Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

24763621 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 and spirit and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesel 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. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Dark, romantic, and powerful, Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

1 star

I am so frustrated – I just can’t with this book. I am so disappointed, I don’t know if I even want to continue with the sequel Shadowsong. The sad thing is never have I rated a book so low and never have I come so close to DNFing a book. At 78% I was just done with the complete and utter lack of plot as well as the bland, whiny AF characters. If I wasn’t so dang close to the end and, if I hadn’t already dedicated so much of my time to trudging through Wintersong I probably would have cut my loses and DNFed.

Prepare for some angry ranting and probably a good dose of unpopular bookish opinions because I’ve got a lot to say about this one.

But first – a quick disclaimer. Please remember that this is just my opinion and it’s by no means the right one. I’ve tried to be objective, these are just my thoughts and ramblings but it is totally okay if you loved Wintersong. Sadly it just wasn’t my cup of tea but that’s okay.

So let’s get into the review.

Okay, let me just start off by saying right off the bat that I am a Labyrinth fan. There is something deeply perplexing yet somehow, really freaking sexy about the idea of the romantic rebel.

Labyrinth: the devil in love by lily-fox on DeviantArt

Jareth the goblin king, Erik the phantom of the opera – I am seriously guilty of falling for the anti-hero. The anti-hero is a complex, multi layered character. The anti-hero does terrible things; they manipulate, have a lack of values and morality but despite their flaws they are still human. We fall for the anti-hero because within them, sometimes deep within them, is a redeeming vulnerable side. In Jareth and Erik’s case, both characters are desperately lonely but romantics and longing to be loved. In the 80’s cult classic film Labyrinth Jareth is the ultimately the representation of Sarah’s fantasies and her sexual awakening. He symbolizes lust as well as danger – I mean how can you deny him with his whole “fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave” speech??? Not to mention those tights! I mean 80’s hair and goblin king makeup aside, Jareth is pretty darn sexy even with all the menace.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic here.

Basically, Labyrinth is a female empowered, coming-of-age adventure through the Goblin King’s world as our protagonist Sarah (who’s standing on the verge of adulthood) tries to save her brother from Jareth’s clutches.

Being a Labyrinth fan I was super excited for Wintersong – this was the book I’d been waiting for! But, at the same time, I was more than a little skeptical. I needed a retelling that would do this classic (which let me tell you is basically required viewing), it’s themes and David Bowie’s iconic character justice. I needed a adventure with quirky side kicks which brings me to my first disappointment. To say that Wintersong is a Labyrinth retelling is the understatement of the century and it really shouldn’t be marketed as such. Despite what S. Jae-Jones claims Wintersong is only loosely inspired by the character of the Goblin King but that is about as far as the Labyrinth vibes go. This is not the movie (talk about a missed opportunity!) so I’d advise forgetting everything you know and love about Jim Henson’s film.

Wintersong is not really the story of Labyrinth but instead the story of Lisel as she whines and complains about her lack of talent/beauty and falls in love with the Goblin King. That is pretty much it guys – there isn’t even really a cool AF labyrinth. Instead we have the underground which was still a maze but nowhere near as interesting. Drifting from the conventional story line of Labyrinth wouldn’t have worried me if it was done right but the thing is though, Wintersong, in my opinion, doesn’t hold up as its own story either. It almost reads like pretentious Jareth/Sarah fan-fiction or, more accurately “50 Shades of Labyrinth” [That is a direct quote from S. Jae-Jones herself. No Joke.]. And not in a good way because even the romance falls flat.

What frustrated me the most though was the fact that Wintersong actually has a promising premise and such a solid opening. That prologue and first chapter had me hooked with its almost lyrical prose and beautiful fairy tale/ Hansel and Gretet vibe weaved into each sentence. I was actually enjoying myself for a while until Lisel found her way into the Underground and the non-plot was set in motion. Wintersong could have almost been two books (thank the lord it wasn’t!). The first half is mainly exploring Lisel and her sister’s relationship as she tries to rescue her from the goblin king. The second half is where everything slows down and the writing style becomes more and more pretentious. The book just tries too dang hard and the plot fades into the background as the romance/fallout of the first half comes into play. I literally had to bargain with myself just to push through. Where was the sense of adventure? Where was the danger? The action? The overall sense of dread as Lisel made her way through the underground?

