Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
Who remembers reading Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” in high school/college? Well, take that poem and smush it together with a Hades and Persephone myth and you have the epic tale of Wintersong. It was magical, and it was slow-paced. And while that can be a bad thing, the slow pace of a novel, the captivating prose proved to be this story’s number one selling point to me.
While the story arcs through the trials that Liesl fighting to return her sister from the clutches of the Goblin King, to throwing her life away to become the Goblin Queen, to understanding the real nature of the Underworld, the goblins, and her life down in this hellish kingdom, it does go through a slow churning cycle. I found myself checking my percentage counter at the bottom of my kindle screen just to see how far I progressed, and every time it didn’t feel like enough. What made up for the molasses-slow plotline happened to be the elegant and magical prose rather than the characters themselves.
Now I liked Liesl when she wasn’t throwing tantrums or falling for the goblin glamours, but I found myself more captivated by her when she was with the Goblin King in the end. She has a blind eye, and doesn’t do as she is guided to do. Her grandmother told her to watch out for her sister and what does Liesl do? Not watch out for her sister. Sister of the year. As far as relationships are concerned in this book, and how Stockholm Syndrome goes, Liesl had it bad, in a steamy sort of way. And I dug it. Not condoning SS through. Had some tears in the eyes by the last page. I would definitely read a novel just on the Goblin King alone for his character was strange, but in a good way. Strange like multi-faceted/ multi-personality and I want to know more about the lore and tale of The Goblin King.