Title: Wintersong (Wintersong #1)
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, 2017 (Feb 7)
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Retellings
**I received a copy of this free from the author and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
First of all…the real reason I wanted to own this book..the most shallow reason of all…
Just LOOK at this COVER!!!
I mean, this book is STUNNING. Just absolutely stunning. I am stunned. Literally. I can’t move. Making…it…hard to…write…
Anyway, the book is beautiful. And a book I heard was a Labyrinth retelling? I couldn’t get to it soon enough (I told people if it wasn’t done right, I would write my own retelling, because Labyrinth needs to be represented correctly).
I’m a huge David Bowie fan. My mom had the VHS of Labyrinth and my sister, brother, and I knew all the songs. I loved Jareth. Great quotes in the movie too.
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle, beyond the Goblin City, to take back the child that you have stolen.
For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great.”
Yeah, I know that one by heart. Don’t ask me to sing “Dance Magic” because I can.
Anyway, I digress. We can talk more Labyrinth later.
Let’s talk about Wintersong instead.
So there’s one misrepresentation right off the bat: this is not just a Labyrinth retelling. Have you ever heard of the poem “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti? Either had I. But a couple semesters ago in British Literatute II (1860 to present), we read the poem in class. The poem is about two sisters, and they are warned to stay away from “Goblin men” and their wares. One sister doesn’t listen and she eats a goblin fruit. She starts wasting away and the sister saves her.
It’s really an allegory for a “wanton” woman: don’t partake of “forbidden fruit” because then you’re a whore and bad things will happen to you. When I read part of the poem in the beginning of Wintersong and I understood that this poem would also be an influence on the story. So it’s a mash-up of movie and poem, Labyrinth and “Goblin Market.” (Read the poem if you get a chance: the double meaning is pretty obvious).
Wintersong introduces us to Liesl, a hardworking young girl who takes care of her sister (the pretty one) and her brother (the talented one). She writes music but her father, a once-famous musician, does not take her seriously because she is a woman. Real name Elizabeth, Liesl is the one who longs for more but denies herself the privilege. She hides her compositions or gives them to Josef to play. She watches Käthe to make sure she stays out of trouble (she’s that “wanton” girl in our “Goblin Market” poem).
Well, one day Liesl and Käthe (don’t ask me to pronounce it – I looked it up and it could be pronounced a number of ways so the name drove me nuts) go to the market, and “goblin men” are selling fruit. Liesl remembers the warnings to stay away, but Käthe, being a wanton woman, partakes in the fruit. She gets ill and has to be taken home immediately.
Then the Labyrinth similarities come into play: Käthe goes missing on the night of Josef’s big audition to apprentice for a famous musician. Liesl is torn: does she go after her sister or support her brother? She puts off going and she realizes the world has forgotten Käthe quite quickly. It’s always been just Josef and Liesl now…the memory of Käthe is fading. In its place, Liesl is able to play her music and there is no girl to compete for the local boys’ affections. Even though Liesl knows she is plain, she likes being in the spotlight and she likes being able to play her music in the open.
However, she cannot easily forget Käthe, and she knows The Goblin King, or “De Erlkoenig” has her (dude, I just spelled that from memory! Go me!). The Goblin King has made his presence known and he invited Liesl (or Elizabeth as he uses her proper name) underground to try to find her. The underground is a Labyrinth and she has until the end of the season to rescue her sister. If she doesn’t, her sister will be the next Goblin King’s bride, and she will remain underground forever.
So here we have the movie similarities: something has been taken from our protagonist: a sibling in both. Both women must find the sibling before time runs out, or the sibling is lost forever. Both must go through a labyrinth to find them.
Also, in both it seems the Goblin King really wants the protagonist, but takes the sibling as a way to lure the protagonist in.
There are two quotes that remind me of this in particular:
Labyrinth (Jareth): “Just fear me, love me, and I will be your slave.”
Wintersong (Liesel/De Erlkoenig): ““I do solemnly swear,” I said softly, “that I give of myself unto you of my own free will. Body … and soul.” Those mismatched eyes sharpened. “You, entire?” I nodded. “Myself, entire.”
So you see the similarities. As I do not want to give the entire book away, there are some more parallels that the book makes, but it is all loosely based.
One strong difference? The, ahem, seduction between Liesl and The Goblin King. That defintely wasn’t in the Disney movie. But you’ll have to read the book to get more out of me about that.
Is It Classroom-Appropriate?
Oh, gosh no. No no no no no no no no no.
So on that note, I give Wintersong ★☆☆☆☆ for classroom use:
So Lexile.com does not list Wintersong and that’s probably a good thing. I would say keep the kiddies away from this one. Liesl is 19 in the book so she’s doing nothing wrong by wanting to be sexually desirable, but the book does push the envelope with the risqué scenes between Liesl and De Erlkoenig. And the goblins in general (was there an orgy? I have no idea). I’d suggest using discretion when purchasing Wintersong for your teen. I am more prudish and err on the side of caution, but let’s say that whoever you would let read ACOMAF (and I still haven’t read it but heard about it), you could let read Wintersong. I’ll keep the barometer there.
Despite the strangeness of the text and the “sexiness,” I liked Wintersong. The writing was poetic and abstract, and it’s not an easy read. But I liked the differences in the text and flung myself separating Labyrinth from Wintersong, which is why I liked it. I think if I kept comparing it to the movie I wouldn’t have liked it so much. So remember going in that this is not really a “retelling” but a very loose adaptation of two different things, the movie and Rossetti’s poem.
The HEAVY emphasis on music was also a part I enjoyed. If you’re not a music person, I’d skip this.
No matter what you decide, I give Wintersong ★★★★☆ because it stuck with me and I can’t wait to read Shadowsong. It’s always a good sign when you read a book and it sticks with you way after you’ve gone to BookCon.
**BookCon summary is next, I promise! I really had to get this review posted for me, and I will next post a recap of my adventures in New York City! I hope you’ll join me for a rundown of one of the craziest trips of my life! Stay tuned and thanks for your pateience!**