Now I should probably talk about the characters…

*Sighs*

I don’t even know where to begin. If you disliked Bella Swan then Lisel will be the utter death of you. Where Labyrinth’s Sarah was selfish but brave and loyal Lisel the “ugly” sister was bland, dull, insecure and annoying AF as she whined and whined about her appearance. Now I have nothing against plain but clever protagonists. BUT, if you give me a said protagonist who complains about it every freaking page I will be out for blood. I understood Lisel’s issues with being the middle child in a time where women weren’t valued but I could not stand her. She did nothing to help herself until the Goblin King came along (don’t even get me started on what a disappointment his character development was). Seriously, this girl needs a freaking lesson in self-love because her inner monologue was near painful to read through. I need strong willed, complex protagonists who inspire. I wanted a grown up, bad ass (with her faults of course – no one’s perfect) who was prepared to take on the goblin king and not just sit about and pine over him. Seriously – not a drip of female empowerment to be found here.

Then there’s the goblin king… I felt that S. Jae-Jones’s goblin king attempted to be the mischievous, alluring, sexy anti-hero utterly dripping with menace that Labyrinth’s Jareth was but fell flat. Jae-Jones herself expressed her love for David Bowie and said that her character was very much based off of his characterization of Jareth yet I didn’t see the similarity. Wintersong’s goblin king was under-developed and unimpressed, completely missing the mark. Now before the masses come after me with pitch forks and whatnot please, please don’t think I’m just hating on this book because I loved the movie and Wintersong didn’t live up to my expectations. I promise I’ve sat on this review for days while I tried to be as unbiased and as objective as possible. The thing is though, this character was based off David Bowie and I feel that if you are going to play with another artist’s character you really must do it justice. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Jae-Jones did not. Not at all.

And the romance! Urgh – too cringe-worthy. I can’t even talk about the romantic aspect of Wintersong coherently. Basically like I said previously, it was like really, really bad fanfiction and I did not enjoy it. I love steamy scenes as much as the next girl but these scenes were just… for lack of a better term, the definition of cringe. Then there is the fact that S Jae-Jones completely missed the underlying theme of Labyrinth. Labyrinth’s main theme is sexual awakening and entering adulthood. It’s about learning to accept responsibility and leave behind selfish indulgences. In Labyrinth, despite there being no actual explicit content there is a strong sexual subtext which gives every scene between Jareth and Sarah amazing tension. I mean seriously, the sexual tension between the two is almost pliable! I feel Wintersong was trying to re-create that same tension but failed miserably, creating instead a romance with both no chemistry and consent issues, leaving me with literally nothing but 50 Shades of Labyrinth. Put it this way – I shipped Sarah and Jareth way,  way, way harder than I shipped Lisel and the goblin king. I would go down with that ship.

As the saying goes if it ain’t broke… basically I don’t think the world really needed a 50 Shades of Labyrinth. Seriously – just watch the dang movie.

So, despite me desperately wanting to enjoy Wintersong it just really, really wasn’t the book for me leaving me with churning disappointment and a mess of feels. The tricky thing with retellings is that it can be soul crushing when a book doesn’t do its inspiration justice or you feel like with a bit of tweaking it could be better. If you do decide to read Wintersong I really do hope you have more fun than I did. Despite what S. Jae-Jones says on her blog about Wintersong being a Labyrinth retelling best to go into this one knowing it focuses on romance and not an adventure through the underground as the synopsis eludes to. Probably half the issue here was the way Wintersong was marketed. Forget Labyrinth – Wintersong is its own story, more Caraval meets Hades/Persephone with very little plot. I feel as though I owe it to my poor bank account to read Shadowsong but I think I need to distance myself from Wintersong first and come back to it when I’m ready.

So to summarize [in case they weren’t clear ;)] my ramblings – if you crave adventure, sizzling chemistry and lovable side kicks just watch the movie.

*Side note: that cover though! I may not have enjoyed  the story but at least Wintersong looks absolutely stunning on my bookshelf with my Labyrinth Pop Vinyls!

Lexie footnote

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

  1. I couldn’t finish this book. And I think I am as frustrated as you are. I wanted to love it so bad. Like I read the summary. I thought it looked so cool like, come on, finaly something different with Goblins ! And I read it … and I was so disapointed. It wasn’t what I expected. It was taking too long for me. I just couldn’t bear the heroin. So… selfish, and always complaining. Not a book for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one – it seemed that all my friends in the community adored this book apart from a rare few. I remember thing “did we read the same book????” because what I got with Wintersong was so NOT what I asked for or wanted. What I still can’t get over is that if Liesl was a stronger character, the Goblin King/romance was improved and there was actually a plot this book could have been good.

      Like

      • Yeah I totally agree ! I didn’t even finished the book … I read like the 150 first pages and was like : OK, I just can’t bear this heroin no more. And the plot was… meh , I don’t know. As you said, it was just a problem of character I think. With a little bit more courage and less complain it would have been wonderful !

        Liked by 1 person

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