Wintersong is a quite queer YA novel by S. Jae-Jones a.k.a JJ, about a plain girl Elisabeth whose sister Käthe was captured by the Goblin King. The Goblin King needed a bride to prevent the world “above” from being cursed to an eternal winter. Don’t ask me why it works like that—it’s all explained in the book … basically just some give-and-take treaty between the Underworld/Goblin world and the world above/human world. In exchange for her sister, Elisabeth gave herself and her music to the nameless Goblin King.
First thing that stands out about this book is its lyrical tone. At some points of the book, the phrases rhyme perfectly, as if it was a poem, very unlike a typical YA novel. The writing style emits a sense of oldness(...?) and feels kinda’ classic-ish. Everything was elegantly phrased and described, but somehow it feels wrong to describe this book as ‘elegant’. It was pretty weird at first, because I’ve never read a book like this before, but I got used to it pretty quickly.
Is it just me? Or the scenes kinda’ had this … Danish Girl, or Great Gatsby, or Dorian Gray vibe to it? I just can’t grasp and make clear the feeling it ignites in me. And I would like you to know that I didn't exactly like the setting those movies were in. It ... sets me off, especially the romance part. I have never really understood romance when it comes to classic books, and it's the same for Wintersong. A regular YA novel would show you how two characters come to love each other after hardships and trials they faced together. I'm sure there are a lot of other books set in the same tone, but so far Wintersong has been the first of its kind that I've read. Even though I thoroughly liked this book, I prefer YA novels that focuses more on world building and fantasy and badass protagonists (think the Wrath and the Dawn or the Remnant Chronicles). I expected a fascinating goblin world underground, but it really was shit down there. It made me reaaally uncomfortable. Now that we're done with my complaints of this book, let's move on to the good parts.
I like how nicely paced this book was, without awkward transitions between events. As with the writing style, it took some time for me to get used to the characters, but as I warmed up to them, I fell in love with them.
As I mentioned, Wintersong has a slight classic-ish energy about it, especially the romance part. I was really confused with the Goblin King at first. So … did you love her? Or did you just love her music? Or did you just … want revenge for her forgetting you? Eventually, as Elisabeth and the Goblin King bonded, his intentions and feelings were made clearer, and when he said “I love you, Elisabeth,” my heart shattered into a thousand pieces, despite the fact that I didn't know when and how the king even started falling in love with her.
The Goblin King (his name wasn’t revealed so we’ll call him that throughout this review) played a big part in helping Elisabeth find herself. At first, his actions felt like they were formed from malice, but this thought of mine was proved wrong afterwards. He really just wanted to help Elisabeth find her voice, her music, and keep her for himself, because (I would deduce) he fell in love with her since being childhood playmates (which Elisabeth forgot about as she grew up). He claimed that Elisabeth’s music made him feel human again, despite being an immortal who eventually grew numb to feelings of love.
His choice of endearment—“my dear” and “Elisabeth”—was quite weird at first (everything about this book was new and quirky to me) but I came to love the sweetness that rolls off those terms. And the way he says “your wish is my command” really pains my heart, because in all he does, you can see he really treasures Elisabeth, like she’s some kind of diamond. *cries*
And how awesome it is to have almost all your wishes granted in the Underworld? Apparently, all goblins have to obey you if you’re the Queen of the Underworld? Even your husband is subject to your commands.
Elisabeth is portrayed to be a plain girl who hid in the shadows of her family. I kinda’ could relate her struggle and feeling of captivity, as if she doesn’t belong, as if her talents and values are worthless. Her sister Käthe outshines her in beauty, and her brother Josef trumps her in terms of playing the violin, and her father is just an alcoholic who condemns her talent for composition. I loved how her siblings look up to her despite Elisabeth being unconfident about all of herself. I unexpectedly like Käthe, because despite her being the partial cause of Elisabeth’s low self esteem, she loved and wished the best for her sister.
Elisabeth had a peculiar fashion of temper which I couldn’t quite relate to in Wintersong, but again, as the book progresses, I start to see her as a strong woman who was broken but awakened by the Goblin King. Her stay at the world under was like therapy for her. At first she completely hated it, but as she got to know the Goblin King, she started to let herself be free without the constraints of familial expectations and boundaries. She started to embrace her inner musician, and she started to actually be proud of her talent. The Goblin King constantly prodded her to accept herself, unleash her potential, let her music be known, and although it took ages for her to take his encouragements to heart, I was overjoyed that she conquered her past and truly accepted herself.
The greatest love is selflessness. The Goblin King knew Elisabeth would die if she continued to stay with him, so he let him go, despite his pain of losing her. I expected a happy ending, and I don’t know if I got one. I don’t know if this was the happy ending that I had expected, because it was sad, yes, but it certainly wasn’t a bad ending. The Goblin King told stories to Elisabeth—bedtime stories—and the last story he told (at the request of Elisabeth) was about a Goblin King letting his most beloved queen go. He asked Elisabeth to judge for herself, if this was a happy ending or not. *I’m crying* In a way, the author is asking the reader to judge for themselves. I surprisingly love this ending. It broke my heart, that’s for sure, but for some reason, I don’t hate it.
Elisabeth’s first journey out of the Underworld was disastrous. You could see her uncertainty and lack of determination as she was pathetically tempted by the slightest illusion of the goblins. Quite the contrary to her second and last time travelling out of the Underworld alone, where she knew how to resist temptation and to fight through her fatigue and agony. You know she has grown tremendously by comparing these scenes.
It makes me tear up to know that Elisabeth will never see the Goblin King again … he confirmed it with his words. What a sad, sad story, and yet it possessed a certain fashion of beauty and loveliness, that captured my heart, entire.
(If you read the book, you’d get the ‘—entire’ pun.)
These are my honest opinions and thoughts on Wintersong. I give it ... 6/10. What's yours? Would you prefer a pretty lie or an ugly truth? I honestly don't know myself, though I'm guiltily inclined towards the former.
If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to my mailing list for updates. I promise on my kindle won’t spam you.
If you like posts like these, consider donating to the survival of this blog, in return for awesome privileges and a mountain-load of gratitude.
More books you'll enjoy: (Click to view)