Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is, at best, unique. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure the degree to which that is fair of me to say since I’ve not personally read many novels with Goblin-esque royalty. Even so, if there truly are very few of them out there then I can at least credit Jae-Jones’ novel to this. Good or bad, I spent 90% of my time reading this novel comparing it to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and I’m sure a number of readers did as well. The other 10% could be compared, reasonably, to George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin. And where Henson’s Sarah and Jareth were deeply compelling, strong, and fascinating, I found S. Jae-Jones’ Elizabeth and Goblin King lacking in many ways. The Goblin King almost as though he were a mix of Jareth and the goblin prince in MacDonald’s story.
Ironically, what this comes down to is that the second half of the book completely tore down what brilliance there had been in the first half. Where we find darkness and cruel mystery in the Goblin King, it eventually feels stripped away in this person within the idea of an austere boy–the repetitiveness of this phrase made me nearly gag–and Elizabeth loses every ounce of strength she had in the beginning.
And, in truth, this isn’t to say that I found it hugely problematic as I still enjoyed reading the ending and found myself rather impressed with the unique manner in which Jae-Jones told their story, there was a sort of disappointment in feeling as though I had somehow lost the characters we’d begun with.
The romance itself was something I struggled with as it didn’t feel entirely real and I repeatedly found myself wondering exactly how and when Lisel could have possibly grown to love him because Jae-Jones never seemed to give us that moment. Her memories of her childhood friend were all but lost to her, vague and hard to recall which ultimately left that portion of their connection lacking and disappointing.
And frankly I could have done without the sex entirely. It left a rather nasty taste in my mouth every single time, especially the first. -cringe-
My largest complaint, I think, comes in the pacing of the novel. To put it simply, the whole thing felt as though it were to drag on and on and on and on for far too long. I wasn’t connected enough with the characters and the deep importance of the music to Lisel’s character that I ever managed to get over how boring it felt for everything to be taking so long.
I’m not sure what I was looking for in Wintersong, but the story we got certainly didn’t fit the expectations. It felt like two novels patched hastily into one, rushing the beginning and saving of Lisel’s sister and later giving an agonizingly slow portrayal of a romance between what I will say genuinely felt like three different people (or beings, maybe?).
I didn’t like the goblin girls. I found the changing rather fascinating. And I felt as though we were somehow deprived of a much better adventure than the one we were given. It wasn’t a good enough Labyrinth, but then…I don’t know if it was meant to be a Labyrinth at all?
It was hard to rate this one; perhaps it simply wasn’t my cup of tea.