switching between dynamics within moments, making the realism of character believability questionable; the relationship between Liesl and The Goblin King changes between tolerance and romance several times, which could be, and is, explained by their history and childhood together, but even then it feels like a stretch to say it has a consistent, blanched reasoning for such differences. Seeing a gradual development between the two would have made emotions, both as individuals and as a couple, more realistic.

One relationship that was is between Josef (Liesl’s bother) and Frances. Although they didn’t have many scenes together, nicely portrayed through Liesl’s point of view, their growing attraction and then love felt genuine and pure. It was also lovely to see it as a gay romance, representing it in a beautiful way as they bonded over their adoration for music.

“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.”

The theme of family, greed, power, and jealousy were, to me, the strongest elements of the book, too. Struggling and strained connections with parents and siblings but still loving them nonetheless, enough to make sacrifices in one’s own life, using them as the driving force to keep you going in times of isolation and loneliness. Not only did it show within Liesl’s family dynamics, but within the Underground with the goblins, the King having power over his people, yet most of it is done under a facade, boring a vulnerability underneath; which, despite being a cliché, it isn’t to say it’s not an interesting trope.

To me, Wintersong worked well as a standalone, but I’m curious enough to seek out the sequel.

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