Jeannette Mooney ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
For her first novel, published in February 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books, author S. Jae-Jones spins a tale around a premise that a cult classic movie lover might find familiar. Inspired by director Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Wintersong tells the story of Liesl, a girl who spent her childhood playing with the Goblin King. At eighteen, however, she has no recollection of her past encounters with him. Everything changes when her younger sister, Kathe, is spirited away into the Underground by the Goblin King. It is up to Liesl to rescue Kathe in time, or her sister will become the Goblin King’s bride.
While Jae-Jones draws inspiration from the film, there are many deviations between book and movie when it comes to plot and characters. Wintersong’s protagonist, Liesl, deviates strongly from her movie counterpart. For one, she is older and more mature, so while the book does touch on her transitioning into adulthood, her journey is one of self realization and actualization rather than a coming of age story. Perhaps the biggest similarity between the book and movie is the Goblin King himself, or rather, David Bowie.
“The Goblin King was lounging against one of the alder trees in the grove, one arm draped against the trunk, the other resting casually against his hip. His hair was in wild disarray, ruffled and feathery, like thistledown, like spiderwebs, illuminated by the full moon into a halo about his head. His face held all the beauty of angels, but the grin upon his face was positively devilish” (Jae-Jones 73).
The novel has its flaws. Wintersong is a lovingly-written first novel, but it is still a first novel none the less. Two hundred pages in, the plot resolves itself and another story begins in its place. Jae-Jones displays a resoluteness to only write one book in an age of sagas and trilogies, and the climax of the original tension does not leave the reader with much incentive to continue reading. In this second half, the development Liesl and the Goblin King’s relationship stagnates for longer than necessary. At times, the novel also wanders dangerously close to having the “not like other girls” trope. Kathe, who is far more traditionally feminine than Liesl, is described early on as someone who is “easily spent and easily satiated.” She is, however, given a decent amount of character development later on.
Jae-Jones’ clear passion for her story makes its short comings easy to forgive. She was clearly dedicated to writing a book to empower the teenage girls that make up a large chunk of the readers of the young adult genre. An entertaining and quick read, Wintersong is a good choice for those craving a new story wrapped in comfortable nostalgia.