December 18, 2017

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

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, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl 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. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
I will be completely honest from the first and confess that I did not finish Wintersong. But not for lack of trying.  This novel has lain on my nightstand for almost a year now, an ever-present rebuke. While other books have come and gone, Wintersong gathered dust. 
I had begun it earlier this year with the greatest expectation that I would love it. It has been compared to Labyrinth - one of my all-time favorite movies - with a touch of Beauty and the Beast. The source material of course is Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market." Every sign pointed to a magical reading escape. And when I first started reading, half-afraid, half-excited, I breathed a sigh of relief. The writing was exquisite. Lyrical. Music set into words. The world within its pages was beautiful yet dark. I shivered with delight.  
I had read past 200 pages then began to struggle, limping along for another chapter or two before stopping. Over the course of the year I kept picking it back up and trying to recapture the magic, thinking that perhaps I was merely in the wrong mood or wrong season. I recently gave it one more try before admitting to myself that Wintersong well and truly belongs in my DNF pile.
So where and why did Wintersong lose me? Trying to answer this question shows that this failure of mine to finish rankles, despite the fact that I DNF often and without guilt. Life is short and there are too many books. I have cast aside more books this year than I have finished. But Wintersong haunts me. It is one of the few DNF I have ever reviewed. Despite its beauty, the novel read like a dirge, heavy and mournful. Liesl's self-hatred and anger turned me off.  After the umpteenth time of her calling herself the plain or ugly sister with nothing to offer, I got fed up and could not go on.  

To be clear, I've finished and enjoyed books this year that are not half so well-written as Wintersong. But the gulf between my expectation and the reality was too vast.
So it is with regret that I move Wintersong from its place next to my bed and onto a bookshelf in another room. Will I open it again someday? Perhaps. 

1 comment:

  1. It bothers me to bail, but you're right: Life is too short to read a book that doesn't captivate you!