Monday, March 13, 2017

Wintersong by: S. Jae-Jones


Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Beauty and the Beast.

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

* * *
I did not love this book. No, you read that right. Didn't love it. Liked it, a lot, which might also seem strange, because usually for me that means giving it at least 4 stars then, instead of 3. Here's why I just couldn't do that however:
My expectations were way too high.
 Is that necessarily the authors fault? I'm not sure. Is she the one who released to the world that this was basically a Labyrinth retelling? If so, then (sadly) probably. I might have read somewhere that this was merely inspired by the Labyrinth, in which case, all this added hype about how this is a retelling wasn't really official. If that's true, then I feel really bad for the author, because this book probably would have gotten much higher ratings from other people as well. Either way though, I was expected A LOT from this book. It's not fair, but that's the truth. I am a huge Labyrinth fan. Seriously, I went to the 30 year anniversary screening. I have all the Funko Pop figures. I've got at least two copies of the DVD (including the 10 year anniversary addition). I even have a digital copy of the original book because, hello, I HAD to read that, right?! Still, I understood that Wintersong was NOT going to be the Labyrinth. I get that, it makes sense, it is it's own thing. Cool. But I did still really want to feel some of that magic that I feel when I watch Labyrinth, and I wanted (like I'm sure most people) to see a few things happen that couldn't or didn't happen in the movie.

Like the sex. There, I said it. I spelled it out and I am not ashamed (unlike Elizabeth, but more on that later). I WANTED THEM TO HAVE SEX. Obviously, in the movie, that was not possible considering the age Sarah is and how old Bowie was at the time. Also, it was more or less, a kids movie so...Okay. This is a book though. Lots of things can happen in books that can't be portrayed on screen! That's why they're amazing! And did these two characters have sex? Yes! Was it everything I'd hoped for and more? No. That's a big, fat, no, in case you were wondering. Not only are the sex scenes vague and ambiguous, but they also fall a little flat. Now, I hate comparing authors, I really do, and I generally avoid doing so, but I feel like the only way to truly get my point across is by doing so here. I understand that the author didn't want this to turn into some heavy romance or erotica novel. I get that, and I didn't need any hardcore details or anything like that. BUT, if you're not going to give me smutty heat, at least give me passion and romance. Nora Roberts does that perfectly. Her sex scenes are clearly written (you always know that's what's going on) and they're written in a way that they're still hot, even though they lack heavy details about body parts and whatnot. After reading the first scene between Elizabeth and the Goblin King, I was left wondering, did they, or didn't they? And that's not something that should be happening. Half the reason I wanted to read this book was to finally see them together (and happy, of course, *cough*) and that doesn't necessarily have to have anything to do with the movie. If it'd read the blurb on its own, that's what I would have wanted to see. Them together, again, not necessarily in hardcore, overly descriptive details, but at least in a way where I believed it and I felt for them. Here's where we go into another reason for my rating.
The time placement of this book. 

This is actually a positive, and a reason I gave this book 3 stars instead of less than that. Was I disappointed that this wasn't taking place in a time period closer to our current one? Sure. But that was honestly just because, again, I expected this to be more like the movie. It wasn't, and that's perfectly okay. In fact, as someone who loves books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, I was more than okay with it. Once I readjusted my expectations, I was able to fall into the story, and all-in-all, this 400-some page book was actually a really fast read for me. The setting also makes it understandable that Elizabeth is embarrassed by her sexual appetite. Had this been set in the 21st century, her reactions would have been completely unacceptable, but it wasn't. This was written in a time when women were still, for the most part, taught that they needed to please men in the bedroom, not the other way around. Add to the fact she's never been touched by anyone before, or even given a modicum of attention from the opposite sex, and her reactions make complete sense. Did they get a bit redundant and annoying as the book progressed? You bet they did. But they started out understandable, so I won't judge it because of that. HIS reaction, however, was annoying through and through. You're the one who tricked her down here, dude. Grow a pair and sleep with her already. Geez. Yes, that means she'll "burn faster" or whatever, but what did you think was going to happen when you orchestrated this whole thing? Hmm? Exactly. The book also got super religious, which again, due to the time setting, understandable, but it seemed to really pack it all in at the end there.
Parts of the story didn't really have an end...

