Wintersong – S. Jae-Jones (Review)

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**

This review can be found on my BlogTeacherofYA’s Tumblr, or my Goodreads page

My Review:

First of all…the real reason I wanted to own this book..the most shallow reason of all…

Just LOOK at this COVER!!!

Wasn’t a good pic online so I used my own

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. 

The VHS I had

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:

Do not use, please, its WAY TOO ADULT for high school readers. I would classify this NA but nothing completely explicit happens besides the unbelievably steamy scenes.

Age Range

So 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. 

End Result:

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. 

Will you be picking up Wintersong? Be prepared if you do! 😉

**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!**

74 thoughts on “Wintersong – S. Jae-Jones (Review)

  1. Huge fan of Labyrinth as well. My friend and I get together and watch in on BluRay from time to time. Good stuff 🙂

    I have to ask though, did the author intend for this to be a combo retelling of both the poem and the film? That seems odd. I am also struggling with the fact that she was torn between going after her sister or supporting her brother? WTH? How is that even a decision? Maybe this is one I have to read to put into proper perspective.

    Loved your review and happy this worked out for you 🙂 I have seen some really negative feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s a strange book I must say. The main character isn’t very likable. I was mainly rooting for The Goblin King, lol.
      I’m not sure what the author intended, but I can tell the influences and whether she meant to or not, she used both. I know that the poem is used in the beginning of one of the chapters so I know she’s familiar with it.
      I wouldn’t recommend to you: it’s really weird. I like weird and only gave it so many stars bc I want to see where she is going with this…where it’s leading. I would have given three if I wasn’t so drawn into the story, waiting for the next thing to happen. She does know how to keep you glued to the page, even if you have no idea what’s going on, that’s for sure! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love weird though haha. I was one of those odd balls who 5 starred Vassa in the Night. It was a favorite last year. I may just have to check this out to experiences the influences first hand because I cannot help but be curious 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah, I think you’re right. I’m just dying to know what they would do after what’s happened in the movie. I need more info! I hope they aren’t just trying to capitalize off the good fortune of Labyrinth!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely review! I heard both good and bad things about this book, I’m glad to hear you overall enjoyed it! I don’t know if I am very much of a music person ahah, I guess I’ll have to try reading this book to see how I enjoy it 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading the review!
      I was glad to read this one bc I can see why it’s so controversial. It’s def different than anything I have read before…I think the creepy parts were balanced by beautiful parts. I defintely want to see what happens next!
      I’d say try it out, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t appeal to you…I think this is a hit or miss kind of book. But thank you for reading my review! 😘😘😘

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The cover to this book is GORGEOUS. It’s one of the main reasons I want to read it. Also, I am a huge fan of Labyrinth! “Dance Magic” is pure perfection. …And I actually really like the Goblin Market poem. I read it a few years ago, and it kind of stuck with me, only because of how strange it was haha. So this sounds like a pretty cool mashup of the two! Although, the main character doesn’t seem all that likable. Why would she have to choose to stay with her brother or to go find her sister? I thought that would be a no brainer????? Anyways, I’ve read some really mixed reviews on this one, but if you liked it, I might give it a try! Lovely review, Steph! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! ☺️☺️☺️
      Yes, this one is def a good one if you liked those two. I noticed it was loosely based and that made me feel a lot better bc I don’t want to have to write a Labyrinth Retelling myself to do it justice! I was determined if this book was bad to do my own! 😂
      I didn’t know you knew Dance Magic! Man, if you were around we could sing it and be the ultimate Labyrinth dorks!! 🤣🙌
      Worst case, if you hate it, it still looks damn good on a shelf! 😍❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL, yes! That wouldn’t have been good if it was strictly based on Labyrinth. That movie/story is just too good to mess up 😀 Labyrinth dorks unite!! XD
        And a pretty cover is always a plus! I certainly would love to have it on my shelves! 😀 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah I was redoing my shelves today to make more room and I wish I could face it outward so I could look at it all the time…as it is I had to make them horizontal for more room…I have books coming out of my ears!! 😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I know right!!? We’d need so much shelf space LOL. I’ve filled up my bookcases so now I have to get creative to cram them all in there until I get more bookshelves. I want my books to look pretty! So, I’m getting fairy lights 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve seen that about this book and I was worried I wouldn’t like it, too. I know it’s not good for the kiddies, bc it’s definitely got some steamy scenes, but I loved the Goblin King and he’s my new Book BF! 😍😍😍
      There’a nothing I could compare it to…but if you do read it, I’m dying to know what you think bc we like the same books most of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So many people are pretty surprised by the steaminess in this book because everyone thought it was a YA read.
        I’ll definitely check it out and I can’t wait to meet the Goblin King! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads

