ARC Review: Wintersong


Title: Wintersong

Author: S. Jae-Jones

Series: N/A

Publisher: Thomas Dunne

Release Date: February 7th 2017


Three Stars

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favour of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood.”

I haven’t read many books about goblins so when I saw the blurb for Wintersong I immediately added it to my to-read list just for that uniqueness the story seemed to offer. I haven’t seen Labyrinth but before picking up this book I was immediately reminded of that film. While I really enjoyed Wintersong there was just something missing from it for me.

Liesl has grown up hearing stories of the Goblin King from her grandmother, but now she is older the time for childish stories, the time when she danced in the Goblin Grove and played her songs for the Goblin King, has past. Now her thoughts are for her younger brother, getting him the position of an apprentice so he could be recognized for his talent playing the violin. Liesl has little time for her younger sister, but when the veil between this world and the next weakens and the Goblin King comes out searching for beautiful maidens, his attention lands on Käthe.

Liesl has never believed she needs to watch Käthe the same way she does Josef, but before she knows what happening Käthe is in the hands of the Goblin King himself, and Liesl finds herself in a world where no one remembers her sisters name.

“Now the days of winter begin, and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride.”

Trapped playing a game with the Goblin King for Käthe’s life Liesl must find her way Underground to her sister and return both of them to the world above before the next full moon. However it isn’t finding Käthe that’s the problem, it’s convincing her they both need to leave the Underground and the Goblin King behind. Meanwhile the Goblin King is around every corner tricking both Liesl and Käthe, he needs a bride and it will be one of the two sisters.

Wintersong was a slow story, I think more than anything this book was about Liesl’s character; her growth and her ambitions, and unfortunately while I enjoyed Wintersong I didn’t connect enough with Liesl’s character to love this book.

…The Characters

“There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.”

Liesl seemed to be a character all about contradictions. She loves her brother dearly but at times she can’t contain the jealousy she feels towards him, and it’s the same with her sister as well. Josef is the one who has the talent that will take him all over the world playing for Kings and Queens, and Käthe is the one with the beauty that will see her married well and happy. All Liesl is left with is the obligation she has to her family, trapped in their shadows never allowing the music she composes to enter the world.

With the Goblin King however Liesl seems to become more. Although it is dangerous and deadly to feel she does and she allows her music out again, composing and playing and finally stepping out of the shadow her siblings have put her in.

“What would you do, if you were a free man?”
“I would take my violin and play. I would walk the world and play, until someone called me by name and called me home.”

The Goblin King is also a complex character although we never get as much insight into him as we do Liesl. There have been many men over the years who have called themselves the Goblin King and there are many different faces the Goblin King seems to wear. Part of him truly does care for Liesl, she played for him as a child and he craves that connection to her soul and her music once more now she is an adult, but at the same time he is a trickster who will keep Liesl and Käthe trapped in the Underground as long as it serves his purpose.

“Life,” he said softly, “is more than flesh. Your body is a candle, your soul the flame. The longer I burn the candle…” He did not finish.
“A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,” I said. “I would rather light the flame, knowing it will go out than sit forever in darkness.”

The relationship between Liesl and the Goblin King is not an easy one, there are many different things that seem to be pulling them together and at the beginning none of them are each other. For Liesl it is the love she feels for her brother and sister, her desire to keep them safe, while for the Goblin King it is simply his need to find a bride to bring spring around again. However, eventually, in spite of all the outside forces there is a deeper connection between the two of them, a connection brought to life through the music they both share.

…The Setting

“Once upon a time, a savage, violent time, humans, goblins, kobolds, Hödekin, and Lorelei lived side by side in the world above, feeding, fighting, preying, slaying. It was, as I had said, a dark time, and Man turned to dark practices to keep the blood tides at bay.”

Wintersong managed to create a whole new world within its pages; there were so many myths and legends surrounding the Underground and the Goblin King himself telling us all about his history and the reason he takes a Bride each year. Everything about this world was incredibly interesting to read and discover, and that’s saying nothing about the Underground itself. A place that is dangerous for humans; just as dark, mysterious and tricky as the Goblin King himself. There are different rules to time spent in the Underground compared to time spent in the world above, and these are all rules Liesl needs to learn quickly if she intends to escape with her life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wintersong and while it was an enjoyable book overall I think when it comes down to it I just wanted more. I couldn’t really connect with Liesl or the Goblin King, or their relationship with one another, and based on the way this book is written I think that’s needed to enjoy it more than I did.

