Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones – Book Review.

Title: Shadowsong

Author: S. Jae-Jones

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Gothic Literature, Fairytale


Feature Image Credit – MadReviews

These days, it’s a rare thing for me to find a good fantasy novel and really enjoy the romance that inadvertently seems to crop up within its pages. And last year, I was sent Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones, and I immediately fell in love with the gothic world of the Goblin King and his conquest, the musical protegee Liesel.

Unfortunately, I didn’t review this book (but I’ll link a blog post from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books if you want to get up to speed with the gist of the tale) before I dive into the review of its highly anticipated sequel, Shadowsong.

Shadowsong is the conclusion of the Wintersong series and had quite a lot to live up too. At the end of the first book, Liesel had broken the old laws and had left the Goblin Underground and her husband to go back to the real world. However, it was obvious that this would have a ripple effect on the world, and I was excited to see how it would pan out.

Six months had passed since the end of Wintersong, and Liesel is just existing in her world. Stuck between missing her Goblin King and realm underground and coping with the running of her family’s failing tavarn in the backwoods of Bavaria, Liesel is trapped between the past and the present. Unable to compose or even really listen to music, she cannot find comfort in her day-to-day life. Along with this, Liesel’s closest confidante – her brother Josef – has been spirited away to the glittering social circles of Vienna and Salzburg, there is little to salvage once was the feisty, musically inclined Goblin Queen.

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However, when Liesel receives an emotional summons to join her brother, she quickly flees to his side to get caught up in the baroque decadence of the big cities. Yet, little to Liesel’s knowledge at first, The Wild Hunt is furiously pursuing her. And soon Liesel has to confront her demons, her past and the warped creature that was her austere young man that she left in the Underground.

As I said, this book was highly anticipated for fans of Wintersong. I know readers couldn’t wait to clamour all over the rich world that Jae-Jones had envisioned, and see whether Liesel and the Goblin King would ever get reunited again.

Yet, for me, this book fell incredibly short of the mark.

First thing. The romance wasn’t there. Like I said, it takes me a lot to actually enjoyed the YA/fantasy romance of books nowadays. But the tension and relationship between Liesel and her Goblin King were one of the main hooks of the first book. So much so that I couldn’t wait to read all about their exchanges and scenes again.

But in Shadowsong, it barely was there. The couple spent 95% of the book separated. So, soon I got bored of the plot.

Don’t get me wrong, the lyrical style of writing was present. S. Jae-Jones is a beautiful writer, and her descriptive passages are lovely to read. But I really wasn’t invested in the plot this time. I didn’t really care for the struggles of Josef (a fairly bland, angsty character in my mind) or the twists and turns of the novel. I very nearly put this sequel down a few times, just because I felt a little cheated. However, I did persevere. The ending tied all the loose ends together well, and I did feel that it sort of brought it back from the brink (although the plot line where Liesel was trying to discover the Goblin King’s real name should have been more prominent, I feel. To me, it was kind of lazy writing how it was just thrown in there at random points and rushed at the end) but I really did feel let down.

Perhaps, in a few months, I’ll pick up Shadowsong again and read it. But I know that for my first impression, it radically fell short off the mark. However, I would read more of S. Jae-Jones work, so I will give her that.

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The Bear and the Nightingale – Book Review

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Gothic Literature, Russian Literature, Fairytale.


As I think I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for anything Russian based. I love the history of this vast country, and it’s true that within history comes different cultures and tales. And the mythos around Russian folklore is just so far removed from the fairytales that I grew up with as an English girl, I feel constantly drawn to them.

So when I read the back of The Bear and the Nightingale in my local Waterstones, I knew it would be right up my street.

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Set in a village during the infancy of feudal Russia (nearly two hundred years before Ivan the Terrible) The Bear and the Nightingale has factual and fictional base around the culture of this remote part of the world – a time in which religion and the command of the land holds sway over the everyday Russian’s lives, and sorcery and folklore as real as breathing.

But for a young woman Vasya; the last daughter and child of the kindly but gruff boyar Pyotr Vladimirovich and his dead wife Marina, these aren’t just stories. As Vasya can see the house spirits that guard her home and surrounding areas, and she can sense when the growing forces of dark magic are breaking free from the wild forests of Russia’s landscapes.

There are a few things I loved about this book. One being that in the last few years, we’ve had a good spate of Russian inspired fairytales (see my review for Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon review) and I think this novel fits in very well with exploring this wonderful culture. The writing was very lyrical and the working in of the Russian words and terminology made the story come alive in a very real way.

I enjoyed some of the character depth – especially with Father Konstantin’s interest in Vasya turning into something far more than religious interest in the young woman, and his shame about these developing feelings (felt very Judge Frollo from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame here), along with Vasya’s transformation from a wild young girl into a young woman.

However, this book does have its negative points. I felt the story lost itself halfway through, and the jumble of different spirits and how Vasya affected the balance of the world made for quite a mess when reading it. Towards the end, when the climax and tone of the book should be at its most urgent and pronounced, there wasn’t any tension. It played it safe, and for a book that really could have been fairly violent and almost squeamish, it felt almost boring to read. The book seems to meander quite a lot, and never really hits home about the point it’s trying to make.

Unfortunately, the character of Morozoko (A Russian-esque Jack Frost character) gets lost with his characterisation. I felt like when he was explaining himself and his conflict with his twin (these two were supposed to be really central and important characters) his story never really made sense and didn’t make him memorable.

I wanted more of him and this sort of folklore and less of the house and stable spirits we were subjected too.

However, despite all this, I am curious about the sequel – The Girl in the Tower – despite all my negative thoughts, so I probably will pick it up to see whether it improves. Expect a review on this too.

Overall, a good premise and lyrical book, but one that falls short on delivering.

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Feature image credit – TheGryphon.co.uk

What I’m Reading Wednesday – 21st February

Featured image credit – webreaktheblock.com

 

After a long spell away from blogging, I really want to return to this platform with love. So here’s my first 2018 ‘What I’m Reading Wednesday Post’ – something I hope to do every month or so to keep readers in the loop:

Questions?!

1: What have you finished reading.

2: What are you currently reading.

3: What will you read next.

 


1: What have you finished reading?

I’ve just today finished ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden – a novel I thoroughly recommend to every fairytale fan.

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2: What are you currently reading?

Tonight I’m going to start ‘Dangerous Women: Part I’ by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Not only do I love badass tales of women, but anything set in the Game of Thrones universe.

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3: What will you read next?

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak. This book has been staring out at me from my bookshelf for too long.the-winter-palace-cover

 

My next blog post will be a review of Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones.