” Winter Song “. A book whose plot, characters and language evoke violin and harpsichord music. And whose review, at least for me, could only start with Vivaldi’s Winter, a piece played by Josef , one of the most interesting characters in the novel, and which has been the soundtrack of my reading:
Now yes, here we go:
“ Winter Song ” is the debut novel by S. Jae-Jones , published in North America in February 2017, earning her the status of one of the New York Times bestselling authors. A dark, magical and musical supernatural romance, which is part of a bilogy whose second part, ” Shadowsong “, is already in North American bookstores. Roca Juvenil is its publisher in Spain, where it arrived last April.
His story takes us to a town in Bavaria, where ancient myths and beliefs coexist with the practical and realistic spirit that began to flourish at the dawn of the Modern era. That’s where Liesl lives , the eldest daughter of a couple of innkeepers who were once eminent musicians. A talent inherited both by her and her little brother Josef , but not by her sister Ella Kathe , which replaces her lack of musical prowess with natural beauty and charm.
Surpassed in attractiveness by Kathe and in talent by Josef, Liesl has had to bury her dreams of becoming a great songwriter to dedicate herself to taking care of the business and the family, and now only shares her music with her beloved brother.
But her monotonous life takes a radical change when the King of the Goblins , a figure born from the legends that their grandmother told them, kidnaps Kathe, and Liesl must travel to the Underworld to rescue her. There she will discover that her childhood tales and beliefs are very real, and that The King of the Goblins, also known as Der Erlkonig , Lord of Mischief and highest authority of the Underworld, wants her hand in marriage. The fate of both worlds will depend on his answer.
“ Winter Song ” presents us with the classic premise of “Beauty and the Beast”, but with its own nuances, in a story that focuses on romance with a dark, but also passionate tone. If I have to be honest, its plot is nothing to write home about: an ordinary girl goes through a portal to another world, where she begins a relationship with the attractive and terrible ruler of said place…. And why am I going to tell more? Anyone with a little experience with supernatural romance already knows more or less how it ends.
On the other hand, the development of the story is too easy, it gives the feeling that each problem is solved for its own sake, and it is full of supposed sacrifices that later are not. Not to mention the insurmountable rules that Liesl can cross without anything happening at all (and this has been the biggest disappointment I’ve had with the novel).
What I’m saying might make you want to throw the book out the window, but don’t do it yet. Because, despite everything, “ Winter Song ” manages to hook you from its first pages, since it offers a good dose of mystery, striking settings and, above all, quite attractive characters.
It is the case of Liesl. The novel is narrated in the first person from her point of view, and from the first moment she is surprised by her humanity. And it is that under the appearance of sister and daughter dedicated to her hide not only the typical lack of self-esteem, but also jealousy, resentment and selfishness that the reader knows as soon as the story starts.
A whole range of feelings and nuances that S. Jae-Jones has not been able to fully control, because at times Liesl becomes incongruous with herself.
But the best character in “ Winter Song ” is undoubtedly the King of the Goblins or Der Erlkonig , for whose creation the author was inspired by Goethe’s homonymous poem: not only because he is made to be liked (classic badass that deep down has his little heart), but because of the charisma that his personality exudes, as contradictory as it is hypnotic, and above all because of the mystery that surrounds him. His story is not known until the very end of the book, and he is one of the great incentives to continue reading.
And when they get together, both protagonists are a delight: their relationship is a constant tug-of-war. It is fury, it is passion, it is eroticism and also music. Sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, sometimes accomplices. I admit that I have skipped entire passages just to reread them both.
Of course they are not the only cast of the novel: Josef is another of the great enigmas of “ Winter Song ”, and the character that Jae-Jones has best developed in my opinion . Although secondary in this first book, I am sure that he will acquire greater prominence in the second. But also Kathe, and to a lesser extent Liesl’s parents and her grandmother Constance, present a more than entertaining psychology.
The other great asset of this book is the setting. Through the labyrinthine Underground World and the contrast with the one above, the author transports us to fantastic, dark places, where the border between reality and illusion is blurred. That ethereal sensation, of magical unreality, is accentuated thanks to a poetic and very beautiful language that could not fit better with the novel.
But above all, “ Winter Song ” conveys music. And it is very difficult for you to “hear” melodies in a book. Music not only has a great importance in the plot, but it is part of many of its characters, and also of the musical language that the author uses, describing the melodies in a way that you can imagine them, although this requires a minimum knowledge of the theme.