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.
**** Thank you to Thomas Dunne for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review****
Okay so I know not a lot of people have been loving this book and when I first started reading I wondered why because it was so good! Unfortunately that didn’t last and I’m left somewhere in the middle with mixed feelings on “Wintersong”, it had both good and bad.
With the way this book started out I would have thought it was for sure a 4 or 5 star book but once I reached 50% it all went downhill fast. I loved that at the beginning of the story we are drawn in immediately when Kathe, Elisabeth’s sister is kidnapped by the Goblin King and she must play a game against him in order to win her sister back. Now I love when there are wagers of life or death in books and the main character has to be cunning in order to beat the mythical/powerful “bad guy” and this was interesting and even a little dark too, however, as I said once I reached 50% this was all over. The sister’s kidnapping conflict is resolved at the half way point of the book and that’s what kept me reading to start with so with that done there wasn’t much of a plot left and definitely no more action.
The last half of the book is hellishly slow and tedious and focuses more on the characters of Elisabeth and the Goblin King than any real action or plot. Now character driven stories are all well and good but it only works when I’m not confused out of my mind, there just seemed to be a lot of plot holes and things missing so I never really understood the characters are what was happening and why. Sooooo many plot holes, I was left with so many questions at the end of this book!
Then that ending…..what? Remember the plot holes I mentioned? Those really came into play for the ending of “Wintersong” because I was really confused about a lot of things including why the story ended the way it did. Also the question “how?” comes into mind a lot too. It didn’t end the way you’d expect and I liked that it was unpredictable but overall it was unsatisfactory.
Another thing that kind of took away from the experience were the constant in depth descriptions of playing and composing classical music, now I was in band and choir while I was in high school so it’s not like all of it was flying over my head but it got really old really fast. They were CONSTANT and there is such a thing as too much detail…..
I’d also like to mention that this book is marketed as a retelling of the movie “Labyrinth”, which I personally have not seen but know the overall gist of. Keeping that in mind I would like to say that this book doesn’t seem to have much in common with the movie other the character of the Goblin King really.
The writing was very pretty and poetic which I liked and is honestly probably one of the few reasons I even made it through the second half of the book. I’d still be very interested in reading future books by this author.
I did like that while this book is YA it never really feels like your typical YA book while reading, it feels just a little more like an adult book or maybe even new adult. However, it’s nice to see a “YA” book that isn’t full of the usual cliches.
As I mentioned earlier “Wintersong” is more of a character driven story, especially in the second half, so the characters are very important. Unfortunately as good as they were there was still a lot that I felt was missing and in the end I felt they felt a little flat, distant, and confusing. I did still like them overall though!
I really did enjoy Elisabeth’s character because she is plain but very talented. Not something we usually see in YA, which I liked. However, I didn’t like being reminded just how “plain and ugly” she is all the time….got a little annoying.
The we have the Goblin King and while I loved him for the most part throughout the whole book his character changed quite drastically from the first half of the book to the second half. We started out with the mischievous, dark, sexy, and mysterious Goblin King and then we got the mushy, almost kind of spineless Goblin King who also had a lot of problems making up his mind about stuff. He does however still remain pretty mysterious at the end of the novel which kind of frustrated me but also I appreciated it because I didn’t want the image of the mythical, immortal Goblin King being ruined.
The other characters that really made any other appearances were Elisabeth’s family in which only the siblings and grandmother were important. Each family member had a different and important effect on Elisabeth’s self esteem, the grandmother believes in the old myths (the Goblin King) and raised her grand kids to as well, Kathe is pretty and vain but still very much wants her sister to love her, Josef is her musical muse and helps her grow her talent, her father and mother both kind of put her down though. I still loved that after all her family puts her through, Elisabeth still loves them fiercely.
The romance is a major factor in this book and while I really supported it and wanted it in the first half of the book, I found myself really doubting it in the second half. Overall I just sort of found it to be…..okay. Which it could be worse.
While this is not necessarily insta-love since the Goblin King and Elisabeth used to play together in the Goblin Grove I still feel that it resembles insta love because of the fact that we don’t really receive any backstory on this relationship they had before the current timeline in the book. There also seems to be a lot of angst and tension between the two characters and it kind of got old after a while and again I will say because of the second half of the book.
I REALLY LOVED THE FIRST HALF OF THIS BOOK! Seriously if the second half would have been anywhere near that level of goodness I would have easily rated this book higher but alas that wasn’t the case. The second half only dragged on tediously, made me start to question if I really liked the characters or romance at all, and just overall really confuse me. Seriously the confusion was real. I was given information that was never again talked about or resolved.
So in the end I can only give this 3 stars and that extra star is only because of how much I loved the first 50%.
What I Liked:
- All of the characters were pretty well done including Elisabeth and the Goblin King
- Did I mention the first half of the book was amazing yet?
- The dark atmosphere
- The romance was alright and I shipped it
- The writing
- Not a typical, cliched YA book
What I Didn’t Like:
- Slow pacing
- The second half of the book was soooooo boring
- Over detailed explanations of music
- Lots of plot holes and things left unexplained
- Also lots of confusion in general about certain plot points
- No real backstory on the Goblin King
- Kind of unsatisfactory ending
Overall I can’t say I have an opinion on recommending this book, if there was a way I could recommend only reading the first half I totally would in a heart beat. I thought this turned out to be a little disappointing but the writing was very nice and if you can look past some of these negative points then give “Wintersong” a try!