Wintersong by S Jae-Jones


3 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this work.

This novel is a European style fairy tale. Elizabeth’s family are impoverished inn-keepers. Her parents were once famous performers, but they have fallen on hard times. All of their hopes lie on the shoulders of their son who is a virtuoso on the violin. Elizabeth and her sister are put on the sideline as all of their parents’ energies are directed towards their son. Elizabeth pour herself into her musical composition while Cathe becomes a die-hard flirt. Cathe soon attracts the eye of the Goblin King, a magical figure who needs a human bride. Elizabeth trades herself for her sister’s freedom, but being the Goblin Queen drains the life out of humans, so Elizabeth has only a limited time to escape before the role completely consumes her.

I took this to be a very teen novel from the description, but there are enough explicit sex scenes that I would more hand it to 20-somethings. Teen novels usually cut to black or use more euphemisms. Some older teens might like this, but maybe don’t give this to grade 6 and 7 kids unless you know their tastes.

Woven throughout this novel are many musical references. Elizabeth’s music is the only thing that keeps her sane as she tries to hold her family together and then navigate the underground Goblin Kingdom. The prose reflects this preoccupation with the art, with the writing style being very artistic.

I enjoyed the first part of the story, with Elizabeth trying to rescue her sister and keep her family together, but as soon as she marries the Goblin King, most of the story is just their relationship. Elizabeth is trying to discover the King’s personality but he seems to have 3 or 4 of them. She is kind of attracted to him, kind of repulsed, and most of the story turns into a will-she won’t she style dilemma, which I found pretty dull.

Despite it being fairly explicit, I just did not buy the romance angle, and that was a large part of the book. Elizabeth had a pre-existing relationship with the Goblin King as a child, forgot that he really existed, and now is head over heels in love with him. He is demanding complete surrender of every part of her before he is willing to sleep with her (a move I found super creepy and Elizabeth takes to mean she has to give him her music). Parts of their relationship seem abusive and this character that I had come to admire just started seeming rather stupid. Trade your life for your sister’s if you must, but throwing yourself at the guy who seduced her with magic is maybe not the best move.


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