I was delighted to receive a beautiful copy of Wintersong, the debut novel from S. Jae-Jones, ahead of its publication this week. I had heard mention that this was a retelling of Labyrinth of sorts or at least inspired by it. But I must confess having only seen a snippet of the film I am not that familiar with the story. So for me, I was approaching Wintersong with limited knowledge of the work that inspired it, and was very much intrigued to find out about this Goblin King…
‘He looked at me as no one had before, as though I were more than the sum of my eyes, my nose, my lips, my hair, and my wretched plainness. He looked as though he saw me entire, as though he knew me. But did I know him?’
Wintersong tells the story of Liesl, a teenage girl for whom stories of the Goblin King form a familiar part of her growing up. For years she has listened to these stories, tales of a mysterious, beautiful king which proved an inspiration to her and her musical compositions. Liesl is a talented composer, but has reached a point in her life where her dreams seem a little out of reach. Despite her abilities she finds herself overshadowed by her siblings as brother Josef is also musically talented and her sister Kathe, who she considers to be one of the most beautiful people in the land. She feels plain and uninteresting compared to her sister, and resigns herself to the fact that her dreams may not come true, and that she must instead focus her energies on helping run the family business. However, events soon change which signal the start of a remarkable journey for Liesl.
‘He was an old friend in myth and legend; he was a stranger in breath and body.’
From the start I really liked the classic fairytale feel to the writing and I loved the idea of Liesl’s fascination with these stories which passed on from her loved ones remain an important aspect of her life. But Liesl’s perception of the Goblin King soon changes when her sister Kathe is taken to the Underground by the Goblin King, and she must do what is necessary to ensure her sisters safe return home. She soon finds herself drawn into this strange new world, captivated by new sights and sounds and the mysterious King himself. Here she must make a difficult decision, one in which she must question herself and the world around her. Liesl’s fascination with the Goblin King leads her to make a sacrifice and I was interested to see how the relationship between them developed over the course of the novel. It was refreshing to see that the Goblin King had an interest in Liesl for her talents as opposed to her appearance and this mutual love of music that bought them together in unusual circumstances. And the longer the pair stay in one and others company the more we discover about who they really are and what they become when their lives become intertwined. In terms of the plot development I found it to be fairly slow paced but this is in part due to the level of detail in the writing. S Jae-Jones writes beautifully and there were some wonderful passages of writing which helped to create a vivid and magical setting filled with darkness, romance and music.
‘Do you swear that you make this bargain of…of your own free will?’
Wintersong is an enjoyable fantasy debut filled with magic and mystery. It is the story of a young woman’s journey into a strange world, her discovery of romance and music and the mysterious man who inspires it all.
Wintersong was published on 7th February 2017 by Titan Books. Many thanks to Lydia Gittins at Titan Books for providing a copy for review.