I’ve been in the mood for anything wintry, and this book seemed like just the thing. It’s young adult, which I’ve struggled with in the past, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I’m so glad I did, because Wintersong is a beautiful story. A retelling of the movie Labyrinth, it’s a captivating take on the Goblin King and his Underground, with music at its core.
“You are the monster I claim.”
Wintersong is lush, melancholy, and brimming with decaying decadence. Sixteen-year-old me would have adored this. It still spoke to me at thirty-one, but my teenaged self would have fallen head-over-heels for the story, the setting, the characters, the romance and, most importantly, the music. Music was incredibly foundational not only to the main characters, but to the plot itself. Music is very much the soul of this story and, as someone for whom music comprises much of my own soul, this resonated deeply with me. The descriptions of music, of crafting music and letting it flow through you, were stunning.
“There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort
of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.”
The writing is beautiful. The author writes lyrically, and some of her phrases felt like music themselves. She painted, lush, lovely, haunting pictures with her words. Teenaged me would have been completely enraptured by the writing, as well. Seriously, y’all, I cannot state strongly enough how much this would have been my favorite book when I was in high school.
“Life,” he said softly, “is more than ﬂesh. Your body is a candle, your soul the ﬂame. The longer I burn the candle…” He did not ﬁnish.
“A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,” I said.“I would rather light the ﬂame, knowing it will go out than sit forever in darkness.”
The story is very dramatic, but the plot calls for it. I don’t know how you could retell this story without such drama. And I’m going to be painfully honest: as much as I respect Labyrinth and love David Bowie, I enjoyed this book more than the film. The importance of music is a huge part of that, but so is the core cast of the book, as well as the setting and the writing. Jae-Jones just did a magnificent job paying tribute to her source material while also telling her own story. Side note: I loved the homage Jae-Jones paid to Bowie by giving her own Goblin King heterochromia.
“It takes love, you see, to bring the world back to life.”
There is definitely sex in this story, but I didn’t find it vulgar. It’s more about the emotion than the anatomy involved. That’s not to say it isn’t erotic. Because it’s very erotic. Again, younger me would have found it insanely romantic and would have read and reread certain scenes until the pages loosed themselves from their binding.
“To love is to be selfless. Let me be selfless.”
Honestly, there was a poignancy to the ending that I think would give a suitable finality to the story without reading the sequel. It stands alone really well, especially as a Labyrinth retelling. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start the second book immediately after finishing the first.
“Love is the bridge that spans the world above and below, and keeps the wheel of life turning.”
So, why 4 stars instead of 5? Because I kept thinking the entire time about how much my younger self would have adored this book. While I really enjoyed it, dwelling on how much more I would have loved it 15 years ago was a constant distraction. But it also kept me reading. Adult Celeste might have wanted to roll her eyes at more melodramatic scenes, at the difficulty of communication and at some of the racier scenes. But the part of me that remembers being a teenager knew how much I would have loved everything about this book, including those parts, and so my enjoyment was expanded.
“I am,” I said slowly, “a girl with music in her soul.”
Wintersong is a beautiful, haunting story, and it’s exquisitely told. If you’re a fan of dark, dramatic, supernatural romances, you should pick this book up. And if you have a soft spot for Labyrinth, you’re seriously going to love this.
You can order this book from: Bookshop.org (Support independent bookstores!) | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Audible | Libro.fm (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide!)