    I honestly can’t decide if I want to read this or not, haha. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, but something’s holding me back. Maybe I’ll check and see if my library has it next time I go. Great review! Can’t wait to hear about your NYC adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I don’t think it’s for everyone for sure. A lot of people didn’t like it and some people loved it. I remember reading reviews for it and worrying. I think the beautiful writing helped a lot.
      It’s something that I would encourage you to read a sample of: you can tell in the first couple of mins if you’ll feel it or not.
      I def have to post my adventures tomorrow so after I’m done with the cleaning, I’ll put up the BookCon rundown. And then I go to ALA! 🙀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads

        That’s a good idea! I’ll definitely check out a sample.
        I totally forgot you were going to ALA, too! How exciting!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review!
    The fact that Labyrinth was a influence for this one has made me curious (I’ll sing Dance Magic with you!), but I keep putting off picking it up. It’s good to know that it pushes the boundaries of YA a bit (not that it matters by my age, but always good to be prepared), since that stuff can ruin books for me. It still looks good though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg, I had no idea so many ppl knew Dance Magic! You are my new best friend, lol!
      Yes, if you’re uncomfortable with some really steamy scenes, you might want to skip it. Beautiful writing and it kept me glued to it, but I can def tell it is NOT for everyone. Jae-Jones has a writing style that I just can’t compare to anything!
      I know you like music, so you might want to try it, but if you do, please let me know what you think….even a sample should give you a feel for the book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know how people don’t know Dance Magic! My little sister was obsessed with that movie, so I know more of it than I should by heart haha.

