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My Rating: 5/5
“She was never a hothouse flower. She is a sturdy oak tree. If her leaves have fallen, then she will bloom again come spring. She was not ready to die when she gave her life to me. But she did anyway, because she loved, and loved deeply.”
I went into this book with high expectations….and those expectations we’re blown away entirely with the magnitude of this story. It was phenomenal. This book truly resonated with me. It’s rustic, atmospheric quality compared with it’s whimsical plot and even more estranged characters made for an epic fantasy like none other I’ve read in a long time. Fans of Uprooted by Naomi Novik will appreciate the eerie personification that nature plays in this tale. What felt like a folkloric retelling but was actually an original, genuine piece of literature, Wintersong follows a young girl as she rediscovers her childhood self through love, responsibility, and sacrifice… all while doing so beneath silt and soil of the Earth.
Nineteen-year-old Innkeeper’s daughter Liesl has grown up in a sleepy village on the boarders between woodlands and Bavaria. While her younger sister is being groomed for marriage, and her brother preparing for an upcoming apprenticeship with a renowned composer, Elisabeth is constantly fussing over the wellbeing and success of her siblings. The only time she allots for herself is to revel in her passion— composing music of her own dark, melancholy nature. As a child, Liesl would roam deep into the Goblin Grove and play for the Goblin King—luring him out from beneath the earth to sing and dance and revel with her. But as time passes, Liesl’s fiery nature fades into the recesses of her soul. She focuses on everyone else around her but herself. It isn’t until her sister, Käthe, is stolen by the Goblin King to be his bride that our protagonist is drawn from her grey stupor and thrown back into the world of spellbinding fantasy. But Elisabeth has known all this time that no fantasy comes without a price, and her childhood adventures with Der Elkönig, The Goblin King, won’t compare to the game she is about to partake in. Elusive, powerful, and ferocious, Wintersong is a book that forces you to read it in two sittings or less.
Jones’s writing style reminds me of early British literature, not because it was hard to follow, but because of how smoothly it all flowed— as if being read like a song rather than a novel. Very fitting, indeed, for a book with a large element of music! Taking place in nineteenth century Bavaria, a lot of the terminology was derived from Germanic languages, which I thought made the setting seem more potent. Don’t worry though, it’s not overused and I found the occasional non-English quotes to be easily understood even though I can only speak English (but am learning a few other languages at the moment. *Props to my bilingual friends! You’re all incredibly talented). Most often the terms Der Elkönig (The Goblin King) and Mein Herr (My King) are used, because we never truly find out the main male protagonist/antagonist’s name until quite late into the story (if at all).
One of the most endearing things about this tale is how Jones offers the heroine’s character development in light of her younger self. She portrays not a protagonist who was once a meek, quant little thing with barely a kindle to a bonfire— rather, Elisabeth was always a bonfire of her own making, and her development resided in remembering how to live carefree and brave like she was as a child; playing her violin for the Goblin King deep in the woods. Jones created a main character who goes through two types of character development: the one where the heroine experiences new things that morph her journey for the better, and the second where the heroine revisits old strengths and embraces what was always within her, molding it into armor. That being said, I found Elisabeth to be a very intriguing and insightful narrator. I was definitely a fan of reading this story through her perspective. (But personally, I’d die to read some of these scenes via Der Elkönig’s perspective!)
There are many aspects that I’m still curious about, but of course we will most likely find those answers in the sequel! For starters, although most of this novel was spent Underground, back in the mortal realm Josef, Elisabeth’s younger brother, is transforming into a famous musician…with a very endearing young man to help compose alongside him. Käthe, their sister, is a peculiar character that I’m still curious about and hope to read more of, because she was vital to our heroine’s adventure so I desire to see her sister’s own journeys in the sequel. And of course, there’s the huge spoiler that shall not be revealed that will invoke plenty of stress and tears once you’ve read the tale to it’s bitter end. I would very much like to see the answers to THAT plot twist. (Side note: painful ending + long wait = sobbing, theorizing, and fanfiction!)
Wintersong will be a book that I always remember. It’s unique in it’s design, and highly imaginative. The way the story made me feel while reading it is an emotion indescribable, but a powerful one nonetheless. I can only hope that at least one other person experiences this tale the way I did—because now I’m craving a walk into the woods whereupon I’ll sadly attempt to play an instrument to lure out my own King of the Goblins. So do yourself a favor and read this book. I will forever recommend it.
And because I enjoyed this tale so wonderfully, here’s a little soundtrack I’ve composed that made reading it slightly more magical!
no.1 Winter Breath by Adrian Von Ziegler
no.2 Vow by Julianna Barwick
no.3 A Winters Tale by Jeremy Soule
no.4 Winter Rain by Hanan Gobran
no.5 Winter (full) by Antonio Vivaldi
no.6 Arrival of the Birds by The Cinematic Orchestra
no.7 Saturn by Sleeping at Last
no.8 Love by Daughter
no.9 Willow Tree March by The Paper Kites