What did you think of Wintersong? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

35 thoughts on “ARC Review: Wintersong

  1. Well, dang. Yours is the second review of this book I’ve read, and the other one echoed all your sentiments: that it would’ve been a good book if the heroine was more engaging, and that it just needed MORE. I won’t lie, I’m kind of crushed; it was one of my most anticipated reads for the year. Better to know in advance that it’s flawed, though, so thanks for the great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I’d like to say my review is maybe the odd one out, and everyone else loved this book, but I’ve been seeing more than a few negative-ish reviews as well.
      Wintersong was a book mainly about the character’s journey and unfortunately Liesl wasn’t well developed enough in my opinion to make me enjoy reading about her journey. Still maybe going in with lowered expectations will help you enjoy this book a little more. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Seen this cover here and there and thought it was going to be another one of those “most buzzed about book” out there. The Underground and the Goblin King sound realllyyy interesting. Sucks that the book couldn’t satisfy your desires though! Great and honest review! 😀

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this review, Beth! I have been seeing this book around and indeed thought that the synopsis could be original and that it held a lot of potential. I’m sorry to hear that you found there was something missing in the story, I hate when this kind of feeling happens :/ Hope your next read will be better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s all right, 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed my review. I haven’t actually seen this one around WordPress that much but I agree the synopsis was definitely original, unfortunately a book needs more than originality to be memorable you know?
      I hope so too, thanks Marie. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a great review! Connecting with characters is a must for me, so I can see how it could have been better for you if you had that connection. Hope you find it in your next read.
    P.S. You haven’t been in my spam jail that I know of. If you wind up there, I will free you. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Exactly, I think if you’re reading 300+ pages of their lives and their adventures you need something to connect up to each of them right? Unfortunately that just wasn’t there in this book, but thanks I hope so too.
      Thanks again! It’s more inconvenient than anyone else but I think I may be OK now (fingers crossed)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve recently added this one to my TBR, mostly because I was intrigued by the goblin premise! Labyrinth definitely came to mind after I read the synopsis. I’m sorry you didn’t connect well with the characters. Just like a fantastical world/setting, the characters should also be fully developed. It’s hard to read a book where you can’t seem to feel any kinship with the main characters. Although, it’s good to hear that the book doesn’t seem to be lacking in the world-building! It’s a shame that it didn’t really work out in the end. I still want to read this one, but I won’t make it a priority. I’ve read too many mixed reviews on it so far. Great review, Beth! Sorry the book wasn’t as exciting as you hoped it would be. Hopefully your next read does much better in meeting your expectations! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was definitely intrigued by the concept, and the fact that it was about goblins as well, I’ve never seen Labyrinth myself but it’s hard not to think if that movie after reading the blurb isn’t it? Too bad the concept just didn’t live up to its promise you know?
      Exactly, characters are always a main part of the story be it a contemporary book or a fantasy one. In Wintersong I just felt the characters were lacking, which is a real shame especially considering it felt like the characters journeys were the story.
      The world building was great so I guess that’s one positive at least. 🙂
      Thanks Azia. If you do pick this book up one day I hope you like it, I’ll certainly be interested to see your review for this one! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh you gotta see Labyrinth! It’s so cheesy but I love David Bowie in it haha. And yeah, it’s so disappointing it didn’t live up to many readers’ expectations. I hope to pick this one up later in the year, maybe summer. I’m in no rush haha. Thanks, Beth! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In that case I’ll definitely add it to my to-watch list, which is nearly as long as my to-read list now believe it or not!
        You can’t love every book you pick up I guess, but either way I hope you enjoy this one when you get around to it. You never know. 🙂
        That’s all right! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh goodness mine is, too! I’ve got so many shows on my Netflix list it’s getting a little ridiculous. The only show I manage to keep up with nowadays is The Walking Dead haha