        I think I’m going to give it a go, just because of the music thing. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with steamy stuff, more that I don’t find it ever adds anything to books (except if they’re about it, I guess? Not much experience in this area), which goes against my love for conciseness. But we’ll see! It’s on my summer list.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oooo I’ve been wondering about this book. I’ve heard lots of interesting things about it and just haven’t been able to decide if I want to dive in or not. But I love music, and I really liked your review…I should probably just go for it, shouldn’t I? Haha I think I know too many people who’ve liked it to pass it up. Great review!! I really liked how you cleared up some of the similarities and differences between the book and the inspirational sources.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!
      It doesn’t hurt to give it a try…I think you’ll know how you feel about it in the first several chapters and if you don’t like it, you can move on! Our time is too valuable to waste so no time for bad books!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review for this book Stephanie, and I’m really glad you enjoyed Wintersong as well. I read this earlier this year and just wasn’t a fan of it in the end. It seemed like a very character based story and I couldn’t connect with Liesel’s character which spoiled my enjoyment of the book a little. I never saw Labyrinth as a child, or as an adult either, I wonder if maybe having watched the film I would have enjoyed the book more; I guess we’ll never know.
    Still great review, are you excited for the second book in this series? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am. I am eager to see where she goes with this.
      It was a strange story – kind of like my Vassa for everyone else…people think it’s strange but I kinda liked the strangeness of it? You know?
      I was surprised about it but I did like some elements. I don’t know if knowing the movie helped or not: I think knowing the movie and the poem together def did. It’s like not knowing the story of Baba Yaga and reading Vaasa!
      So yes I think the movie would help now that I think about it.
      I hope I get approved for an ARC of the next one!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get what you mean, I guess we’re a little bit opposite here. I loved Vassa and you weren’t too keen but you enjoyed Wintersong and I wasn’t too keen, 🙂
        Ehh, maybe if I watch the movie one day I’ll go back and re-read this book, see if I enjoy it a little more having that background so to speak.
        I’m sure you will. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. You know, I think if you like Labyrinth, you’ll like this. But I think you might think it’s cheesy. It was cool when I was a kid but as an older person for the first time you might think it’s a little strange. But-if you like it, then I think you’ll understand the book more. I still think it’s diff than the movie by a lot, so I wouldn’t say you need to see it to read Wintersong. So if you didn’t like it that much it’s prob bc it just wasn’t for you.
      I know that I might appreciate Vaasa a bit more now but I still think it just wasn’t for me.
      When you do watch that movie, I want to know what you think of it!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll give it a go, and honestly I don’t think it will matter how cheesy it is. I tend to prefer cheesy movies sometimes! 🙂 Also if it helps me enjoy the book a little more then that’s even better. 🙂
        Vassa may just be a book you need to think on a little bit I guess.
        I’ll definitely let you know in that case! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This beauty is still on my TBR. I probably won’t read it until Shadowsong comes out, but I’m so glad to hear you liked it. Wonderful review! I heard it was a little steamy, so not surprised it’s a one Dumbledore there. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes. Definitely fogged up the windows! 😂🤣
      I hope the second one is good. I’m really hoping it will explain more of the story.
      I think you’ll like this one: but you better tell me what you think! I’m sure you’ll meet her if you haven’t yet and I think instead of ALA I should just go to The King’s English!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL. That’s what I heard! I can’t wait to read it. I will definitely let you know when I do though. I actually did meet her at YALLWEST. I think you should just come to The King’s English too. We’ll have WAY more fun. LOL. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah, I’m thinking it would be a lot CHEAPER to just live in Utah year round and visit the bookstore vs going to these conventions! But I do like our pen pal idea: when I asked the three authors to sign for you, VE even used her personal bookplate! I think you’ll love it! I’ll get one from everyone at ALA too!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yay!!! Another amazing review!!! This books looks really great. And that cover! I feel like there was another movie with goblins and a kid trying to go through a labyrinth that was made recently… there was a baby that was kidnapped too. This sounds really interesting, and since there’s music involved I have to read it!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Confession time: I’ve never seen the movie Labyrinth ((hides face in shame)) I really need to rectify this. ANYWAYS! This sounds like a very interesting book. I think I’ve mentioned before (as you seem to frequent retellings) that I feel a “good retelling” is hard to accomplish in my opinion. It is definitely a delicate balance bringing in the original story, but also having enough new elements… BUT this one sounds different since it is influenced by two different “stories.” AND yes that cover is fantastic 🙂

    Can’t wait to read all about BookCon either!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a thorough review! I read Wintersong late last year and really liked it for the gothic elements as well as the more sexy romance. But I 100% agree with you that this leans more towards the NA spectrum than YA.

    Did you know that there’s actually going to be a sequel to Wintersong though? I’m pretty excited especially after being so torn with the ending of this one. (I loved and hated it at the same time, haha.)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t been able to read this one yet and have read some mixed reviews but I’m super intrigued! I’ve never actually watched Labyrinth (sadly) but your review made me want to do it RIGHT NOW. Hahaha it just looks so awesome!
    I really like that this book is so music-oriented, too. If it doesn’t pull me in, I’ll be so sad T_T
    Amazing review, Stephanie! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!!
      Yes, Labyrinth is amazing but kind of cheesy nowadays…it’s a cult classic though!
      If you’re a musical person, this one will definitely speak to you…not exactly a “youth-friendly” read but I learned at ALA that this book was originally designated as adult. I really hate when they move books into the YA category for higher readership availability. However, I did like it. So here’s hoping you do, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, that’s not a problem for me! I sometimes wish some YA reads would be a bit more mature hahaha Sometimes they feel way too young, and not in a good way because I happen to love middle grade and children’s books. But I don’t agree with sudden changes either. It seldom works out.
        Yeah Labyrinth does feel like something I should have watched when I was a kid but who knows ☺️
        Thank you! And you’re welcome 😊

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Well, I cannot wait to hear what you think! It’s definitely a more mature YA and the movie has a sexy David Bowie in it – they are working on a sequel right as we speak!
      And I cannot wait for Shadowsong, the second in this series! 😍😍😍

      Liked by 1 person

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