by S. Jae-Jones
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All 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.
3.5 of 5 Stars
I ended up binging on this book while sick and camping out on my couch. Unlike many other readers I’ve not read or seen Labyrinth so I’ve no ability to compare the two and this also didn’t have to live up to any prior expectations. It took me a little while to get into the story but I connected with Liesl almost right away. She’s incredibly talented and driven but all of those wonderful traits are discouraged by her family. Part of this is the fact that her father and his issues but also because of the time period. I’m not usually a big fan of historical fiction but this was something else completely. Because so much of the story is set in a fantasy realm the fact that it’s a historical setting got pushed aside for me.
While I loved the storyline, the best part to me was seeing the personal growth as Liesl slowly grew and became Elisabeth. She struggles, rebels, and goes through an incredible transformation as a character. The Goblin King is similar in this respect. I fell in love with his character early on because of the mysterious quality surrounding him. I never really could tell what side of the line he was on and it was interesting to see the layers be peeled back to reveal more and more about him.
The ending nearly had me crying, it was intense and heartfelt at all the right moments. I really liked this book and it would have gotten a much higher rating if not for one thing. This is a slow read, it isn’t filled with action. The writing is almost lyrical in a poetic sort of way that’s attractive but sometimes makes the story itself drag. This is especially true in the middle of the book when a large chunk of the book when it seems nothing much happens. It’s interesting enough to keep me engaged with the book for the most part.. but still, put me off a little.
Overall, if you are a fan of retellings or historical fantasy I do highly recommend this book. It’s listed as a young adult novel but features a few a few somewhat graphic sexual encounters that might be better suited more to older teens.
Big thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.