SHADOWSONG (Wintersong #2) - by S. Jae-Jones

Published: 2018 - Wednesday Books.
Genres: Young adult / romance / fantasy /
Pages: 384.
Triggers/Content Advisory: The author herself includes a content warning, for which I respect her so much. There are strong themes of substance addiction and self-harm, and this book is a lot darker than the first.
Format: eARC.
Source: Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

I adored the first book in this duology, Wintersong. It ended on such a cruel but perfect note, and I immediately requested the sequel to review. I was confident that it would be just as good, if not better, than the first book.

Jae-Jones' writing is stunning. It is purple, but it's effective and it means something. It's...purple with a purpose, I guess. And considering I'm not generally a fan of purple prose, I'm surprised and delighted that Jae-Jones' style won me over. I just love her graphic choice of language.
Shadowsong is just as atmospheric as its predecessor, but in a different way. The story is darker, heavier, and it takes place in some breathtaking new settings. We get to see Liesl and her family adjusting in the wake of their experiences with the Goblin King, and Jae-Jones looks at their story from a different angle. It's enlightening and it's fresh.

The plot is slow, but it's tight. I love how the story focuses inward, focuses on the characters' internal struggles more than their external ones. There's little to no romance, and instead it's a story about Liesl's relationship with her brother and how they both - as broken people - are struggling to find themselves, heal themselves, and come to terms with who they are. It's heartbreaking, but it's beautiful and thought-provoking. There's a lot more backstory and history relating to the Goblin King's past, as well, which is needed.
I also love the strong themes of identity; how the characters face theirs, and all Jae-Jones says about the subject. I adore how the ending zooms in on exactly that, to the point of Liesl saying who she is - what makes her "Elisabeth, entire". It's a maelstrom of everything come before it; it's a catastrophe of heartbreak, of love, of sacrifice, and of identity. It is numbing, but it's perfect.

“Perhaps I loved the monstrous because I was a monster. Josef, the Goblin King, and me. We were grotesques in the world above, too different, too odd, too talented, too much. We were all too much.”

“For all that I could not bear my own silence, I wanted the voices of the world around me to disappear. Solitude was different from loneliness, and it was solitude I was seeking.”

We see so much more of these gorgeous characters in the sequel. We see more of Kathe and Fran├žois, and there are two new characters as well: the Count and Countess. Everyone is vivid and three-dimensional, and the recurring characters are more fully realised. Liesl and Josef are each struggling with demons, and I love love love the development they each get. Liesl is one of my favourite YA heroines ever.
I also adore the dynamic sibling relationships between Liesl, Kathe, and Josef. They're so well written, so human, and Jae-Jones is not afraid to dig deep.

Shadowsong is a soul-stirring piece of psychological poetry taut with raw emotion. I personally prefer the first book because it's more romantic and gripping, but this sequel is still incredible. 

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