My rating in stars: 3,5 stars
My rating in words: I liked it
What it’s about:
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.
My thoughts (spoiler-free):
“Life,” he said softly, “is more than flesh. Your body is a candle, your soul the flame. The longer I burn the candle…” He did not finish.
“A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,” I said.“I would rather light the flame, knowing it will go out than sit forever in darkness.”
Before I start this review, I want to quickly note that I read this over the course of about four weeks, while in a reading slump. This possibly affected my enjoyment of the book and my rating. I tried to still give a fair review, but please keep this in mind. This rating may change when I re-read this at a later date.
What I liked:
The writing. It’s incredibly beautiful and poetic and felt like an actual fairy tale.
The setting. And I mean both settings. Both the world above, which is set in Germany or Austria in the time of Mozart, and the world below, which is where creatures such as Goblins, Lorelei and Changelings dwell. Both were just mesmerizing and a lot of fun to read about and discover.
The music references. I love music, but I’m also more of a casual listener and I know close to nothing about the technical stuff. So while a lot of the references went a little over my head, they also got me intrigued and wanting to learn, if only because the feelings and emotions that the characters got from playing music or listening to it felt super raw, real and relatable.
The sisterly and brotherly bonds. Both the bond between Liesl and her sister Käthe and the bond between Liesl and her brother Josef were probably my favorite part of the story. Their relationships are quite complex and felt real nevertheless. The love they share is so strong and powerful, and still there are quite some hidden grudges and emotions that come to play as well.
Josef. Liesls’ little brother Josef is the character I was most intrigued by. I still have so many questions about him and I hope the second book focuses on answering a few of those.
What I liked a little less:
Liesl. She’s definitely a unique protagonist and I can’t say I disliked her either, but… I didn’t get her. I struggled understanding her feelings and her motives.
The Goblin King. Same issue as Liesl. I didn’t dislike him. But I was expecting him to make me swoon and he didn’t. I just didn’t understand him.
The romance. I’m repeating myself here, but while I didn’t dislike the romance, I just didn’t feel it. I didn’t swoon. I didn’t ship obsessively. For something that was marketed as a big, sexy romance, it felt lacking. I’m a big romantic and could read romance scenes all day long, but here I was actually hoping for more action and plot, because the romance wasn’t cutting it for me. It was okay, but I wanted more than okay.
What I’m still torn about:
The ending. I honestly still haven’t been able to decide what I think about the ending. Do I love it? Do I hate it? I’m torn. I liked that it felt like a fitting ending to the story. I didn’t like that it left so many questions still unanswered. I know there will be a second book still coming, but while I want to read it to find out what happens next, I also feel like it should have just been one story with more answers.
Wintersong was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. And overall, it’s definitely a beautifully written, whimsical and romantic story that I’m happy I got to read. But after all I still decided to rate it 3,5 stars because I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would and I had some issues understanding the main characters. But as I said before, my issues may also have been reading slump related. So I’d definitely still suggest you to give this story a chance and discover for yourself.
“You are the monster I claim, mein Herr.”
“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.”
“What I wouldn’t give to be the object of someone’s desire, just for one moment. What I wouldn’t give to taste that fruit, that heady sweetness, of being wanted. I wanted. I wanted what Käthe took for granted. I wanted wantonness.”
“This was the immortality humans were meant to have: to be remembered by those who loved us long after our bodies had crumbled into dust.”
“‘I am the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground,’ he said, mismatched eyes glinting. ‘I am wildness and madness made flesh. You’re just a girl’—he smiled, and the tips of his teeth were sharp—’and I am the wolf in the woods.'”