***spoilers may be present in this review***
Okay. Okay. Okay. This is actually a slightly terrifying coincidence- I’d been reading Goethe’s Der Erlkönig before I started this.
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind.
Er hat den Knabe wohl in dem Arm,
Er fasst ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.
“Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?”
“Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif?”
“Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.”
And on it goes. If you want the whole poem (plus a crappy translation), try this.
So my perception of der Erlkönig, albeit not David Bowie as many others have said thanks to Labyrinth, was definitely more of a terrifying goblin-ghost-hallucination-pedophile type of character.
None of which Wintersong‘s Erlkönig would be. The Goblin King, though we never get a name, is absolutely wonderful and mysterious and complex and creepy, but not in that sort of way.
I feel like I should have taken off more than half a star since I did have my quibbles, but the aesthetic of the story largely made up for it. Liesl was whiny, especially in the first part of the book- “I’m not beautiful!” “The klavier (piano, btw- Klavier is German for piano. In case you want to picture it.) isn’t a gift, it’s an assault. I don’t deserve it.”- et cetera. And the end of the story just seemed incredibly rushed and a bit of a door slam, tbh, which was rather sad. I’d have liked it to go on forever, and ever, and ever…
Pacing was also a bit of an issue. Did I love how gorgeous it was? Yes! But did I want more to happen? Hahahahahaha *crying*. The first half of the book was excellent in this regard (except that Liesl was insanely whiny and pls no), but the second half tended to… drag a bit. I didn’t really notice while reading, but when I sat down to write this review and had to ask myself what happened in the book….????? Like, really.
But AESTHETIC. OMG AESTHETIC. This book reminded me why I need to get into habit of reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales again (I read one every night when I was a kid), and why I need to start writing more retellings of the more obscure ones. It reminded me why I love to play the piano, why I love composing (ok fine improvising, I’m awful at theory and writing stuff down, but I can figure things out by ear and then play with them), why I love German and Germany and fairy tales and heaven help me I need more.
Not to mention the fact that there was DIVERSITY!!! It would have been so easy to leave it out, it being what, 18th century Germany? But still, not only was there a black character but Josef is gay!!! And, as far as I can tell, ends up in a relationship with another male!!! So yaaaaaaassss on that part.
Long story short, gorgeous story in every sense of the word, and though I had my quibbles the pure aesthetic is too much to give anything but high praise. Albeit how it may appear in the summary, I didn’t see any major cliches, and those that COULD have become cliche went a very different direction.