All her life, 19-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 Kathe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her - musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl faces an impossible choice. As she grows closer to the Goblin King, both of them must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
Set at the turn of the 19th century, when young upstart composers like Beethoven were forever altering the sound of music, S. Jae-Jones' richly imagined debut spins a spellbinding tale of music, love, sisterhood, and a young woman's search for self-actualization.
"A maze of beauty and darkness, of music and magic and glittering things, all tied together with exquisite writing. This is a world you will want to stay lost in." (Marie Lu, number-one New York Times best-selling author)
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This book is certainly different from a lot of other fantasy out there. It read like a folktale and the narration added to that sense of old-timey myth and mystery. However, the narrative is almost entirely introspection. Everything seems like a metaphor because it doesn't quite make sense. It's the kind of story that wants you to believe that deep things are being said, but is less concerned with actually saying them.
A young woman is trying to figure out her life, basically. She's insecure about her looks and talents, she's jealous of her siblings but also a bit co-dependent, something about sexuality. The problem is that while each issue comes up a lot, none of them are coherently addressed. For instance, it's a huge deal that the Goblin King won't have sex with her and she doesn't understand why, so she feels rejected. So what turns out to be the reason? Well, goblins can't feel and are feeding off her emotions or something. So if she has strong emotions (like during sex), she will be drained and die more quickly. However the king encourages her to compose passionately for days without food or sleep, so how is that less emotional than sex? She does get a nose bleed after composing, which is a sign of her impending death, but the book implies that it's from lack of food/sleep because she is too obsessed with music to do any of those things. Or because all the fruit is secretly rotten and has no nutrients. It's so unclear, and it's made even worse when suddenly she is told that she will lose her vision/hearing/taste/sense of touch, and that's how she will die.Why is using her ears for music less taxing than using her sense of touch for sex? Is it based on emotion or sensation? Well, she immediately loses her hearing when the goblin king has sex with her, so there is something about sex that makes it different from her other passions. And then she immediately gets her hearing back for no reason. It drives me crazy. What is Jae-Jones actually trying to say about sex here? I don't get it. The book teases at these questions, then half answers them, then half contradicts itself 10 pages later.
What about that thing where she was choosing her brother over her sister? That thread just gets forgotten about.
Same deal with whether she can have a life with the goblin king or not. He says that there is a version of him somewhere in the world that she should find -- like a human version? Except then they forget about that conversation and it never comes up again. Then there is the story about the first goblin queen leading her king out of the underworld on a bridge of their love, but that doesn't happen either. The end is pretty unsatisfying actually.
It's not terrible, but I didn't love it.
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