*This review does contain spoilers. Please do not read it if you haven’t already read Wintersong or its sequel, Shadowsong. This is also an ARC review—and material in the finished copy is subject to change.
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones was one of my top three favorite books last year. I was highly anticipating the sequel because of the way in which the first book left us hanging, wondering if Liesl and her Goblin King would ever reunite. In Jones’ lush, austere world of eighteenth-century Bavaria, you find yourself emerged in a story that feels more imbued in folklore than the average genre of fiction. And I LOVE that. The whole time I read Shadowsong I felt the same ambiance as I did in the first novel, even though the first one mostly takes place under the earth and this one traverses between Vienna and our protagonist’s village.
Jones has such a beautiful writing style that brings forth emotions of great heartache and longing for something you might have never experienced, but have heard stories enough that you could almost imagine such an agony. My love for the prose aside, the pace of this story does start out a bit slow.
Unfortunately, I felt that the story never really picked up until the halfway mark or even slightly after that. Perhaps this is because I was anticipating interactions between Liesl and the Goblin King, not Liesl and her siblings. While I enjoyed reading more about Käthe and Josef, I felt like they took up the story and any traces of the main characters from book one were replaced by their tales. This wouldn’t be so bad! If the last book didn’t end with such a cliffhanger about said two characters.
There was definitely a sense of peace and finality at the end of the book, but I was still left longing for more romance between Liesl and Der Erlkönig. I was hoping for a lot more interaction between them. The last moments they share on page made me tear up, but I still wish there were more scenes between the two in this sequel. After all, this is promoted as a YA Romance and I felt the romance aspect severely lacking because there was little to no interaction between the main pairing—just a lot of pining and longing (which is only well-used subtly and in the beginning of a story).
Der Erlkönig didn’t even come across as the same character we fell in love with in Wintersong. He was basically absent most of the book, and although there is a plot-related reasoning for this bizarre behavior, it wasn’t developed enough to make sense until the final pages where the reader is left feeling a bit cheated.
I did, however, particularly enjoy the mention of the Wild Hunt. That has always been a favorite tale of mine, and to have the Goblin King be its head leader me see him as a more antagonistic character, even if he had little control over the matter. It made the story darker than I had thought it could be—which was great.
“Looming in the shadows was a figure, skin night-black and eyes moon pale. Fingers broken and gnarled like desiccated vines curled around the neck of a violin, the resin cracked and pulled with age. A crown of horns grew from a nest of cobwebs and thistledown, but the face that stared back at me was human. Familiar.”
Ultimately this book just didn’t sit well with me. The first novel is fantastic, but I feel as though this one was similar to when you’re trying to finish an essay and give up on the conclusion so you just reiterate the first few sentences. I’m really upset by this, but that’s truly how I feel.
My Rating: 3/5