Like all that info dump about her brother? I mean, sure, it was dumped throughout the entire book, so not really an info dump in the general meaning of the word, but you get what I'm saying. We kept getting tidbits of info, but with no real purpose or finish. Like, he got burned as a kid. I thought that was the moment she kept referring to later, and even before, about bringing him back. But nope. Maybe it was just me who found that confusing but it was. And some things seemed like they were perfect set ups for further plot, like mentioning that her music being listened to above could keep her alive indefinitely. Well....then why didn't they just publish it and have her be able to live forever HAPPY with the Goblin King? Makes sense to me. Especially when we find out she could easily leave a message for her sister in the Grove telling her to do so. It was really frustrating to constantly be given these little crumbs, only to then have them either snatched back or swept under the rug.
This didn't feel like Labyrinth AT ALL.

She tried, she really did, even going so far as making the Goblin King a spitting image of Jareth, and writing a scene with the talking hands (I'm also pretty sure that goblin in the market at the beginning is meant to be Hoggle, but who knows). Still, for me, it missed the mark. Again, if I hadn't EXPECTED this to be like Labyrinth, this never would have bothered me. I would have looked at those other similarities, laughed happily, and moved on to enjoy the book for what it was. BUT because I'd had it basically pounded into my brain that this WAS either a retelling or inspired by Labyrinth, I couldn't do that. The descriptions of the world sometimes were engaging, but for the most part, fell flat. The caverns were confusing, to me just as much as they were to Elizabeth, and maybe they were meant to be, but I found it really difficult to picture them. When the goblin city was described, I couldn't shake the image of the one from the movie from my head, and this consistently jarred me from the book because I'm pretty sure that's not what she wrote it as. I say pretty sure, because honestly, I don't even know. That was also confusing and hard to follow. The relationship between them started out feeling a lot like the one between Sarah and Jareth, but it slowly fizzled and became awkward and stilted. All those scenes where the two of them are just sitting around the retiring room felt forced and uncomfortable. I didn't feel a spark between them, and that made me care less and less. I love old fairytales and folklore, so the fact that this had a goblin king in it at all would have been grounds enough for me to read it. I love imaginings of the old tales, and this was certainly that. I just really wish I hadn't gone into it wanting Labyrinth, because I would have liked this so much more. I would had still taken issue with a few things, like the sex and his reactions after they're married, but I wouldn't have disliked other parts so much.
And that ending.

No. No. No. NO. I mean, I get it. I do. It's about self discovery, and finding yourself, and gaining the confidance to believe in yourself, yada, yada, yada. I did say I love books like Jane Eyre, and in a time period where women weren't considered as intelligent or strong as men, yes, obviously Elizabeth's self discovery is very important. That's still a message that has merit today. But still. The ending? No. Really, I felt like a read the entire book FOR NO REASON. Literally, no reason. Great, she's an amazing composure. Pretty much already knew that, thanks. And I already wrote earlier how this could have gone down, and how it was almost forshadowed that that was the way it was going so...Disappointment, thy name is Chani. Seriously, guys. I don't think I've ever looked forward for a book more, and this...I'm sad. I finished it last night and sat there staring at nothing for a good twenty minutes. I was originally going to give this 5 stars, and then 4, and then THAT ENDING had me flip-flopping between 2-3. The only reason I settled on the latter was because it was a quick read for me. It flowed quickly so I at least was able to engage enough to read it and not have to put it down every five minutes.

So, there you have it. To quickly recap, I gave this 3 stars because I hated their lack of chemistry later on in the book; I hated the way he acted to her once they were "together"; I hated the vague details and the subplots that went nowhere, and I absolutely, positively, HATED, that ending. But, I understood other things, like her guilt and whatnot, because of the time period this was placed in, and because of that I was able to at least enjoy, for the most part, the book as a whole. I feel like, despite the fact the beginning didn't have enough of the Goblin King, he was portrayed a lot better in it. Once we got her sister out, everything went downhill from there, including his personality.

Basically, if you've never watched Labyrinth, and like classic literature like Jane Eyre, then I'd recommend this. If you don't like classics, and expect this to be a Labyrinth inspired/retelling...walk away. Or at least read half of it, stop, and create your own ending. That works too.

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