Author: S. J. Jones
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Wintersong was deeply inspired by classical music, especially the works of Mozart. Liesl’s ambition and passion as a composer was a significant catalyst for many of the novel’s events. Therefore, I wanted to review Wintersong using musical terminology, and I hope I do it justice – especially because my musical knowledge is non-existent (thank you for my crash course, Google!).
an introductory piece of music.
Like all of the best stories, Wintersong contains breathtaking beauty, but also holds danger and darkness within its intoxicating pages. S. J. Jones is a conductor of words, she weaves her love of gothic fairy tales, Mozart, and Labyrinth to form Liesl’s sensual tale of love, loss, and sacrifice.
a composition characterised by the repetition of a principal theme/subject in simultaneously sounding melodic line.
At the heart of Wintersong is a tale about Liesl’s identity and self-discovery. The prologue begins with a long-forgotten play date between a young Liesl and the Goblin King. where games were wagered and promises were made. Memories of these games were soon hidden by the tolls of life and Liesl’s burgeoning adulthood, until they’re reignited by an encounter at the Goblin Market.
The romance in this book demands more than a simple recovery of Liesl’s lost memory. Her relationship with der Erlkönig, and with herself, is far too complicated for that. Liesl is long changed from that young girl frolicking in the winter forest. She is forever changed by the weight of her family’s expectations, by a society that denies her musical talents, and by her convoluted relationship with both her siblings. Liesl also harbours deep insecurities, having grown up labelled as the plain, untalented sibling.
The Goblin King tells Liesl that he wants ‘You, entire.’ The phrase is a refrain we hear time and again throughout the novel. Certainly romantic, yet not achievable until Liesl can claim her identity. I love the book’s deep introspection and insights into Liesl’s psyche, where we got to see her flaws as clearly as her strengths. Whether she was sequestered in the Underground, or being consumed by her own music, Liesl always remained resilient and true to herself.
Wintersong was not only a storybook romance between a girl and the Goblin King, it was more importantly a story of a woman who learned to love herself.
a musical composition typically consisting of two to four movements, each in a related key but with unique musical character.
It should come at no surprise that the very structure of Wintersong works like a complete musical composition. In place of soaring melodies, we have beautifully written words that can conjure both the wintry landscape of Germany, to the dark temptations of the Goblin realm. The imageries are rich and visceral, as intoxicating as the Goblin wine described in the tale.
The book is split into numerous parts, resembling the movements of a sonata. It’s a story we’ve heard before, of unwanted girls and a monster who loves them. Even the characters within Wintersong are jaded, with many predicting an unpleasant end for Liesl and her Goblin King with certainty. Wintersong makes the most out of that preconception, and it turns out to be delightfully deceptive. From its unconventional ending, to the boldly carnal interactions between Liesl and der Erlkönig, Wintersong will feel unfamiliar from your average fairy tale.
While I loved the imagery and themes within Wintersong, I did feel that some movements in the story suffered pacing-wise. I thought that the first and final parts of the book were memorable, but the book lost some of its momentum in the intermediate sections. I wish we got to explore more of Liesl’s complex relationship with her family, especially her siblings – so I could further sympathise with the difficult choices she had to make during her journey. Josef and Francois’s relationship was a nice breath of fresh air since retellings are often lacking in LGBTQ content, but I wish we got to see more of them.
a composition evocative of the night.
Wintersong is a novel that will make you want to savour those mysterious winter nights. Like moonlit nights, the mood of the book is foreboding, yet also full of promise. Through the writing, you could almost smell the wildness of the woods and the earthy Underground. You could envision the sparkling little diamonds on Liesl’s outfit, yet also vividly see her ink-stained hands and eyes consumed by music.
Most of all, you can witness the slow seduction between Liesl and the Goblin King. He draws her in with blackberry flavoured wines and wolfish glances. She challenges him with a heart full of fire and a soul full of music. While I thought their relationship developed far too quickly, I can’t deny the chemistry and the magnetic draw between the two characters. Despite enjoying their scenes together, I wish we got to know der Erlkonig a little more – but I understand that the circumstances in the novel prevented this.
Nonetheless, considering that this is her debut, I simply can’t wait to see what S. J. Jones has in store for the future.
Have you read any other tales inspired by music? What did you think of Wintersong? Also, I have to confess that I have never seen Labyrinth! Something I must rectify this weekend now that I’ve read Wintersong.