by S. Jae-Jones
Six 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 Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.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?
I would highly recommend reading the first book in this duo, Wintersong, before diving into Shadowsong, since the characters and story build upon the events of the first story.
Liesl's life has gained a little bit of normality as she works with her family in the inn as they struggle to make ends meet. Still, she can't forget the Goblin King or totally break free from her memories of his world. Her grandmother isn't making things easier as she constantly warns of imbalance Liesl's escape has caused and the retribution which is bound to come in the form of a deadly hunt. Even Liesl's younger brother, Josef, has changed and the warm relationship between them has disappeared. But these troubles are only the beginning of the world falling down around her because the Goblin King and the old laws will have their sacrifice, and no one can stop them.
The first scenes ground into a past, peasant world and let the atmosphere of the inn as well as Liesl's family come to life. The author takes her time, letting everything unfold in a poetic way, which draws in and lets sights, sounds and feelings sink in. The dilemma is clear quick, and the sympathy for Liesl's situation pulls at the heart-strings, while allowing the darkness of the Goblin King's realm hang like an eerie shadow. It's beautiful but still tense, and holds this combination the entire way through the book.
And it's slow. This isn't an action packed, fast-paced novel but rather dances around an aching and shadow filled Liesl as she tries to fumble back into life but just isn't making it. Her pains are clear, the character deep and the constant sense of sadness and disappointment unrelenting. I'd lie if I said I didn't skim over pages. I did, and there were moments I felt a little lost and wondered where everything was headed. It's not as clear as in book one, the romance isn't there and even the danger is more a haunting, unclear threat than a clear reality. Like music, the entire thing almost floats around as if caught in a dream-state.
I missed the Goblin King and the Underworld. These were what made the story so intriguing in book one, and these were only brushed upon in this book. The sibling relationship to Josef appears to be the driving factor, but the Liesl and him never spend much time together, and when they do, it's a fleeting fight. The writing is beautiful, and the scenes amazing but the heart of the book. . .the driving plot is faint. Even the end—although I found myself engaged and reading every page with interest—left questions open. Thanks to the missing romance during the book, the last scenes didn't carry the punch they could have and felt like a rounding off to a tale without much impact.
This is one of those books which is going to go either way—you love it or you don't. Poetic, beautiful writing fans will be thrilled with every page, and Liesl's character depth and emotional developments stabs the heart the whole way. But actual happenings are slow in coming and the Goblin King exists as an aching memory more than an actual, dark, tempting character. As to danger. . .it's never really clear what it is, except that it's a constant threat, dark and unwanted. Whatever it may have been.