WINTERSONG (Wintersong #1) - by S. Jae-Jones

Published: 2017 - by Thomas Dunne Books
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance / retelling
Pages: 436.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Mature themes / two moderately graphic sex scenes /
Format: Paperback.
Source: Bought.
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.

I buddy-read this beautiful book with my good friend Kyra from Blog of a Bookaholic. Please do check out her review HERE!
Despite my pessimistic expectations, this book took me by surprise.

The writing is spellbinding. It's a classic-esque style, reminiscent of a melody, and breathtakingly luscious and poetic. Like a dark lullaby, it seduces your heart and mind until you're utterly lost in the pages and when you finally look up, it's like you have to remember how to breathe again. It's all-consuming. It connects to your soul -  your deepest, most vulnerable desires and fears.

The plot is slow, but it's never boring. It does tend to meander a bit and come across rather aimless at times, but because I was so spellbound by the writing and characters this didn't bother me. It's twisty, chilling, gorgeously eerie, and manipulative in the best way. It's a lush masterpiece I never wanted to leave - I actually appreciated the slowness.
I also adore how intensely thought-provoking the story is; it's a psychological journey more than a physical one, and Jae-Jones explores the rawness and vulnerability of our human nature, and how others perceive us, how we perceive ourselves, and how that in itself becomes a war within ourselves. It's a story about lies, desires, fears, and being terrified of revealing our true selves to the world. It's about the fear of knowing who you really are, it's about your true self being used against you - and how unleashing who you are can break as well as heal you. And how it's worth everything.
Those themes truly resonated with me. 

The setting is stunning. Everything is so atmospheric and tangible, and my senses were literally writhing during certain scenes. It's deliciously overwhelming, and there're a lot of painstakingly perceptive details.

“Love is the bridge that spans the world above and below, and keeps the wheel of life turning.”

“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.”

The characters are amazing. Liesl is such a unique, multifaceted, flawed heroine, and I felt her brokenness and sacrifices keenly.  I love how human she is, and I love how she grows throughout the story.
The Goblin King is excellent. At first I thought he'd just be another bad boy anti-hero, but his strong vulnerability and intense humanness soon sets him apart from other YA fantasy dark heroes. I love how he is with Liesl and how much he respects her. Which brings me to...
The romance is a thunderstorm. It's a glass shattering, a rose uncurling, a candle's shadow dancing on walls. It's hot, then cold, then gloriously tender. It's beautiful. Their friendship - their relationship - is so real and three-dimensional, and I could honestly feel their love. There's an incredible realness and genuineness to it. It literally stole my soul.

The secondary characters are good, but I don't particularly like any of them, either. I love Constanze, but she hardly features, and Josef and Kathe both really annoyed me. I did enjoy the sincerity of Liesl and Kathe's sisterly relationship, but that's it. Josef and Liesl's relationship, on the other hand, never moved me.

Wintersong is a haunting, mesmerising, feverishly romantic debut that courses with emotion and spills passion, love, loss and sacrifice. The prose is magical, the characters beautifully broken, and this slow and intensely psychological tale will forever be luring you back for a re-read. 

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