Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

Wintersong was one of my most anticipated reads for 2017. I love mythology dealing with seasons, Germany, and fae (fairies, elves, goblins, and so on). Plus, this had “Beauty and the Beast” vibes, and for me, that’s one of the most fascinating fairy tales.

Oh, but what a mess this turned out to be. First, the author threw in a whole bunch of gag-inducing YA contemporary stereotypes — the protagonist being the parents’ least favorite child; the pretty girls being vapid and unmemorable while the “ugly” girl is interesting, smart, and talented; and the guy the protagonist initially likes being a jerk. I guess that makes the kidnapper Goblin King seem a bit more appealing. At least he appreciates her. (Heavy sarcasm here).

Still, I have to confess that I like love stories where the hero is complex and morally ambiguous, as long as that hero is not abusive and views the heroine as an equal. This is perhaps why I like well-treated retellings of “Beauty and the Beast.” Cruel Beauty is a good example. However, in Wintersong, the Goblin King kidnaps Liesl’s sister to get to Liesl. Not. Necessary. There are women who would be his bride willingly, as attested to by Liesl’s grandmother. The Goblin King is also quick to dismiss his former wives, and undermines Liesl a fair bit, too. He speaks in riddles — not sexy, tempting, clever riddles, but angry ones that make it unclear what exactly he wants from Liesl, making her understandably frustrated.

The romance goes from a very awkward start-and-stop to overly sentimental and saccharine in the last hundred pages or so. The chemistry and sensuality never really come to fruition (except for a ballroom scene near the beginning). And the plot is mostly the romance. A plot that is mostly romance is rarely interesting to begin with, but when the romance isn’t even well-crafted, it’s a huge problem.

I gave this book 2 stars because it wasn’t terrible. There were some interesting moments with goblin and German folklore, and the first half kept me on my toes enough. I’m not going to read the sequel though.

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