Author: S. Jae-Jones
Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin’s Griffin
Publishing year: 2017
Genre: fantasy, historical fiction
Page count: 436
Goodreads synopsis: 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 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.
My thoughts: I must preface this with a call to action: if you have not watched the movie The Labyrinth with David Bowie from the 80s, watch it BEFORE you read this book. Not because this is about the movie or the same story or even fan fiction (though some will call it that) but rather it will get you in the right mindset to dive into this dark, poetic, and strangely beautiful world.
Now this book will NOT be for everyone. I highly enjoyed it because it reminded me so much of the movie The Labyrinth and that is one of my all time favorites. The first half of the book is very similar: girl’s sibling is taken by the Goblin King and she must travel a dark and tedious path to his domain to retrieve them. But this book takes it so many steps further! It played beautiful homage to the movie (whether intential or unintenial I do not know) and I feel like having seen the movie over a billion times really helped me grasp all the fantasical, magical elements to this story.
I had problems with the main character and felt her motivations and her personality shift throughout the book. But then I began reading an ARC of the sequel Shadowsong where the author explains a few trigger warnings of the book as well as getting into more detail about the main character’s mindset. You see, she is bipolar. After learning that fact, much more of what I precieve as writing flaws with this character felt much more intentional and explained. I wish that that would have been explained before the first book but I really appreciated the author’s note in the beginning of the second.
This book read fast. I mean really fast! I sat down a few nights ago to read *a few* chapters before bed and very quickly I realized it was 1 in the morning and I had read over 75 percent of it. I was so immersed in this world and could not stop reading.
Many other reviews complained about the aspect of composing and musical elements in this book (main character writes and plays classical music) The biggest complaint I’ve read is that it was unnrelatable. Although I am not a composer or even a lover of classical music, I really enjoyed these aspects. I don’t know the author personally but if I had to venture a guess I’d say she’s a musician herself, has a deep love of music , or someone close to her does because she writes about music with such intensity and such passion. She writes about it in a way only a person with a true passion for it could write. I love reading writing like that. Even if I don’t share the author’s passion for whatever the subject is, just hearing that kind of passion and intensity that can only come from someone with a true, devout love of something makes it fun to read.
Bottom line: does this book have problems? Yes. Is it a perfect story? No. Is it for everyone? Probably not. But speaking for no one other than myself, I highly enjoyed this book. It was different. It was weird. And I ate. It. Up.
Shadowsong comes out TOMORROW (Feb 6th) and I will have my review posted of it in a few days. I am anxious to hear your thoughts about this unusual book. Leave them down below so we can discuss!