Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones


Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):


Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

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.

What I Liked:


I know what you might be thinking: how did she not love this book to pieces? Why doesn't it say "5 stars", or at least "4 stars"? Believe me, I'm probably as surprised as you are. I fully expected to absolutely adore this book and gush about it after reading it. I expected to fall in love with a mesmerizing, seductive story; I didn't fall in love with the story, and (to me) it wasn't mesmerizing and seductive.

Liesl (short for Elisabeth) is the oldest of three children. She is the plainest child, the one most often forgotten. Her sister Kathe is beautiful, curvy, and flirtatious. Her brother Josef is a musical prodigy, playing the violin like no other. Liesl herself is a genius composer, but only Josef knows about the music in her soul. And it's a music that the Goblin King wants. No one believes in the Goblin King, save Liesl's grandmother... and Liesl herself. When she was a little girl, she used to be friends with him. Now she is older and no longer believes in her childhood fantasies. But when her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl immediately strikes a bargain with him to get her out. In exchange for her sister's life, Liesl will marry the Goblin King and live in the Underground. She is no longer alive to the above world, and her family will soon forget she existed. In the Underground, Liesl is captivated by the Goblin King, whom she is slowly remembering that she has known him her entire life. As they grow closer, Liesl finds herself creating more music, and developing strong feelings for him. But nothing lasts forever, and a price must be paid. There are consequences for every action, and Liesl must decide what to sacrifice once and for all.

There are plenty of reasons to love this book, plenty of reasons why I understand the hype. For one, the writing is so beautiful. The author has a great writing style, and I love how wonderful the writing of this story was. Everything flowed idyllically, with a lull. The author has a talent for writing, and it shows, in her debut novel.

I'm not really familiar with the fairy tale on which the author based this story, or Labyrinth. However, I can tell that this is a retelling of a fairy tale. The story in general is so interesting. It has a Hades and Persephone feel to it (but more romantic, sort of). The world-building is well-written; I was expecting a lot of fantastical elements, and goblins of course, and there is a lot of all of that. Goblins, changelings, magic, twisted words, bargains... this story has it all.

Liesl goes through quite a transformation, in this book. Part of why she was willing to go down in the Underground with the Goblin King was because she wanted to be loved and wanted, for the first time in her life. She once believed she was plain and unr markable; by the end of the book, she has more self-worth, and she thinks more of herself. She is so selfless throughout the book, and by the end, she still has that soft heart, but she is also a stronger woman.

The Goblin King - I almost wish we could have read from his perspective. He is an enigma and a puzzle, and we slowly learn about him as the story goes on. I liked him, but I wasn't entranced by him (like many other readers were). I can understand the fascination with him, but he didn't come across as anyone special (more on this in the next section). I did like him though.

The romance is hot and cold. Liesl and the Goblin King clash and burn and simmer. They push and pull, and so there are scenes in which there is some serious heat, and then there are scenes in which they don't even want to look at each other. This book has content that is definitely "mature" and not for younger teens. 

I'll talk about the ending in the next section. Overall though, I get the hype. Really, I do. And I think this is a well-written fantasy story with a great pairing and a sweeping tale. But maybe it was just me - I didn't fall in love with the story.

What I Did Not Like:


Maybe the book was over-hyped for me? I felt a little disappointed, even as I was reading. I was waiting for that OMG-THIS-IS-SO-GOOD moment, in which I knew I would be gushing for days about the book. I still haven't quite hit that point.

My irritation started with the beginning of the story - I hated Kathe. She's beautiful, selfish, and so, so spoiled. She only thinks of herself (though we see, as the story goes on, that that is not quite true). She is shallow and I honestly felt bad for Liesl for having to deal with her. But Liesl is a selfless sister, as sisters are. 

