There are a variety of reasons as to why you might want to pick up a book. For instance, the blurb might appeal to you. Or you love the cover. Perhaps the book is marketed as a retelling of your favourite story. In any case, you might discover a book you really love or you really hate that way. But not all books fit in to the love or hate category. There are books that leave you wondering whether you like them or dislike them, and today’s book Wintersong definitely falls into that category.
The book is marketed as a retelling of the Labyrinth. For those of you who do not know, the Labyrinth is a film starring David Bowie. In short, the film is about a girl who must rescue her baby brother from the hands of the Goblin King, by finding her way through his labyrinth. Wintersong in hindsight is a very loose retelling of this story. If your motivation to read this book is based on this marketing, then don’t bother as you will end up disappointed.
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.
One of the things that makes this book flourish is the excellent writing. Jones manages to weave sentences together that sound poetic, but are still accessible enough. Often I find that writing bordering on purple prose is difficult to get through. This was not the case for Wintersong, which is a plus. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the book and I felt compelled to keep on reading. I’d say the first half is also the half that would come closest to a retelling of the Labyrinth.
Second half blues
The second half of the book was not quite as good. The pace slowed considerably, making it a bit of a drag to continue reading. This part of the book is dedicated to furthering the romantic relationship between two of the main characters, but this relationship is not quite believable to begin with. The downside of this is that you spend over 200 pages reading about two uninteresting characters and a forced romance. I was sad about this, as I really wanted to like it as much as I had liked the first half.
The fact that I don’t like this book is mainly because the main character is not in any way a likeable person. Throughout the book, Liesl keeps mentioning how very plain she is and that no man desires her. It frustrated me so much I just wanted to slap her in the face. At some point, she is so desperate to get laid, I actually felt embarrassed for her. Another character I found very hard to like was The Goblin King. He was set up as this mysterious man with two faces, but (spoiler) as I said, I found the romance between those two characters very unbelievable and forced. The cover of my copy states that the book is lush, sexy and gorgeous and while the writing is beautiful enough, there is nothing sexy about it.
At one point, Liesl states that the Goblin King is “the monster I claim.” However, despite the Goblin King basically being two people, there is nothing truly monstrous about him. This leaves me to believe that it is a pretty quote but I did not believe it. I did not buy any of the romance which was what basically drove the whole plot in the second half.
There are only two side characters that were actually worth my attention and that was Liesl’ brother Josef and the goblin girl Twig. Both were truly gentle characters who were obviously too good for the people around them.
Also, I was not a fan of the world-building, as it wasn’t as vivid as I’d hoped it would be. I do not wish to spend any time in the Underground, thank you very much. For a fantasy series, that is an essential part of falling in love with a story, at least for me. With the exception of Panem, I loved the Hunger Games series but I will stay here and be okay. It just didn’t work for me.
Some people adore this book and do think the romance is credible, but I’m definitely not one of those. While I don’t think this book is terrible, there were just too many parts that did not work as opposed to the parts that did work. For this reason, I don’t think I will read the second book that is coming out. Simply because I refuse to be in Liesl’s head any longer. But as always, I encourage you to read and see for yourself whether or not you like this book.