Let's start with a great book, shall we? Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones, had me at "Goblin King," and I knew I was going to read it. It even says, on the back cover, that fans of Jim Henson's "The Labyrinth," with David Bowie, will love the book. Now, that is about where the comparison ends, to be honest. Yes, I can definitely see Bowie as this Goblin King. Yes, there are labyrinth-like tunnels in the novel, but everything else is completely different,...and have bits of other things in them.
Wintersong is a beautifully written old tale about Liesl, the eldest daughter in a family, who has a love for music and magic in her heart, but there's no place for all that among all her family duties. When she is little, she runs to the forest to play with a strange boy who understands her, who often asks if she'll marry him someday when they grow up. She never really gives him an answer, she thinks it's just a game they play. Then one day, Liesl does grow up...and forgets all about the strange boy she used to play with.
When Liesl is grown, she no longer pays attention to the dark tales of her youth, even when her grandmother warns her not to forget the old ways. She is lost in the responsibilities of being the oldest daughter and watching over her younger sister and brother. Until, one day, just as her grandmother warned her in old stories, the Goblin King rides through the forest looking for a bride, a sacrifice, to ensure winter doesn't last forever. When the Goblin King takes Liesl's sister, she must get her back.
This story is dark and haunting. It is filled with superstitions and magic and music. It is everything you could want in the truest sense of old faerie tales, the Brothers Grimm versions - not Disney's. While I realize this book is labeled as a YA, I don't feel that it is. The Goblin King is seductive. He teases and lures and tempts every chance he gets, which causes delicious tension in the book, but I think it's more for older high school students. It's definitely not for middle school students.
As I read this story, I was reminded of pieces of other stories. After I read it, I saw someone else's review that felt the same way and listed all the ones that came to their mind as they read (including a couple of Greek myths). I agreed with every one, so it wasn't just me who picked up on it. It isn't that Jae-Jones' tale is an imitation of others. I just think she took the best parts of what makes an excellent faerie tale and wove them together with her own beautiful prose. And it is beautiful prose. And beautiful music. And a beautiful Goblin King.
Okay, moving on...