I think I'm most disappointed in the romance - I wasn't all that convinced and sucked into the romance. Don't get me wrong, I shipped Liesl and the Goblin King. I can see why people think the romance is seductive and sensual. But I was... unimpressed? Maybe I was expecting more when people were like "oh the romance is so gritty and dark and sexy". It wasn't? The story takes a darker turn after the halfway point, and I suppose this book is a little sexier than any given Young Adult novel, but I didn't think it was particularly sexy. 

Maybe it's because I have read so many adult romance novels and I know what a sexy romance in a story really is? How sexy seduction can actually be, in a fictional story? I'm not sure. But the romance was underwhelming in terms of the chemistry. Don't get me wrong! It's still a fairly sensual romance and there are a few hot scenes between Liesl and the Goblin King! I personally was unimpressed though.

All of their hot and cold was a little annoying too, to be honest. I didn't really understand their physical relationship either. At one point, it was like Liesl wanted the Goblin King to have sex with her to "fix" her. Is sex something that "fixes" people? Maybe it is, but in this book, it seemed so weird that sex was what unlocked Liesl's music. That seemed nonsensical. But hey, maybe I'm missing something that was part of the original story or fairy tale. 

In terms of the Goblin King himself - he seemed somewhat one-dimensional. I understand that the story is all about Liesl's transformation, but I couldn't get a good enough sense of the Goblin King. We learn about him so, so slowly, and most of the time, it's like he's a piece of meat to Liesl, or something like that. He's the most interesting character of the book, but I feel like he is reduced to his height and his smiles.

Also, is it me or did the plot kind of meander? I couldn't really get a sense of where the story was going, after a point. So Liesl makes the deal with the Goblin King and she is now in the Underground and married to him. Okay? What's next - how they fall in love and ride off into the sunset? There was no "larger" plot at hand. You'd think there would be some impending doom, like the world ending, or the laws of the magical world being broken, or goblins escaping into the above world. But nope, the rising action and the climax are incredibly underwhelming. Where was the story going? I'm not sure.

So maybe the pacing was off, for me? Because it felt like the story meandered and went nowhere, and then BAM! Liesl has a choice to make, in the last 5% of the book (or thereabout). The climax occurs in the last 5% or so, which makes no sense. The ending was a slap in the fast, in terms of how it just showed up, with little explanation or execution.

The ending! The ending is so anticlimactic, underwhelming, and horrible! Horrible meaning cruel, though I saw it coming. What was the point? What was the point of the entire story? WHY was that allowed? What are the consequences? It happened in the past - how? Why? What came after? I had so many questions after I read the end of the book. The end literally makes no sense, and we get no explanation as to why it was allowed, what the consequences were, what the "aftermath"was.

Not to mention that the ending is so cruel and not a HEA. Every book doesn't have to end in sunshine and rainbows but... with a romance like this one? Color me disappointed that this book didn't end differently. There are so many ways the author could have ended this book. She choose the easy, predictable, and cruel way.

Unfortunately this book has left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. 

Would I Recommend It:


It's hard for me not to recommend this book, because it is a beautifully written, well-crafted story. And so many people have loved it. But I was unimpressed. I can appreciate the author's writing and the story and what she was going for, but the execution fell a little flat for me. However, I think anyone who was looking forward to reading this book should give it a chance. It could be me and my mood - or it could be the fact that I've read so many beautifully written, sexy romance novels that are the definition of "seductive" and "sensual". Then again, this book was underwhelming and not just in terms of the romance/chemistry, for me.

Rating:


3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I hate to rate this book so low - though admittedly, 3 stars isn't super low. I so thought this book would be perfect for me - fantasy, fairy tale retelling, delicious romance. I was a little disappointed, but I'm most likely in the black sheep camp. I see the author is writing a companion novel - honestly, if the story doesn't feature Liesl and the Goblin King in some (happy) capacity, then I'm not sure I'm interested in the companion novel. I really don't want to read about Kathe. Josef, maybe? Really, I want more Liesl and the Goblin King.

**EDIT: I've learned that the sequel is a continuation one (and not a companion one). Yay! This doesn't change my rating, but it makes me feel better about the story, and I will definitely be reading the sequel.



Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

52 comments:

  1. Oh no! It sounds like a frustrating read for you. And the ending? I like HEAs... but a cruel ending? Yikes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a HEA person as well so I felt crushed. :/ But I've learned that there is a direct sequel!

      Delete
  2. Hmm. I'm curious to see how I take this book. I'm nervous about the beginning with Kathe but hoping I do get into it! I wonder if the fact that this was sold as an Adult book and then switched to YA has affected it? In terms of feeling like you weren't sure where it was headed? But I know you can sign up to get a copy for the undifed sex scenes somewhere on her website. This is also going to have a sequel that should focus more on The Goblin King. I don't think the original story has an HEA but I'm reading this with the gamble that this one will eventually in the sequel. Hopefully!! Anyway this is a really thoughtful review, and will help me measure my expectations going into this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huh. I knew about the whole adult-to-"YA" thing, but I didn't know about the signups on her site. I'm going to go look for it. But adult or YA, it felt like this story was going nowhere.

      Someone pointed out the nature of the sequel to me! I'm not really confident in the author's ability to deliver a HEA (given this book's ending, and the original tale).

      Hopefully you enjoy this one, Lauren!

      Delete
  3. This one is not going to be for me. I made Jess tell me the ending and it would piss me off. The story sounds really interesting, but ehh from the sounds of it I won't be too impressed with the romance either. So I'll skip!
    Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA! I don't blame you. I was not amused for most of this book. I definitely see the appeal, but it just wasn't doing much for me. :/

      Thank you, Nick!

      Delete
  4. Ahhh too bad you didn't like it more. It's one of the books I'm looking forward the most this year. But I am glad the writing is beautiful, which is something that I like the most in some books. So I think I will read it if I end up buying it once it releases and hope I won't be a bit disappointed as well. Great review, Alyssa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You might love it, Stephanie! I really thought I would love this one, because most people have loved it, and it definitely seems like an Alyssa book.

      Thank you!

      Delete
  5. I've been waiting for this review to see where you fell on this one. And really, I can see exactly why you are where you are. While I really enjoyed this one myself I could see why it wouldn't be fore everyone and then I really struggled with writing my review! I ended up giving it four stars and a fairly strong review but I couldn't give it more stars because of the meandering you spoke of, the unresolved feelings at the end and a few other small annoyances. I cannot deny the beautiful writing though and that almost drugged feeling I got while I was reading it. I can't explain that one, but I got a small hangover every time I had to put that one down. 😂

    As always, great review and so thorough!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah it wasn't for me. I don't begrudge anyone their enjoyment of this book, but I'm not going to disregard the BS I encountered.

      Thank you!

      Delete
  6. Such a pretty cover. Great review. I think you covered all the bases and I hate when a book I think will be great falls flat. I feel almost guilty giving it a lower rate, but, it is what it is. Better luck with the next one.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I wish I had liked it more! To be honest, my rating might have been a little nice. o_o

      Delete
  7. I'm curious to read this one since I'm a sucker for beautiful writing. But bad romances and mediocre endings are definitely a turn off - especially as I feel I're read a lot of books like that this year. Beautiful writing isn't everything. Thanks for sharing you thoughts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think the romance was necessarily bad - but it felt lacking, for me. This would have done so well (for me), as a fully adult novel. The ending was definitely bad though.

      Thank YOU!

      Delete
  8. I hate that you didn't like it more. This is one of my most anticipated. I love fairy tale retellings and i love goblins. Now I'm wondering if I'll even like it. Thanks for giving your honest opinion though. It's always welcomed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you might still enjoy it though! Borrow from the library or something, if you're hesitating. Most reviews have been overwhelmingly positive!

