Friday, April 7, 2017

Review: Wintersong

Wintersong Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dreamt of this man, this embodiment of a Goblin King throughout my childhood. It didn't matter that I was taught to love his music by my mother, no matter what David Bowie would always be Jareth, the Goblin King, for me in my heart and in my dreams. When I heard that Wintersong was a sort of retelling of that story, a retelling that paid tribute to the original tale though it was its own story, I decided I had to read it. I waited until people I trusted, people with whom I share similar tastes, had read and reviewed the book before taking it up. I know that people could look at my reading activity on the tale and think, wow, she really doesn't seem like she was as impressed as a five star review, but there is so much more to it than that.

Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood. She was small and dark, he was tall and fair, and the two of them made a fancy pair as they danced together, dancing to the music the little girl heard in her head.

I can't say that my head wasn't filled with the images of Jareth & Sarah as I read this book. I can't say that I didn't imagine all the things that I wished would have happened as he sang to her "Live without the sunlight/Love without your heartbeat/I, I can't live within you" but I was present enough to know that this book was a book written out of love for the idea, love for the story. I thank you S. Jae-Jones for writing something that paid dear homage to those characters that I held so dear in childhood reverence. These characters, this story was treated with love, honour, compassion, reverence... This was the most beautiful treatment that I could have hoped for.

This truly was the story of a boy and girl who fell in love with each other as they danced together to the music that she heard in her head surrounded by the beauty of the Goblin Grove. They played together, danced together, shared their selves entire with each other and then, Liesl grew up. Liesl grew up and she left the Goblin King and her childhood fancies behind; the love that she felt for the young boy in the wood not lost, but buried beneath the oppression of her immediate world. She let the pain and rejection she was feeling make her invisible. She was shown that whenever she strove for the attentions of her father, he would crush her, break her down and make her invisible, so she stopped trying to be visible. She stopped trying to be anything but the strange, ugly little girl that she thought she was, undeserving of applause or admiration from anyone. Can I tell you that this hit home? It hit home hard, slamming me in the chest because even if I wasn't torn down by parents, I had been torn down and believed that I was that strange, ugly girl as a child myself (around 9 years old was where it started and so too did it begin for Liesl) and I could see myself within her and the very normal reactions to her situation. The connection took root, and that made everything else history.

Though there was a familiarity in settings (the ball, the masks, the goblins themselves, the decay, the city at the centre of the labyrinth, the concept of a labyrinth itself), the tone and spirit of this story was something entirely different. The game they played, the search for Käthe (like the search for Toby), the oubliette, little twists on the original and only taking up about half of the book yet resolving itself very differently than it did in that original tale. Instead of telling the Goblin King that he held no power over her, she offers up her life to him, her hand in marriage if only to save her sister, her brother, her world above... I don't imagine that she had envisioned remembering the love and the trust that she felt with the Goblin King when she was a little girl in the Goblin Grove. Liesl the girl, the inn keeper's daughter who gave her all for everyone else in spite of her own dreams and wishes flourished and grew into Elisabeth the woman, the lover, the wife, the sister, the composer who brooked no indifference or invisibility, who was whole and accepting of herself and striving for what she deserved, never accepting less. This was a beautiful coming of age for her, beautiful and powerful and stirring. I wept several times for the beauty of it.

Once upon a time, a savage, violent time, humans, goblins, kobolds, Hödekin, and Lorelei lived side by side in the world above, feeding, fighting, preying, slaying. It was, as I had said, a dark time, and Man turned to dark practices to keep the blood tides at bay. Sacrifices, you see. Man turned against brother, fathers against daughters, sons against
mothers, all to appease the goblins. To stop the needless deaths, one man— one stupid, foolish man— made a bargain with the old laws of the land, offering himself as a sacrifice.

The focus of Wintersong is predominantly the coming age of Liesl, but there is also a focus on the Goblin King and is he (and this bargain of a bride) really what he seems to be. A lot like Jareth, this Goblin King is not what he appears to the naked eye. The Goblin King is a title, it is a legend, it is not an imperfect immortal truth and it does not have to be your prison forever. This was something that I hadn't thought about. Oh sure, I had thought about living in the Underground, would it be good for the human spirit? How would the body adjust/react to the foods, sights, smells and tastes? Could you live without the sunshine? One line striking a cord with me:

What is eternal life but a prolonged death.

This story shows you how Elisabeth came to have a deeper love for her Goblin King, shows you how she fell in love with him, saw him, all of him. She learns how to find the music within him, the beauty behind the glamour. He learns to let her in, to give her his trust and his heart as she learns to do the same with him. Was it insta-love?

PUH-LEASE! IF you even remotely decide to tell me that you have gone ABSOLUTELY insane and you haven't read the same book. He had loved her since she was a child/they were both children playing in a wood together dancing to the wildness, the strange, the queer, the music in her head. This was about them discovering their true selves and being able to share themselves entirely with one another. Unfortunately, it was also a story that was heartbreaking in that in the end -(view spoiler)

Love is the bridge that spans the world above and below, and keeps the wheel of life turning.

I hope that this is true, I hope that this could happen... because I need more... I NEED MORE!!!!! This direct sequel that is coming, I need to know - is there a happily ever after to this story? Or just a happy enough?
(view spoiler)

I want to know, does it go on? Is it a bond not broken by time? Space? Linear and non-linear distance? I want to know and I wait anxiously with baited breath to hear the truth of the tale and for Elisabeth to call him home by name.

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