“You are the monster I claim, mein Herr.”
– Wintersong, S. Jae-Jones
I cry on the inside for the sheer potential of this story. I really, really do.
I’ll start off by saying that Wintersong really gave me those dark fairy tale vibes, which was different and so incredibly promising. The tales aren’t twisted into lightheartedness and the goblins are as conniving as they are in old stories. I loved the focus on the lyrical and the music. I was a dancer and have a dancer’s soul; music is my sanctuary second only to books, so I adored the musical communication. I also enjoyed the inspiration drawn from romantic poet Christina Rossetti! Not only was the English Literature Major in me doing a jump for joy, but it also just adds to that old dark romanticism that the era was so well known for.
That, however, is where my likes ended… I am so sorry to everyone who loved this book. I really am! But I just wasn’t invested in it. I didn’t like the main character, Elisabeth, and felt no connection to her feelings outside of maybe music. She was constantly bringing up how plain and unattractive she was, constantly mentioning that her life was difficult being in the shadow of her beautiful sister. Now I have absolutely no problem with characters having insecurities and feeling dejected about their appearances, especially since this was a book about being beautiful for what is on the inside. It was just irksome to have it brought up all the time. For the most part, her character was a bit two-dimensional in my opinion. She was very self-absorbed, and didn’t make nearly as much effort to know the Goblin King as I expected.
The Goblin King, I knew right off the bat, would be the best character in this book. And even then, he lacked dynamics. Since this was all narrated through the eyes of Elisabeth and her focus was often more on reflecting about herself than him, we didn’t see a good build up of getting to know him. I didn’t feel I got to see his full complexity of character.
These characters could have danced around one another, clashing personalities, with music as their communication, and gotten to know one another intricately. The world was so intriguing and this could’ve been intense, dark, and romantic, but it sadly wasn’t for me. The relationship felt rushed. Though, the actual scenes we did get felt slow, as though not enough was happening and a lot of in-between moments were missing.
I feel part of the culprit behind this is the writing. I think that, because Wintersong is written simpler, as some YA are, it took away from a lot of the potential complexity. I adore lyrical writing, but it has to be handled well, otherwise it can be too flowery and metaphorical and rely too heavily on inferring, causing the narration to become overwhelmingly distant. Bottom line, I love, love, love the concept of this book, but was not a fan of the execution. The writing, while very lyrical, also felt juvenile to me.
So the bare bones of the story, the world, and that wonderful dark fairy tale tone was there! It just wasn’t as detailed and full-bodied as I had hoped it would be.