      You're very welcome, and thank you! I appreciate that. <3

      Delete
  9. Thank you SO MUCH for this review! I'm usually the black sheep when it comes to over-hyped novels so I am never sure if I'll enjoy them and now I'm convinced I need to skip this. Thanks so much for the honest review, my dear, I'm not one to enjoy meandering plots or one-dimensional characters so I'll spend my time on a different novel this year. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahhh, you're welcome! I know exactly what you mean! I definitely understand all of the hype and excitement for this book, but I felt a little let down. It was good, and I get it! But I didn't love it.

      Thank you, Keertana!

      Delete
  10. Oh man, I'm not sure I'll be reading this one then... If I do, at least I now know to prepare for the ending. Thanks for the warning Alyssa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you read it, I hope you like it! I didn't know this ahead of time, but the sequel to follow is a direct one (and not a companion sequel, like I stated).

      You're welcome!

      Delete
  11. I haven't heard much about this book, but have seen it on a lot of TBR lists. I struggle with books where the climax is so far to the end I sort of want to skip ahead to see what the whole book was about. Very honest review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I struggle with the same issue! Unfortunately that was a problem in this book.

      Thank you, Kristyn!

      Delete
  12. Oh my gosh Alyssa, the premise to this book sounds absolutely amazing that I can totally see why you'd go into it with such high expectations, but what a bummer that you were let down in so many aspects. The last book I read with a goblin king I really enjoyed, so you're review is still kind of tempting me to give it a go. But I really hope the ending doesn't kill me, I'm curious to find out how it goes down! Gorgeous review as always :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really wanted to love it! I was utterly fascinated by the idea of the Goblin King, and I feel like he would make such a sexy character, in an adult romance novel. ;) I feel like this book would have been perfect, as an adult romance novel.

      If you read this book, I hope you like it, Jasprit! Thank you. <3

      Delete
  13. I'm a huge fan of Labyrinth, so I may give this one chance, but too bad that it feel flat for you. At least I'll go in with low expectations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it, Rachel! I think you might. ^_^

      Delete
  14. Oh man, this book sounded like it was going to be so good, but I haven't seen too many great reviews yet. Maybe if I go into it with low expectations, I will love it? lol Sorry, you didn't enjoy it more. That's always disappointing when you are really excited about something. Hope your next read is better

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've seen many positive reviews on Goodreads! I feel like a black sheep. You might really enjoy this book, Julie!

      Thank you!

      Delete
  15. It sounds like the book had a lot potential, too bad it wasn't as amazing as you hoped. I know how sometimes the hype machine can sorta bugger things up. Sounds like it was a good read, just not perfect you. Lovely review, Alyssa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It did! And I certainly understand why there is so much excitement surrounding the book! It just didn't really work out for me.

      Thank you, Cyn!

      Delete
  16. I definitely want to try this one. Is it just me or does anyone else think of David Bowie when they hear the Goblin King? :D

    Lauren @ Always Me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Labyrinth is one of the inspirations for this book! I haven't seen it, but I know what you're talking about. ;)

      I hope you enjoy the book, Lauren!

      Delete
  17. This is such a great review - we love how you're really honest about your feelings. We''ve read so much hype about this, especially how some people believed this book had their OTP (one true pairing), so it's disappointing how you weren't sucked into the romance. The climax in the last 5% though - that's quite rushed. We were super excited for this, but now we'll probably save our money for another book. Thanks for your help! <3
    ~ Pendragons 

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The ending isn't a HEA but the sequel is a direct one (something I didn't know beforehand).

      I think you should still read this one! I hope you both enjoy it. ^_^

      Delete
  18. Great review - you've given me a lot to think about :) I definitely want to read this, mainly because of the premise and writing.
    Sorry you didn't like it as much as you'd hoped, though :(

    Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you'll like it, Amy! It's okay, I'm not too upset. The hype was just too much with this one. =)

      Delete
  19. I DNF this one, so you are not alone in not liking it. I was so excited for it but it was a total letdown. I ended up skipping to the ending to see if maybe the ending would be worth it and make me want to continue reading it but that was not the case. I liked the writing style enough that I would read another book by this author still even though this one was a definite miss for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohhh! That makes me feel a little better! Wasn't the ending terrible? The next book is a direct sequel (something I didn't know beforehand), which is good, at least. But this book... *sigh*

      The writing was wonderful, that's for sure!

