Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

S. Jae-Jones
St. Martin's Press, 2017
Genre: YA/NA, Fantasy
Rating 3 out of 5

*Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Liesl has spent her life in the shadow of her beautiful sister and talented brother, listening to the reveling in the stories her grandmother tells her of the Goblin King.  Now, at 19, she has left that fantasy world behind and resigned herself to the life of a spinster--until her beautiful sister is taken by the Goblin King.  Now Liesl must go to the Underworld and return her sister to the world above, but her Goblin King won't make that task easy for her.  In her quest, Liesl, who has spent most of her life believing she is less than, begins to discover who she is and what talents she possesses.  She also begins to see the Goblin King as more than just her Goblin King--which could be detrimental if she plans to return to the world above.

Some spoilers are included below.

I struggled with Wintersong.  Most of it I really enjoyed--especially the first half.  Liesl spends much of the first half of the book looking for her sister Kathe, finding her in the Underworld, and then figuring out a way to escape with her.  The Goblin King is constantly making this difficult for her, but Liesl is determined to rescue her sister--she must do so.  The pace of the first half of the book was fairly quick.

I had a hard time really liking Liesl in the beginning.  She never chose herself.  She was always looking at herself as less-than and therefore her needs and desire were less-than. Her entire focus is on taking care of others--but not herself.  In order to make sure others are taken care of, she must deny herself.  But by the second half of the book, she embraces her desires, her wants, her needs.  Unfortunately, I still didn't like her that much.  But I was still rooting for her.

The writing itself is beautiful.  Despite the fact that you're in a fantasy world, it's easy to picture yourself there and to see what Liesl sees.  You can understand much of what she's feeling and the pain.  SPOILER ALERT!:  When the Goblin King refuses Liesl's advances, I felt for her so much that I thought I was going to cry.  Liesl doesn't understand--and neither did I completely--and she is hurt in so many ways that this is just one more thing he has done to her.  Every time he refuses her, I felt her hurt.

One thing I wasn't a huge fan of was the romance between Liesl and the Goblin King.  It was haphazard, confusing, and off and on.  Her desire for him was intense within romance scenes, but then it would fade out and I couldn't tell if she wanted him because she wanted him, or if she wanted him because he broke her down--which she spoke of often.  That's what really pulled me out of the romance.  Every time they had intense romantic scenes, they were described in very rough and animalistic ways, which isn't a big deal to me.  It was the afterward that brought me out of the story. Liesl spoke about how he broke her down.  There were many references to his breaking her.  In most cases I would not be okay with it, but knowing the rest of the story, maybe I can accept this?  But can I?

The pacing is where I really wasn't happy.  Like I said at the beginning, the first half of the book was well-paced.  We're with Liesl and her sister when the Goblin King first appears in their fringes, we're with her as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her sister has been taken, when she has to fight her way to the Underworld.  We're with her when she finally arrives and must navigate the confusing parties and goblin lore as she tries desperately to save her sister.  Then she becomes the Goblin QUeen and everything just slows down.  Not much happens besides the romance scene and playing music.  I'm also not much of a musical person so a lot of what Liesl talks about in the way of composing sonatas was lost on me.  It something I had to get through in order to get to the next part of the story where something else happened.

Overall, I enjoyed Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.  It could have been paced a little quicker in the second half, but it was still good.  If you're looking at this for younger readers, there is some pretty heavy sex scenes, a lot of talk about death (he is the king of the Underworld after all), and other themes that don't sit very well for younger audiences.  I would say readers should be at the very least in high school--not a middle grade book.

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