January 27, 2018

Monsters, Music, and Too Much PDA | Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

By S. Jae-Jones
Wintersong (Wintersong, #1)Wintersong #1
Published on February 7, 2017
436 Pages
Fantasy, Young Adult

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I swear on my bookshelf that this has not affected my opinion of the book.
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.


This is a character driven book. There is nothing inherently wrong with character-driven books. It is just a fact of literature that there are books with a main focus on the characters and then there are other books with a main focus on the plot. There have been great character-driven books that I love, but Wintersong was not one of them. The problem wasn't that the story was dominated by the characters instead of a plot, but that I just didn't like the characters.

Liesl was a very flat character. She was always either thinking angsty thoughts about music or angsty thoughts about the Goblin King. She had a two-track mind that never took a detour in more interesting areas. I know nothing about her besides that she is extremely insecure and apparently a great composer. Not caring about Liesl dramatically decreased my enjoyment of the story, especially in regard to the romance.

I wasn't a huge fan of the romance. For those of you who are not fans of Rhysand from ACOTAR, I would definitely recommend avoiding this book. The Goblin King has the same dominating alpha wolf mentality, but not redeemed in any way. While the family relationships in the novel were important, the second half of the novel almost exclusively focused on the romantic (and I even hesitate to call the relationship romantic) relationship.

After the first half of the novel, I was let thinking; well now what? Instead of an overarching end goal, a plot structure, an adventure, or really anything that the characters actually had to do, the book made sex the ultimate goal in the novel. While I am not opposed to sex and relationships in novels, I don't like romantic encounters being the sole plotline, especially in a young adult fantasy novel. To me, fantasy novels are more about characters interacting with a fascinating world in dynamic and complex ways (which could include rebellion, a quest, political interest, magic, war, anything really with action or actually getting outside of a singular cave) than being holed up in a cave waiting for the next time to bang.

The romance dominated the novel and did not leave any room for an actual plot or world-building. The only hint of magic was brief hints to the "old ways" which were kept in frustrating mystery without any explanation or intrigue. I didn't even know enough about the magic system and the arcane traditions to even care about them.

Even though the magical realm of the goblins was not developed, the music history and culture of the world above ground were beautifully woven throughout the story. My screeching singing voice is the extent of my musical talent, yet I liked (and more importantly, understood) the detailed descriptions of Liesl's music and the music scene of the time.

Trolls and goblins are underrepresented in YA fiction and deserve better than the romance-blinded approach of Wintersong.

In Review...

Even though I enjoyed the incorporation of music terminology and culture, the characters were flat and single-minded which caused the character-driven book to ultimately fall short. The romance overpowered the entire book and didn't allow for any other aspect to shine. Largely due to the focus on romance, the plot slowly ambled in a dark tunnel that didn't seem to ever have an end. 

My feelings in a GIF...

What do you think about character-driven novels? Do you prefer fantasy novels that focus on romance or adventure/magic? What do you think about the GIF? (I know that I am late on the trend, but I am working on it!)

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