      Delete
  20. I'm definitely going to pick this up one day, hearing mixed reviews, not just from you, so I'm actually curious to form my own opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should definitely give it a chance! I hope you enjoy the book, Olivia.

      Delete
  21. Wait, is this inspired by Labyrinth?? As in the film with David Bowie? Okay, I definitely did not know that, haha.

    I'm glad to know in advance that this one doesn't have a HEA, because that's going to influence when I decide to read it. I'm definitely still going to (can't resist a fantasy novel with beautiful writing by a WoC), but not when I'm specifically looking for a romantic story. The description of Liesl's attitude towards sex has me a side-eyeing this a bit, so we'll weather it works for me. I can always trust you to give it to your readers straight, Alyssa! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe so! Or it was partly inspired by Labyrinth.

      I had the same attitude (fantasy, WoC author, great writing, imaginative retelling, sexy Goblin King). But the story didn't live up to the hype (for me).

      Thank you, Danya! <3

      Delete
  22. Oh no!! I'm sad to hear this book wasn't as amazing as you had hoped! I've been really excited for this one so I'm hoping I haven't over hyped it for myself. Of course, being my romance loving self, I've been super interesting in reading about the Goblin King and I'm disappointed he came off as one dimensional :( Still, I'm hoping that I still enjoy this one once I eventually get my hands on it!

    Thanks for the honest review, Alyssa!

    Ashtyn @ Wonderland’s Reader!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ALSO, I'm so scared of the ending!!! I'm really hoping what I think happens isn't what actually happens . . .

      Delete
    2. I felt the same, about the Goblin King! Like who is this sexy evil beast, I must meet him??? But the romance wasn't as magical and seductive as I'd expected.

      I think you should read this one! I hope you like it.

      I received clarification that the sequel is a direct one! So the ending of this book is AWFUL, but there is a direct sequel to follow. =)

      Delete
  23. I'm so happy to hear that the sequel is a continuation once you said it didn't end in an HEA! Liesl seems so selfless; I feel like I would be annoyed that she never does anything for herself! I always have a hardtime with YA romance when it is marketed as "seductive" and "sensual" because at the end of the day, it's not nearly as seductive and as sensual as adult romances. I try to separate the two, but it's hard sometimes! I think I'm still going to give this one a go, but from my local library! Great review Alyssa! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RIGHT?! I didn't know what ahead of time. It doesn't change my rating but I feel a little better about that ridiculous ending.

      This was originally written as an adult novel (with MUCH sexier content)! Then it was taken down a lot, to be a "YA" novel. I still see it as too explicit for YA, but way too toned down to be adult.

      If you read this book, I hope you enjoy it, Genni! =)

      Delete
  24. Most of the reviews I've seen for this one have been 3 stars. That's so disappointing. I'm really looking forward to reading this one. :( That's good news about the sequel though and hopefully it will be better. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! It's not just me, phew. I hope you like it though, Erin!

      Delete
  25. Yuck :\ I'm so sorry you were so disappointed by this book sweetie. I totally understand why you had so many issues with it :\ I have seen many others saying the same things, lol. I think I will dislike it too :( But it is so gorgeous.. so I shall hope to enjoy it at least a little, haha :) And yeah.. already peeked at ending. So pissed off at it. The sequel thingy better fix it :) Lovely review Alyssa. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was sad and upsetting! I had fully expected to LOVE this book. I have a lot of expectations for the sequel. o_o Thank you, Carina!

      Delete

I love comments! I will always try and reply to your comments, as well as leave some comment love on your blog! :)

Also, this an award and tag free blog. While I am flattered that you would think of me, I really do not have the time to follow up. Thank you!