[ARC Review] Shadowsong – Marginally better than Wintersong…

Shadowsong (Wintersong, #2)Rating:

Synopsis2Six 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 Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.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?

My review [Contains spoilers from Wintersong]

Shadowsong starts six months after Liesl walks out of the Underground, her marriage with the Goblin King and the title of the Goblin Queen. In doing so, she disturbs the delicate balance that keeps her world secure, safe and immune to the “unholy spirits” of the world below her – As the old Laws of the Underground demands that a sacrifice be made – a sacrifice in the form of a bride for their King  – to ensure that life breathes into the world Liesl lives in. To ensure that Winter gives way to Spring.

This book is all about the slow consequences of Liesl choosing to walk out. And also about what she decides to do with her new-found knowledge of Josef being a changeling – whose life is a consequence of Liesl’s prayers when he had fallen ill as a baby. Liesl’s brother isnt meant for the world above and the only thing keeping him tethered and stopping him from joining the other changelings in the Underground is his sister’s wish and his partner’s – Francois’s – love for him.

I had made it pretty evident in my review of Wintersong about how frustrated I was with the romance. But I really liked the revelation about Josef and also wanted to see how Liesl deals with going back to her life. So I did go into Shadowsong with some expectation and anticipation…

The plotting The world-building continues in this book; the world – in terms of myths and tales – expands – and phenomenon such as “elf-touched” and “elf-struck” are spoken about a lot more than the previous book. But, the issue I had with the book is this – though we got more of the “background” wrt. the origin of the Goblin Kings, the sacrifices required by the queens and so on… I never felt like I understood it any better.. This book introduced two new factions who have connected with the Underworld in the past within some capacity (like Liesl) which felt so unnecessary. I mean, I think atleast one could have been totally done away with… It just felt like the author introduced too many concepts.. but couldnt connect them too well..

The characters Josef is aloof with everyone and angry with Liesl. His sense of betrayal and Liesl’s hurt feelings are well-depicted and probably the best part of the book. I was also glad to see more of Kathe and Francois, and gosh, I will say it again .. Kathe deserves a better story. And Francois deserved atleast one opportunity to vent on-page about how distant Josef was. I mean, Liesl got almost two books to dwell, moan and whine.

Honestly, I quite enjoyed the first half of the book, where it focused on Liesl, Josef, Kathe and Francois. It was only in the second part where Liesl again slipped into pining for the Goblin King and pretty much indulged in constant self-flagellation for her past choices that I was reminded about how much Liesl bored me in Wintersong.

Overall impressions A different concept, with some great ideas. But they just didn’t fit too well. Too many contradictions and vague explanations about how the Laws and sacrifices are supposed to work.

If you enjoyed the first book, then I think you would really like this a lot more than I did. I found it to be a much better book than Wintersong though.

Note: I won an ARC of this book from Amanda MacGregor. Shadowsong releases on Feb 6th , 2018

Wintersong – A semi-spoilery rant.

Wintersong (Wintersong, #1) Rating:

Synopsis2All 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.

My reviewThis is one of those books which starts out really strong, loses steam mid-way and then splutters into such a mind-numbing conclusion (not! there is a sequel) that .. you are just left to wonder – How can a novel intended to have Music as its backbone leave you feeling so empty?

  • Liesl was annoying, the Goblin King was annoying and well.. their romance was annoying . I couldnt take anything Liesl said or felt seriously because I never got the sense that she even knew what her priorities were or where her loyalties lie… Her “love” for her family members kind of flits around.. Sometimes she has Kathe in her thoughts, sometimes it is her brother.. but most of the time.. none of them seem to matter in comparison to her new-found proximity and place in the Goblin king’s life and the “freedom” she finds Underground.. And, she remembers her parents occasionally as an afterthought…
  • And oh, dont let the synopsis fool you.. Liesl’s strength doesn’t come from the Goblin King – “musically”, “physically”, or “emotionally” – it comes after they have sex – which you might miss if you flip the pages to skim over musical or flowery metaphors. Gosh, there was something so… needy and whiny about the way Liesl craved for physical intimacy – and that too so quickly after she is practically blackmailed into being held captive.. that despite all her affirmations throughout the book that it is “her choice” to be in the relationship – I just couldn’t shrug off feeling so creeped out by their unhealthy and almost Stolkholm-Syndrome-like dynamics..
  • The writing in general is beautiful.. with a great concept.. But I just wished the book didn’t spend such a major chunk of its page time on Liesl grumbling and the Goblin King playing the most boring version of the Brooding YA Hero trope ever written.
  • The world-building is kind of confusing… and gave the impression that the author just put in a lot of pretty dressing and sparkly icing to cover up a wafer-thin setting. What could have been summarized in five sentences is spread thin throughout the book and presented very …. very….. slowly..
  • Oh, how I wish there was more of Kathe , and less of Liesl’s condescension and judgement about her… It was the most blatant .. “My sister is shallow and pretty but I am ordinary and deep and beautiful from inside” trope ever. Except that Kathe is so much more .. – that we are robbed of seeing because of – Liesl.GoblinKing.Epic.Love.Story

But, oh, I am interested in reading the sequel because the twist in the later part of the book is interesting and kind of sets up the sequel to focus on a slightly different plot. And it looks like (fingers crossed) we might get more of another love story too..

Edit: Amidst all the metaphors and flowery prose, the bit that actually had the most impact on me (maybe because I had just watched Coco) was this bit :

Image result for coco movie images This was the immortality humans were meant to have: to be remembered by those who loved us long after our bodies had crumbled to dust.