Wintersong & Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesel can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds–and the mysterious man who rules it–she soon faces an impossible decision. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
After reading these books, I think I’m starting to really be attracted to stories about the fey. I liked Wintersong; not only was the writing beautiful, but it was such an atmospheric book. I think that was why I liked it so much; I’m not usually one for romance, but I found the romance between the Goblin King and Liesel all right. At the very least, it had a lot of aestheticism behind it, and aesthetics are my downfall.
The writing and atmosphere is by far the greatest strength of these books–Jae-Jones’s writing style is gorgeous, lyrical, and picturesque. I was absolutely enthralled by the breathtaking descriptions. Liesl describes her surroundings so vividly and romantically, and I absolutely loved the writing style. Wintersong and Shadowsong is set in Bavaria during the late Baroque era–about 1800-ish, and the writing conveys that so well. There is a lot of gratuitous German–and in Shadowsong, a fair amount of French too–but I think it helps set the atmosphere. There’s so much fascinating folklore in this book, based off of Baroque and Romantic poets, which I really loved. I think my only problem with the writing was the sex scenes, which were a tad too over the top in music metaphors, and just made me feel weird.
I found the characters to be quite interesting, all things considered. Liesl and Josef had such passion for their music, but at times, it seemed like their only trait. Liesl and Josef are important because they life with a mental illness–for Liesl, specifically bipolar disorder, based on Jae-Jones’s own experiences–in a time where mental illness was barely even conceived of. The Goblin King himself, however, I cared quite little about–he was so distant that I couldn’t find myself being at all interested in him, despite Liesl falling in love with him.
As for plot, I’ll admit this: not much happened. If you’re expecting action, you’ll be disappointed; the Wintersong duology is very character-driven: by Liesl, yes, but also by the Golblin King, Der Erlkonig, and Josef, Liesl’s musician brother. Plot moves along at a creepingly slow pace, but the characters are interesting enough to keep you going. In Shadowsong, when an outside plot is introduced, it doesn’t work well, and I became less and less interested in the book as I kept reading.
Wintersong revolves around Liesl and the Goblin King; Shadowsong is about Liesl and Josef. I loved Liesl and Josef’s relationship in the first book, but it went cold in the second and the spark never returned, which was disappointing, because I love reading good sibling relationships.
If you like gorgeous writing and fey folklore, then you may like this book, because Wintersong and Shadowsong is chock-full of both, and the writing can definitely be appreciated despite everything else. But if you’re the type of reader who needs a good, strong plot to keep your interest, then this might fall short, especially compared to some other books about fey.