S. Jae-Jones – Shadowsong

Expectations before reading

This is the second volume of the book Wintersong. I read the first volume in German (so the review you can find here is in German), but I decided to read the second one in its original language.


Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s musical career and her own. But life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother, Josef, is cold and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her.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 mysteries of life, death, and the Goblin King. 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 of the ones Liesl loves – is in her hands?

The cover contains quite a lot of praise for the first volume Wintersong, however there is also one that seems to refer to this volume. It is by Laura Lam, author of Pantomime and False Hearts:

Lush, sexy and gorgeous.

The cover of the book is in darker colors, purple and black, with some kind of icy crystal ball on the front. It seems to be shattering. There are also some flowers, poppies maybe. I can’t really tell whether they are falling out of the shattering crystal ball or if they are the reason it shatters. Anyways, the whole book seems quite dark and I have read on the author’s Instagram, that this story is also quite dark. I like it.

I am hoping for an interesting, suspenseful and mystic story. I guess this will also be a love story. Or no, let’s say, I am pretty sure this is a love story. And seeing this praise by Laura Lam, I really hope there is not too much of this “oh, I love you so much but it can’t be” and all this adoration and.. not sure how to put it into words. I just hope there won’t be too much of that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against love stories. Not at all. I just also need more in a book that JUST that, otherwise it start annoying me. So. But I do expect a good book.

The Book

4.5 Stars

Plot ★★★★

This book is a great example for a crappy blurb. [Skip the next few sentences and continue with the next paragraph in case you are afraid of a (very tiny) spoiler] As you might have read it says that Liesl must return to the underground. Therefore you wait for her to go to the underground…which doesn’t happen until the end of the book.

But let’s forget about the blurb. The book is great. It is dark and sad. But it is also full of mystery what I love. The story is mostly told from Liesl’s perspective, but the reader also gets a glimpse into other characters and other storylines. There is, for example the story of the wolf-boy. Those glimpses makes the reader somewhat omniscient. Or let’s say – the reader definitely knows more than the individual characters. You, as a reader, keep trying to fit all the pieces together that the author gives you but there aren’t enough pieces, there is still too much that stays a mystery. And this makes the story very exciting. You have to keep reading in order to find all the pieces to this overall story.

From the cover and the blurb I feared that it would be mainly a love story. It definitely is a love story. But not of that kind you would think. It is also family-love and the love for music.

Characters ★★★★★

The characters of the book are very unique in my opinion. You don’t get much insight into all the characters but you do get very distinct insight into Liesl. Her feelings, her thoughts, her view of the world. Many characters stay mysterious and you are always torn between sympathy and mistrust for them. This makes the whole plot very thrilling.

Setting ★★★★★

The setting fits the whole story very well. I love the description of Vienna and of Snovin Hall. The mysterious landscape. The glimpse of historical life in Vienna and Bavaria. Everything.

Style ★★★★

The novel is beautifully written. You just have to keep reading. But there are still also a few things I didn’t like so much. The author uses some German words in the sentences just like that. And in my opinion this is a bit weird. For me as a German native speaker there is no problem in understanding those words but I wonder how English native speakers feel?

For example on page 9: “[…] the clavier in your room has lain untouched since Papa died.” And then “Klavier” is not even capitalized as it would be in German. It is just used as if it were an English word.. Also there is this constant use of the term “Der Erlkönig”. At least the words are italic and you can see that it is the name of the creature/person (?). But still.. what bothers me is that in some cases it would be grammatically incorrect. In German you inflect words. Also nouns. And when the sentence says “[…] for what was my art without Der Erlkönig?” (p.126) I really want to change “der Erlkönig” to “den Erlkönig”. Which would also sound weird in this English sentence of course. Also since “Der Erlkönig” is used as a proper name here, there maybe is no need to inflect it..  Sorry, I  was not really planning on educating you in German grammar. I just tried to explain my criticism here. 😉

Well, whatever. Leaving aside those German terms – I really love her style of writing.

Opinion after reading

To be honest I kind of feared that this book would be a long and desperate love story. But I loved the first book, so I had to read this one too. And – lucky me – it is not what I feared! It is a love story, in a way, but not only romantic but also about family-love and about the love of music. It is a great and thrilling story, full of mysteries and old legends with interesting characters. Beautifully written. If you don’t mind the mix of German words into the English sentences. (Don’t worry – there are not that many and you get used to it.) I can really recommend this book!

I also love the end of the book, the Coda. It just matches the very beginning of the first volume Wintersong so well. It is like a circle that is closed here.

And 2 short notes I have to add:

The pronunciation guide in the back of the book is very funny for a native German speaker! I spent some time sitting there, reading the German words according to this. I had so much fun. 😀 It might be actually helpful for non-German speakers.

And a violoncello is not the precursor of the cello. ☹ A violoncello is a cello. Cello is the short term.


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