Series: Wintersong #2
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Format: Kindle/Hardcover, 384 pages
Published: Published February 6th 2018 by Wednesday Books
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Reviewer: Crystal & Linda
Rating: 3 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.
When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?
“Once there was a little girl, who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was an innkeeper’s daughter and he was the Lord of Mischief, but neither were wholly what they seemed, for nothing is as simple as a fairy tale.”
Wintersong was a story that resonated with me. Over a year later and the romantic, whimsical writing is still at the forefront of my mind. I'm not ashamed to say that I practically begged for the chance to review Shadowsong when I saw that it was available. I was desperate for the continuation of Liesl and the Goblin King's story. Frantic for all that they did not have at the end of Wintesong. All that I hoped for them to have in Shadowsong. And therein lay my problem... I imprudently assumed that Shadowsong would be the extension of their, the Goblin King and Liesl's, story when rather, it is wholly Liesl's.
“How I could make myself understand. The restlessness, the anxiety within me. The feeling of incompleteness and dissatisfaction, my frustration with my inability to execute my ideas on the page, either in words or in song. I could not catch my own mind, my thoughts racing past in a blur, like fingers rushing through sixteenth notes without regard to tempo.”
Shadwosong was an all together manic, chaotic, enigmatic, and peculiar story that while I fought with it for not going into the whole I thought it should fit in, I could not put it down. The story begins six months after the end of Wintersong with Liesl trying to find her normal after her time spent Underground. Returning to her family and the inn though is not what she imagined, and without her precious Sepp or her austere young man besides her, she is left adrift. With the maniacal musings of Liesl, the pacing of the story oft times became tangled and sluggish. The majority of the story line is spent in her head, and while that gives readers a nice link to the character's inner workings, at times it was a bit much. That being said though, Shadowsong is a journey of self. Leisl struggles to understand her place in the world, the legacy she will leave behind, and the reasoning of decisions made.
“All that remained of a person once they were gone was a legacy, which would linger only as long as you were loved or hated. Immortality was memory.”
She also broke her vows with the Goblin King and the Underground though, and there are consequences for that. The Hunt rides, seeking retribution while on the other side of the country her brother Josef must also come to terms with his choices and desires, and the abandonment he feels when he is no longer the center of Leisl's world. This facet of the story was frustrating at times. Jealousy, guilt, and resentment overwhelms the relationship that these two previously shared, and what's left is a mess of secrets and betrayals.
“You always called me the gardener of your heart,” he said softly. “But you have gone and grown your flowers without me.”
The plot twists kept me guessing up until the very end, and the recurring elements of the sound of hooves in the distance and the trail of poppies never failed to raise goose-flesh on my skin. As I mentioned though, my biggest complaint with this story was the lack continuity with the Goblin King and the Underground. For the majority of the book, they are only seen in frenzied visions and putative delusions.
Be thou, with me.
"But I had realized I had not known how it ended because I had not resolved my own emotions- about my music, about my Goblin King, but about myself most of all."
All in all, though Shadowsong may not be all that I hoped it to be, it unquestionably enraptured. Dark and weighted, but provocative and gripping. You'll reach unfamiliar highs and exceptional lows with this story. The author's lyrical writing is to be commended. I also applaud S. Jae-Jones for the Author's note giving a warning of triggers for addiction, suicidal tendencies, and self-harm. I think readers of Wintersong should definitely read this sequel, with a warning to open your mind to new possibilities and throw out all of your expectations. Please do not try to jump into Shadowsong first, you'll be missing out on a truly enchanting experience if you do and become more lost then ever Liesl was.
Beethoven is known for his stirring compositions, but did you know that he was an impassioned writer as well?
"I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all."
-Ludwig Van Beethoven, The Immortal Beloved Letters
Wintersong swept me away last year with its fractured retelling of Labyrinth. I loved the intricate, vividly-written tale, but it lacked an HEA. I craved more of the tension and chemistry that had permeated Liesl’s and The Goblin King’s bond. I had high hopes that Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones would pick up where Wintersong left us and feature and provide a happy ending for the relationship of Liesl and the Goblin King. Instead, Shadowsong embarked in an utterly unforeseen direction. I’m still pondering how I feel about it, but confess to some disappointment – totally self-inflicted because of my presumptions.
Shadowsong focuses on Liesl's self-discovery journey with a bit of mystery and intrigue. Her journey is closely tied with her brother’s so the tale delves heavily into her relationship with her younger brother from the beginning. Her story waivers between madness and melancholy. Her story is intense, graphic, somber and dark as she searches for her entire self. There’s very little in the way of apearances of her austere young man aka The Goblin King from the previous installment though there’s much longing on Liesl’s part for the Goblin Queen she was and the closeness they had shared. Not that he’s not in this tale.
He’s there, but not there. We catch glimpses of him lasting seconds, if that; and then he’s gone leading us to wonder if we really did see him. He is depicted as being more monster than man as he leads the Wild Hunt, a scary spectacle that rides when there is an imbalance between the Underground and the land of the living. Liesl actually bears responsibility for the Hunt because she crossed the barrier between the two worlds when she walked away from her Goblin King and their vows at the end of Wintersong. Her leaving left a rip in the fabric of the world allowing the spirits, ghouls and denizens of the Underground to escape. Unfortunately, the Underworld, itself, is sparse in this sequel and reliving their romance is only via rehashed memories. The end result is not bad, just not what I’d wished for.
Following please find a few of my favorite quotes from Shadowsong:
Be thou, with me.
“Take me,” I whisper. “Take me back.”
The green and gray of the Goblin King’s eyes flash white and blue, white and blue, the pupils shrinking to a pinprick of black. The corners of his lips curl, close – so close – to mine.
“As you wish, my dear. As you wish.”
A breath, a sigh, a kiss, and we are met.
“You can be running toward something or running from something, but you cannot do both at once,” she said gently.
“But what’s the use of running” – she lifted her eyes to mine – “if you are on the wrong road.”
“It is not the wolves you need fear, but the sheep skins they wear.”
“Madness is not a gift,” I said angrily.
“Nor is it a curse,” the Count returned gently, “Madness simply is.”
Wintersong was passionate and full of fire. Shadowsong is maniacal and cuts to the quick. Wintersong focused on Liesel’s and The Goblin King’s relationship; Shadowsong focuses on Liesel’s relationship with herself and her brother. Both books are blessed by the author’s wonderfully romantic and descriptive prose and they are each uniquely poignant tales. Unfortunately, Shadowsong dragged for me once the setting moved to Vienna and remained slow until the last fifty-pages or so. However, those last few pages re-energized the story, as it spun topsy-turvy to its surprising conclusion.
I would mention that the author includes a note of warning regarding possible triggers of suicidal thoughts, addiction, self-harm and bipolar disorder while reading as this story is indeed emotionally heart-wrenching and teeming with raw emotion. If you require sunshine and rainbows in your books, please find them elsewhere as they do not reside in Shadowsong.
If you loved Wintersong, I’d highly encourage you to pick up Shadowsong. That said, do not try to jump into Shadowsong without reading Wintersong as these novels should be read in their proper order. Since I finished it, when I close my eyes, I get goose bumps, as I can still see the poppy flowers and hear the distant hooves of the Hunt. I am sad that the story of Liesl, her Goblin King, and her siblings has concluded. I look forward to reading more from S. Jae-Jones in the future.
Suggested Reading Order:
Wintersong (Book #1)
Shadowsong (Book #2)