Now this particular one was a bit of a delight to read. The first half is all about sisterly love and the selfish choices we can make. But overcoming those selfish desires to help out family regardless of the obstacles in the way.
The second half is a massive arc of questionable character development for our lovely leading lady and a bit of questionable romance for her as well.
S. Jae-Jones sets the theme of the book with a little prologue of a young girl playing music for a young boy who consistently asks her to marry him. The young girl rejects him at every turn with things like “I’m too young to get married.” or “But you have yet to win my hand.” As time advances, she eventually stops coming to the grove to dance and play with the boy due to worsening problems in her home life.
Before I continue on about this novel, I wanted to say a few words about the main character. Her name is Elisabeth (Liesl) Maria Volger. She’s the eldest sibling of three. Enjoys composing music and hearing her younger brother Josef play her music. But at the same time she doesn’t see much merit in herself otherwise.
The first half of the book consists of Liesl’s younger sister Kathe falling into temptation and eating a goblin fruit from a goblin merchant at the market. Liesl then attempts to save her sister from the enchantment that fell over her via entering an agreement with the Goblin King that if she can find her way into the underground and rescue her sister by the next moon, they both go free.
Well the Goblin King ends up enchanting Liesl in such a fashion that she begins to forget about Kathe and just enjoys what life would have been like if Kathe didn’t exist. So Liesl got to make music, got the most handsome man in the village attempting to court her, etc. Basically life seems pretty good. Till she finally snaps out of it with what I’m guessing is two weeks till the full moon. S. Jae-Jones didn’t seem to enjoy giving exact time frames.
So Liesl finally gets to work in getting into the underground, which her first thought is that she will need to sacrifice what is most important to her. Which is of course her music. She burns every piece she’s ever composed, some dessert bread, and precedes to play music till she basically freezes to death. Because hey! It’s apparently winter all of a sudden.
Liesl makes it into the underground and eventually finds out that her sister is dying while down there. And is also stuck in an illusion that she married a royal man and that everyone in their family has succeeded wonderfully in their lives. Liesl manages to momentarily break the spell on Kathe and leads Kathe out of the underground.
And the entire time that Liesl is trying to rescue her sister, the Goblin King is being true to his character and is just so mischievous and nasty. He nearly succeeds in winning the competition with his tricks several times. But either sister was able each time to pull the other back out of his trickery.
Eventually, Liesl does manage to free Kathe. Unfortunately…she discovers that in order to bring back Spring the Goblin King needs a bride or rather the life force of a young woman. So Liesl trades her hand in marriage for Kathe’s. Successfully freeing Kathe while also dooming herself.
Now I really loved everything that happened during the first half. And I left out several details because I don’t want to spoil every single little thing for you guys. But it was just the way S. Jae-Jones wrote how Liesl interacted with everyone. How she made every single decision. The way she lamented over giving up her music to enter the underground and save her sister. I loved the way that the Goblin King was mischievous, terrifying, and yet so seductive at the same time.
During the first half of Wintersong, the characters just felt so alive and full of color. During the second half though…it flags considerably.
The first part of the second half is where Liesl basically spirals into a nasty bout of depression. And stays in said bout until her official wedding with the Goblin King. Which after that she basically has a temper tantrum because the man wouldn’t have sex with her on their wedding night. Queue them being awkward around each other, then getting along again, and then Liesl spirals into another depression because the Goblin King gifted her a klavier to compose on.
At some point, Liesl gets brought to a goblin city to be fitted for a dress. Where she sees mannequins with dresses on them. Out of curiosity she asks about said dresses and finds out that they’re the dresses of all the previous queens. The tailor lets slip that the first Goblin Queen actually managed to escape the underground with her life and without damning everyone to eternal winter. Liesl promptly gets all fired up with hope…only to twenty minutes later lose all hope and forget all about the first queen in favor of moping around.
The second half continues on like this with Liesl switching back and forth with depression and being filled with hope. And having romance issues with the Goblin King as well doesn’t help the poor girl’s case.
Finally she gains an opportunity to escape the underground…only for everything to instantly start turning to Winter and for all the goblins to escape. First thing she does at this point? Realized she screwed up, and begs for the Goblin King to forgive her and take her back as his wife. He does so, effectively reversing the eternal winter that had literally just started and brings Liesl back into the underground.
And fast forward through a minute period of bonding and several non-graphic hinting scenes that claim they had sex, the two of them are head over heels in love. It was at this point that I started to wonder what it was that S. Jae-Jones was doing with Wintersong. Because when I picked it up and read the summary, I thought it was going to be a story about triumphing over “evil” and sisterly love. But instead I got a taste of that, and a kind of terrible love story.
So anyway, the Goblin King basically decides that he loves Liesl so much that he gives her a choice to either go free, or stay with him. Which she obviously chose to go free. Thankfully at least something went right in the second half of the book. But she still had hard feelings about leaving the Goblin King and requested that she leaves the next day instead of right away.
After a game of twenty questions, she finally allowed to leave. But she has to find her own way out without the abilities she had as the Goblin Queen. Liesl nearly dies several times on her way out, but she eventually makes it out alive. And at the tail end of it all, the Goblin King helps her. They have a bittersweet moment after Liesl permanently leaves the underground, where they can no longer touch. Liesl turns and walks away after crying a bit about it.
And that’s literally where Wintersong ended. On a very anti-climatic end in my opinion. I mean there is a little epilogue letter thing to Josef from Liesl about how she’s sorry that she didn’t respond to any of his letters. And that she’s glad that people like her music but not to publish it as her work yet. But that’s literally it. No happy reunion with Kathe. No happy reunion with Josef. No happy reunion with her parents and grandmother.
Just…well she’s out of the underground now sooo…the end! As you can probably tell…I’m mildly bitter about how this one ended. It literally had so much potential but the author just…didn’t bother with fleshing it out. Or sticking with a logical character development path for the characters.
So for the official rating…I give the plot two point five out of five stars. And character development gets point five out of five stars. Making for a full score of three stars.
I honestly tried to love the entirety of this book…but the second half just ruined every ounce of love I had for it. I might end up rereading the first half of it and just pretend that that’s all there is. Or it can just go collect dust on my bookshelf. Probably the second one more than likely.
Hope you’re all looking forward to the review of Dark Witch by Nora Roberts on the 13th! I know I’m definitely looking forward to it!