Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 448 (ARC)
Source: From Publisher For Review
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.
This book. I don't know what to say. I enjoyed it immensely.
I know that it was initially written as an adult erotic fantasy-type book that was then converted to a young adult book because of appeal. A Goblin King, while super intriguing, has the makings of perfection for a YA audience instead of an adult audience, you know? With that in mind, you can still tell this was initially adult. While there's less sex (though that's not to say there isn't any sex romance lovers) the way it is written just seems so... adult. There's an intimacy to everything, especially the way the author focuses on music, and it makes you flip pages super fast.
Firstly, I loved the lore in this. This Labyrinth re-imagining is definitely spot on. But, more than anything, the lore about The Underground, The Goblin King, and all the other creatures we find down there is beyond fascinating. This book truly transfers you to another world when Liesl heads underground, but because the main part of the book takes place in Austria it's like the entire book is a fairytale. The world-building is definitely spot on.
And here's where my intense love of this book wavers...Liesl. She's very selfless, rarely selfish, and it's easy to love her. But, gosh, is she frustrating at times. Nearly every other page she talks about how "plain" and "not pretty" she is. If I have to see the word "plain" one more time, I may scream. I understand that she envies her gorgeous sister, Kathe, and her talented brother and eyes often skim over her because of that, but she harps on it to the point of obsession. Even when someone else admits they see beauty in her, she can't fathom it because she's so wrapped up in her own plainness. Which, you know, makes her personality pretty dang plain at times when she's not being passionate and heroic and at times kinda overemotional and all over the place.
On the other hand, we have The Goblin King. He is so dang complex and fascinating. With his two different color eyes and lanky build, he is instantenously attractive to all. He has many hidden secrets, but a respect for scholars and a deep love and admiration for music, especially the violin. He, too, is simultaneously selfish and selfless and I wanted more of him. He is a compelling and easily loved villain. I'm talking The Darkling level, guys.
The romance...man. Liesl and the Goblin King have such an intense and passionate relationship. Because of this, her time spent underground is literally a rollercoaster. Happiness, sadness, passion, triumph, despair. You name it, they experience it, and their story is told through the beauty of her music. Speaking of music, as someone with not a lyrically talented bone in her body, I was hesitant to pick this book up. There's beautiful sequences describing rhythm and song that I wouldn't understand, but Jae-Jones wrote them so that even a music noob like myself could still feel the power and intimacy thrown into such compositions.
And then there's the end. The book ends where it does because there's a sequel, but it's like everything happened and it just ended there. And then there's an epilogue which made me have a little bit of hope, but it just wasn't what I wanted as a reader. It's not what I expected at all. Did it have something to do with the plot? Yes. Did it tie the book up in a satisfactory way? Not at all. It is unfortunate to end on an unsatisfactory note because the book is so great, but I am definitely looking forward to book two.
FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for this honest review.