Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones Review

Title: Shadowsong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Wintersong, book two
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

Wintersong was one of my favorite books of last year—a dark, romantic fey retelling of The Labyrinth film, set in 1800s Bavaria—and at first, I thought it was a standalone. So imagine my surprise and delight when it was announced that it would be a duology! Shadowsong has been sitting in my library stack for a while, and when I realized it was on its last renewal, I pushed it to the top of my stack. Right when I finished with Blood Water Paint, I began Shadowsong. (Actually, I tried reading The Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh and it just wasn’t gelling with me, so I shelved it and moved on to Shadowsong.) Of course, as with all sequels, it took me a little while to remember the events of the last book, but Shadowsong was lovely and just as compelling as its predecessor. This time, though, it explores the theme of family, friendship, desire, love in all its forms, dangerous secrets, and most importantly, mental illness. That was honestly what I loved most about this book; it provided an honest and compassionate look at bipolar disorder, and at the same time, it gave me the happy ending that I so desperately craved. With her duo of magical, dark and romantic novels, S. Jae-Jones has become one of my new favorite authors, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store next!

Liesl has returned from the Underground, and is desperate for contact from her siblings, mother, and grandmother. Broken and desperate for a connection to who she once was, she is soon presented with an irresistible opportunity to go to Vienna to search for her brother and finally make contact. But what starts as a new start at a fairy tale life slowly turns into a nightmare. Liesl is haunted by her past, by the wounds she will not acknowledge. So when she begins to see visions and hear voices, she fears that she is losing her mind. Liesl must decide to face her pain, or risk losing everything she knows, including her family and beloved Der Elkoning.

I really, really enjoyed this book, though it was much darker and more serious in tone than Wintersong. I liked the way that the script was flipped; if Wintersong was about Liesl’s passion and self-discovery, Shadowsong was its dark, somber mirror, one that focused on her past and her (mostly) human family. I loved the prose, musical and gorgeous, the breakneck pacing that traveled back and forth between Liesl, her family members, and the Goblin King’s past. But most of all, I loved the character development of the novel. I loved the way that it explored Liesl’s relationship with her family, especially her sister and brother. I also really adored the way that it explored her mental illness—we need more books like this, that show what mental illness is with compassion and understanding. (Dismantle the stigma, folks!) The new characters were wonderful, providing an enchanting, creepy foil to the ones I already knew. Full of magic, tenderness, and the worst kind of pain, the kind that cuts you to the bone and stomps on your soul. And the ending! Oh my gosh, it was so satisfying and emotional! What a perfect, beautiful and bittersweet ending to one of my favorite duologies of the last two years! The only thing that really bothered me was that the pacing was a little stilted, moving as it did between three different points of view. But nonetheless, what a wonderful sequel! I will never forget Liesl, her loving, odd family, or her beloved Goblin King! The bottom line: Lush, tender, and dark, Shadowsong was a beautiful sequel to one of my favorite books of last year, with an ending that broke my heart and put it back together again! Next on deck: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst!

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