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I’ve yet to read a rave review for this, all of them seem to have found it lacking as well. It sucks that you didn’t connect to the characters. That’s something that’s big for me when it comes to books like this too. I have to feel something for the characters to become immersed in the story. Even with fantastic backstory and world building, if the characters are lacking I find my mind wandering. Too bad considering the whole idea of it has so much potential and is really unique. I haven’t read any books with goblins before which is why I was really excited for this too. Now I’m unsure if I’ll read it. Might be one of those reads better checked out from the library to see if you like it rather than buying. Either way great review as always, Beth! Sorry this one ended up not meeting your expectations. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s definitely the opinion I got of this one, which is a little strange because I didn’t really go into it with any expectations you know? I had no clue what to expect from this book but I still ended up a little disappointed by the end.
      I think if the characters had been written in a way that allowed me to connect with them I would have enjoyed Wintersong a lot more because this book was all about the characters. I feel like you’ll probably feel the same way if/when you pick this book up.
      Oh it’s definitely a unique concept. I’m not even sure if there’s another book about goblins out there that I’ve actually read, but still unique isn’t enough to make it a memorable read.
      Maybe, either way if you do pick it up from the library one day I’ll be interested to see what you think of it.
      Thanks Melissa, and I guess we can’t love every book we read can we? ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That sucks that it ended up being a bit disappointing. Yeah, character driven stories where you can’t connect with the characters tends to not work out very well for me so I have a feeling I would feel the same. Do you think it would have worked better as a series? Given more room to explore the characters and connect with them better?
        That’s true. Uniqueness can only take a book so far. I feel like even with plot driven stories the characters help make it memorable. So, it has to be even more so with more character driven books.
        You’re welcome, Beth! That’s true. Not all books can wow us. 😊♥

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it’s why you have to be careful with character driven stories, especially in fantasy books where maybe the plot and world building aren’t as involved to pick up any slack in the character development. There have been a couple of books where I couldn’t connect to the characters but this has been the only character driven story where that’s happened to date.
        Possibly, but on the other hand I don’t see what more could have been done for Liesl’s character that would have allowed me to connect to her more. It could have definitely given the romance more room to grow which would have made that aspect of it better I think.
        The best fantasy books are the ones that have amazing development in all aspects; the characters, the plot, the world-building, etc. I guess you’d have to work twice as hard with character driven stories in that case! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, I can’t recall very many character driven stories where I didn’t connect with the characters now that I think about it. I feel like a lot of balance has to go into a fantasy book that’s character driven over plot driven. Although, I have to admit my favorite fantasy books are ones with a mixture. Kind of like Six of Crows where, for the most part, it was very plot and character driven.
        Exactly! Is it terrible that I feel like I get more and more picky where fantasy books are concerned? 😂
        Especially with all of the great ones I read last year. They set the bar high.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. There aren’t too many for me but there have been one or two, and there are more stories which aren’t as character driven where I’ve still been unable to connect with the character so there’s that side of things as well. I can’t think of another book like this that’s character driven, like you I prefer the ones that are a mixture of both (yes to Six of Crows!)
        I guess given the amount of fantasy books we’ve surely read by now we know what we like and what we don’t; our expectations are bound to be higher in situations like these! ):

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I think if that ever happens there’s always something else to pull you into the story; be it the plot or the world itself. There just wasn’t with Wintersong.
        I think like would be boring if we knew we were going to love every book we picked up. We need some variety every now and again. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Definitely and it sucks that it didn’t. Hopefully in the future there will be other goblin books because it really is something I’ve not seen in YA fantasy before.
        Yeah, that’s true. And we wouldn’t want reading to get boring. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  7. We both posted our reviews today! I’m happy to see that you had a bit more luck with it than I did. I’m so disappointed. The cover was so promising! Liesl and the Goblin King just didn’t do it for me. I felt no connection to either character and their romance was blah. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw your post earlier actually (I commented on it as well but I’m stuck in spam jail at the moment. If you haven’t seen my comment it’s likely in your spam folder!)
      Overall I thought it was a good story, and I really enjoyed the world building too, but yeah I was disappointed with this book when it comes down to it. Oh I get what you mean, of everything in this book I felt the romance between the two of them was the most lacking, they just had no connection to each other!


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