Blurb from Goodreads:
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 favor 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.
Wintersong is one of those books that has such an addicting start that I gave it five stars right away. But as it go along, the story loses its flavor, the protagonist turns annoying and gets into my nerve, the mystery suddenly gets dull. Then I find my initial five stars falling off one by one.
The gripping elements in the first few chapters of this book easily vanished and replaced by endless talks of music. It would have been fine with me. After all our protagonist, Elisabeth, came from a family of musicians. But, long talks about music accompanied by Elisabeth’s constant thoughts about her insecurities, all written too poetically for my taste? I don’t think so. I love books written with lyrical prose but this is a bit too much. Music is in about 70% of this book and I feel like it was just wasted on me because although I sometimes listen to classical music I’m not all into it.
“What’s the use of running, if we are on the wrong road?”
We meet Elizabeth Vogler —a brilliant composer who hides behind her younger brother’s talent. She writes the music and her brother, Joseph, plays it for her. With their mother constantly busy and their father constantly drunk, Elisabeth was the one who looks after the others. So when her sister, Kathe, was put on an enchantment and was then taken to the Underworld, Elisabeth had to sacrifice the most important part of her in order to gain entrance to the Underworld and rescue her sister. But it wasn’t all too easy. She has to face the powerful and dangerous Goblin King also known as Der Erlkonig and win the gambles he plays with her. Triumph and she can go freely with her sister, or lose and pay a price that requires a bigger sacrifice.
Now it all sound so interesting, doesn’t it? While Elisabeth was facing all these predicaments I was expecting for her to grow into a more confident character. Instead she frequently go on about how plain or ugly she was compared to Kathe, how raw and untrained her talent was compared to Joseph, and how she’s always been the unloved and unnoticed among the three. Comparing herself to others has become her habit and it was irritating. Maybe it was meant to stress her flaws but repeatedly bringing it up doesn’t make her cool. Like, oh the Goblin King looked so gorgeous but I’m plain unlike Kathe!.. He wouldn’t touch me because I’m ugly unlike Kathe… Maybe he regretted taking me instead of Kathe because I’m not as lovely as my sister… Okay, I get it. You’re plain. Enough already!
There were areas in the worldbuilding that I find good but most of it were vaguely presented. At some point the book did made me feel like I’m also trapped in the dark and windowless rooms of the Underworld. I think the author painted a good picture of the world below and for me that was the highlight of the worldbuilding. The rest, I don’t quite fully understand. There were mentions about some old laws throughout the book but what exactly are these laws? It seems that we only know what they are the moment Elisabeth breaks them.
“What is eternal life but a prolonged death.”
The romance was a bit off for me. I was most curios about Der Erlkonig at the start. But later he just lost the mysteriousness in him and he just became as bland as Elisabeth. The spark between the two was there during the first few chapters but its allure disappeared too, later in the book. I didn’t know it was possible to lose the chemistry soon as the love interests got closer. And here’s the biggest crap: there were memories from Elizabeth’s childhood that she chose to lock away in a cage and now she needs the Goblin King to have sex with her so she’ll remember those memories and find her true self. What the…! Can anyone explain to me how sex becomes the solution?
The book wasn’t short of revelations. There were quite a few that I’m sure was meant to be shocking but it just didn’t stir anything in me.
That ending though. Boy, it was both dazzling and wrenching. It’s the only part of the book where I strongly felt something towards the characters and it left me in a puddle of emotions. It moved me enough to add another star on my rating.
In the end I was mostly annoyed and bored with this book. I loved it for its ending but its not something I’d possibly touch again for a re-read. Maybe this will work for those who really love music, particularly classical music, and those who are obsessed with retellings (This has a subtle touch of Red Riding Hood). But it just wasn’t for me.