book review: shadowsong

“It is not the wolves you need fear, but the sheep skins they wear.”

In S. Jae-Jones’ Shadowsong, the sequel to the spellbinding Wintersong, we meet Liesl as she tries to navigate yet another new world–her own. From the splendors of Vienna to the harsh country of Bavaria, we follow Lisel through her efforts to free her Goblin King and save her brother, all while trying to stave off madness.

S. Jae-Jones, in the introduction, says that this is an exploration of her own mental health issues and the novel grew as a result of her explorations. As we vacillate between Elisabeth, entire, and Elisabeth, alone, the boundaries are pushed and pulled at, until the reader is not quite sure what is reality and what is not, nor is Liesl. As with Wintersong, I found that the descriptions of madness and music and artistry were so very compelling. They drew me in time and time again and made me lose myself in the story.

I also appreciated that, as an exploration of madness, the plot was not wholly consumed by what was real and what was not. Lisel’s manias and moods were instead the lens through which we saw the world and that allowed the plot to blossom and grow around it. The chapter quotes were from Beethoven this time around, and I could not help but be reminded of the Eroica Symphony, with all of its passion and anger and pure feeling that it evokes in me, just as Liesl has her moods, both good and bad.

As with Wintersong, I felt like Shadowsong was slow to start and slow to let me into its world, but once I immersed myself, there I was reading as fast as I could, ignoring the rest of the world around me. (I missed a lot of Olympic Figure Skating this way, which was not my plan.) The climax of the book caught me up at last and I couldn’t put it down until I had read the ending and, even though I could predict what was going to happen, I needed to read it anyway and put my eyeballs on each word.

So, if you want a series that is also a symphony and also all of the scary stories your grandmother has told you to scare you into behaving, read this book.

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