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.
Sobbing and broken hearts aside this book is truly spectacular and I devoured it in a short amount of time. Wintersong is one of those special books that leaves you out of breath, tingling, and grasping at the last page wishing that there were just 100 more.
I fell in love with Der Erlkonig, our King of the Underground, our Phantom, immediately. Charming, coy, austere. I quite frankly believe it's impossible for anyone to not fall for him, which is most likely why he has had so many wives. Spun, in my opinion, from Labyrinth, Phantom of the Opera, and Beauty and the Beast, he is both exquisite and tormented. Immortal and yet broken. Der Erlkonig is both an anti-hero and a character you sympathise with all the while.
'You are the monster I claim'
Yet he has - in all his lifetime and for all his many brides - never met anyone like Elizabeth. A friendship from childhood - shrouded yet in the secrecy of misunderstanding, fantasy and forgetfulness -, torn apart by the call of adulthood, their romance is one I shall scarcely forget. Dark, sexy, yet tender, their love blossoms over the course of 508 pages. It is a tale as old as time. A song to remember.
In all honesty, their love is the story. I was surprised by this myself, expecting more a battle for freedom - a clash of steel and magic - that resulted in blooming, passionate love. I was happily mistaken. Though tricks and trials do take stage in the first third of the book- cunning and mischief abound -, the remaining 300 or so pages are more a tale of love and loss. Jae-Jones spins an elegant tale of being - what makes us who we are - and of sacrifice. A tale which takes your heart wholly, loves it - entire - but eventually leaves it bleeding; echoing with the emptiness of loss.
Wintersong is not a happy tale, I will warn, but nor is it inherently a sad one. It is a tale of truth, of life, and of the sacrifices we all have - and may one day - face. It is a tale, all-told, about being human.
As always, thanks for reading, and do let me know your thoughts in the comments below or @ me on Twitter!