Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Published by: Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin’s Griffin on February 7, 2017
Review Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy
Plot: Nineteenth century Germany meets the movie Labyrinth.
When I read the synopsis for this title and saw that it was inspired by Labyrinth (a.k.a. my favorite movie ever), I was beyond excited. I needed this book yesterday.
The story revolves around Liesl, a girl who is a) full of musical talent, b) has a major inferiority complex, and c) is the childhood friend / forgotten betrothed of Der Erlkönig (the Goblin King). When Liesl’s sister, Käthe, is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl goes to great lengths to get her back. Here’s the pros and cons to keep things balanced:
- Jae-Jones has talent. Even though Jae-Jones is a debut author, she has a staggering amount of skill. The structure and prose found within Wintersong far surpasses what many veteran authors produce. While this might be her first book, it definitely won’t be her last.
- It’s a labor of love. One of the reasons I snapped up an ARC of Wintersong was because of its connection to Labyrinth. It is, hands down, my favorite movie ever. Jae-Jones obviously fangirls for it as hard as I do, and it’s easy to see that she put so much time and care into this retelling.
- Lack of originality. Let me start out by saying that I get the fact that “retellings” pull significantly from the primary tale. However, there is a significant difference between drawing inspiration and regurgitation. As much as I tried, I could not overlook that fact that the first half of the book was almost entirely the movie plot of Sure, Wintersong takes place in a different time and the names are changed, but everything else is incredibly similar to the film. The second half of the book’s plot surpasses what transpired in the movie, so that content is original, but it’s also where the narrative and focus declines. Once Liesl ends up with the Goblin King her primary focus shifts to either fleeing the Underground or getting laid. That’s it, and it’s pretty disappointing.
- It doesn’t know what it wants to be. This book is marketed as Young Adult, but truthfully it is more New Adult. Liesl is nineteen, which is older that the target age for what most consider YA, and she doesn’t sound or feel like a teen which really works against the book. Wintersong is also marketed as Fantasy, which it is, but it reads more like adult erotic fantasy that’s had the majority of its spicy bits edited out. The overall effect made me feel like the book needs to pick a primary audience and stick with it. Either it’s intended for young adults, and therefore needs a stronger plot line that revolves less around hooking up with the king, or it needs to go full-on erotica and turn the spice up to ten. I’m open to either, really.
- I did not like Liesl. She came across as whiny and extremely insecure. It rubbed me the wrong way that she seemed to believe that her self-image should be tied to her physical appearance and the Goblin King’s desire for her. Granted, the Goblin King states that he doesn’t love her because of her looks, but that’s not the point. The point is she doesn’t like herself, and never really learns through self-exploration.
- Holy repetition, Batman. Be it for good or bad, all writers have tropes. Most are forgivable, but there is one exception: when a writer overuses / repetitiously uses descriptors. Jae-Jones’ writing has a tendency to use adjectives in sets of three. Constantly. She also repeats herself when she refers to the Goblin King having “soft eyes” or as “austere”. A few times, I can handle, but when it is on almost every page… I can’t. It works against Jae-Jones’ talent as a writer. I wanted to hug her and say “Girl, you don’t have to work so hard. One adjective will do.” I will say that I am reviewing from an uncorrected advance copy, so some of that might be edited out before the final print hits the shelves. If so, it would easily move this book up on the hoot scale. For now, all I see is this:
Final Hoot: I appreciate and recognize Jae-Jones’ ability, especially as a debut novelist, but sadly this one didn’t do it for me. I will happily read her next book though.
Rating: 2 out of 5 hoots
Who Should Snag It: Those looking for a spicy New Adult fantasy might want to give this one a try.
*I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*