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436 pages, Hardcover
First published February 7, 2017
“You are the monster I claim.”
“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.”
“Now the days of winter begin, and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride.”
“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 kiss is sweeter than sin and fiercer than temptation. I am not gentle, I am not kind; I am rough and wild and savage.”
“Once upon a time, there once was a great king who lived underground...”
❝'I am the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground,' he said, mismatched eyes glinting. 'I am wildness and madness made flesh. You’re just a girl'—he smiled, and the tips of his teeth were sharp—'and I am the wolf in the woods.'❞
“Winter turned to spring, spring to summer, summer into autumn, autumn back into winter, but each turning of the year grew harder and harder as the little girl grew up while the Goblin King remained the same. She washed the dishes, cleaned the floors, brushed her sister’s hair, soothed her brother’s fears, hid her father’s purse, counted the coins, and no longer went into the woods to see her old friend.”
“Käthe made a face. “It’s always about Josef with you. Don’t you have any dreams of your own?”
I did. They were locked up in a box, safe and sound beneath the bed we shared, never to be seen, never to be heard.”
“Tsk, tsk.” The Goblin King waved one long, slender finger at me. “I had thought you a worthy opponent. We were playing a game, Fräulein, but you don’t seem much inclined to engage me.”
“Liesl,” Josef said again. “I’m so very glad you’re safe. But I must ask you: who have you been searching for?
“And what had I done with the Goblin King’s gift? I had taken it and hidden it away, like it was something secret, something shameful. Perhaps my lack of faith had cost me everything after all.”
“So I tried my best to stifle hope. Because hope’s twin was despair, and despair was infinitely worse. If hope hurt, then despair was the absence of hurt. It was the absence of feeling. It was the absence of caring.
I wanted very much to care.”
“I am Elisabeth,” I said. “But Elisabeth is only a name. An empty word I fill with myself. But you had a word once; I see the echoes of it within you.”
“Your music," he said at last. "Your music was the only thing that kept me sane, that kept me human instead of a monster.”
Wild, untamed, dark, painful, sensual.
This is a coming-of-age story of a simple plain girl on the outside, but with the fire burning inside her: slow and shimmering and waiting for a little breath to fan it to life.
This is how the author S. Jae-Jones aka JJ describes it:
The story of a young woman who goes Underground to save her sister, only to find herself instead.
In a long time, I haven't read a story as sensual as this one, filled with dark allure, death, desire, fear; a story that at the same time makes you want to absorb every word of it and reject it. My mind understood that it was a dangerous illusion, and no sane person would let themselves be dragged into it, but as the heroine Liesl, I couldn't resist the temptation.
This story takes power from dark forbidden parts of our soul, the ones, no one but us know about.
From the start, it was an adult story that slowly turned into a YA story, but in spite of the lack of explicit sex scenes, this book is filled with sensuality to the brim, and such forthright approach is not often met in YA these days. Beautifully written and poignant, they make your heart flutter and hurt at the same time. I can't post any of the quotes before the release date, but, oh boy, they are so beautiful. And after the book's release, the author will publish her original adult version. You can subscribe here to receive the bonus.
Original inspiration of the Wintersong came to JJ from different sources. The most important inspirations were The Labyrinth movie, as many of you already know that; Phantom of the Opera and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And, of course, you'll see the classical Beauty and the Beast story here too. Everything is subtly mingled and intertwined, but if you are a fan of one or another inspiration from the list above, you'll definitely find scenes and things that the author took from those sources as inspiration.
Music has one of the central places in the story. Every line is saturated with it. Music's in every syllable, every glance and touch. Combined with ethereally beautiful writing and mysterious Underworld, it creates an almost surreal feeling. You never know what's going to happen next, whether it's your imagination or a true vision. The Goblin Kingdom is a mysterious place; one you are eager to solve and, at the same time, escape from. The claustrophobic feeling of being underground, with multiple tunnels and labyrinths, let alone, strange creatures roaming this place and wanting to tear a piece of your flesh. These creatures are vicious, and if you sip a little of their enchanted wine, you'll become a wild creature along with them, dancing, kissing, grabbing for skin, thighs, blood and biting in abandon - a true wild gathering of the Underworld. It's a dark fairytale, the one parents do not tell their kids before sleep, because sex and fear guide this tale.
Of course, the main reason why I'd recommend this book is the Goblin King. He is one of the most complex anti-heroes I've met. He is too beautiful and too terrible, at the same time. You feel his sexual allure, but you also feel the danger that comes from him. If you think he's another "bark but not bite" type of character, reconsider: he has no mercy on Liesl and her fears; he tests her limits and draws blood. It's not an abusive kind of relationship, but a more dangerous one: a mind-play in which a victim goes willingly to her doom . There are many sides to the Goblin King: capricious, contradictory, childish, intimidating, vulnerable, romantic, scholar, martyr, petty. And all these faces are fleshed out perfectly. I still don't know whether I love or hate his character. As for his appearance, I'd say he resembles David Bowie in Labyrinth, but not much. He has elfin features and, at the same time, he's masculine and feminine. He's tall and pale, with unruly hair, pointy teeth (one thing that my brain couldn't accept) and no makeup, thank god. I don't know how'd I feel if he wore lipstick or eye-shadow. It's not how I imagine my romantic heroes, especially the 80s style known for its excessive use of cosmetics, makes me cringe a little.
Above I've mentioned that this is also a coming-of-age story. Liesl goes from naive and self-conscious to confident. We hear and see everything from her 1-st POV, and there's a big accent on her feelings and senses. We feel the story through her. But Liesl is not a perfect narrator. I liked her, but I didn't love her. There were moments of admiration from my side, but often I found her too angry, too spiteful, too selfish. Liesl has a brother and a sister and they play a significant part in the story. I have a brother, and I know sibling's rivalry and grievance and jealousy - the ugly feelings alone with the tender ones. But sometimes Liesl's behavior toward her siblings invoked in me ugly feelings more often than the tender ones. Sometimes she acted like a spiteful brat toward them with malice and hatred, and it felt somehow wrong. It's hard to explain as we feel it more than see in the book. But, nevertheless, this is a story about love for your family that helps you to overcome obstacles in order to come back to them.
The ending. The story either ends with a cliffhanger or has an open ending - I am not sure. But it was somehow underwhelming, though, reasonable, if I am being honest with myself. But I fell too far and too deep to want reasonable; I want dark and alluring. So, I am waiting and dying to read a companion novel, which hopefully will answer the lingering questions.
All in all, Wintersong is a beautiful piece of art, but it might not play in sync with everyone's strings. As a test, let's say if you read The Star-Touched Queen with its poetic writing and blurred lines of reality - you might find Wintersong compelling as much as its college. If such types of stories are not to your liking, I'd still suggest trying (I loved it, I can't not suggest it), but keep your expectations low in case it'd disappoint you. But maybe for once you need to let temptation in and let this story test your limits.
"Now the days of winter begin, and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride."
"I could hurt you," the Goblin King said, and I felt that promise in his hands. My lifeblood in his grip, my throat bared to him in submission."
"Because a man could spend a age--and believe me, I have--with an endless line of beautiful brides, their names and faces blurring before him. Because you--queer, unlovely you--I would remember."