Shadowsong: A Novel by S. Jae-Jones

Shadowsong: A Novel by S. Jae-Jones

Overall Rating: 2/5

Quality of Prose: 3/5

Quality of Story: 1/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 0/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 7 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

After leaving her husband, the Goblin King, and the Underground behind, Leisl struggles to adjust to life above ground, renew her relationship with her brother, and live without her husband and true love.

My Favorite Quotes

“For love is our only immortality, and when memory is faded and gone, it is our legacies that endure.”

shadowsong

What I Loved About It

This book disappointed me SO MUCH. I don’t know if you remember my review of Wintersong, its prequel, but I freaking loved that book. It ranks fairly high on my list of favorite books of all time. And I was pumped to return to the beautiful world Jae-Jones created in the sequel. But to be honest, when I first heard that there would be a sequel, I didn’t really understand why. The story of Liesl and the Goblin King seemed to be resolved by the end of Wintersong. It felt like reading a stand alone novel, not the first book of the series. So I was really curious where the plot of Shadowsong was going to go. And once I started reading, I realized that the plot wasn’t going to go anywhere. Honestly. This entire book, NOTHING HAPPENS. Until the last 30 pages. I’m not even exaggerating. If I told you the plot of this book in detail, every important plot point I’d tell you would be in the last 30 pages.

It’s super evident that Jae-Jones wrote Wintersong as a stand-alone novel, but that when it was picked up by the publisher, they required her to write a sequel, even though it was completely unnecessary. It’s just another example of the young adult publishing world turning every single decent book into a long, drawn out, and unnecessary series because it makes them more money. And I hate to be so negative about the sequel to a book that I loved so much by an author who I deem to be incredibly talented, but this book had few redeeming qualities. The world of the Underground, which was the incredibly interesting setting of the first novel, is not visited in this novel until the last few pages. The prose was less musical and impressive (perhaps because the musically-inclined protagonist was going through a long period of musical writer’s block in this novel), and the Goblin King, who was such a complex and compelling character, wasn’t in this book like AT ALL (or, again, not until the last few pages). All the things I loved about Wintersong were lacking in Shadowsong, and none of the new story elements were remotely compelling. It was, in a word, disappointing.

What My Students Could Learn From It

Nothing really.

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Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Overall Rating: 2/5

Quality of Prose: 2/5

Quality of Story: 1.5/5

Quality of Characters: 2/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 0/5

How Long It Took Me to Finish: 4 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

Betrothed to the Demon Prince from birth, Nyx travels to his enchanted castle to be his bride and to get close enough to him to kill him and free her people from his captivity.

My Favorite Quotes

“I had been waiting, all my life, for someone undeceived to love me.”

(You can tell by the quality of this quote (or lack thereof), that there were no impressive or notable quotes in this novel that I loved.)

cruel beauty

What I Loved About It

I usually love fairy tale retellings and I especially love Beauty and the Beast, but this particular retelling just seemed contrived and far-reaching. If it wasn’t marketed as a retelling of beauty and the beast, I probably wouldn’t have even guessed that it was meant to be one. The only similarities are that the heroine is locked in a castle with a seemingly evil man who she eventually falls in love with. The comparison stops there.

The whole hermetic magic part of the plot and the mysterious and magical castle setting just seemed so silly to me and put me off from the very beginning. The plot itself seemed tortuous and gratuitous and not the magical and intriguing fairy tale retelling I expected. I also didn’t find the Demon Lord or his mysterious shadow, Shade, to be attractive characters.

The whole time I was reading this book, I thought of my favorite folk tale retellings, Wintersong and The Wrath and the Dawn (if you haven’t read them, go read them right now. Right now!), and how I wished Cruel Beauty was more like them. I honestly didn’t even know this was a book people actually read and liked (I checked out the Kindle copy from my local library’s app after reading the summary and had never heard of it before then) until I looked at Goodreads after reading it. I honestly don’t see the appeal at all.

What My Students Could Learn From It

Nada.

Wintersong: A Novel by S. Jae Jones

Wintersong: A Novel by S. Jae Jones

Overall Rating: 4/5

Quality of Prose: 4.5/5

Quality of Story: 4.5/5

Quality of Characters: 4/5

Ability to Make the Audience Think/Feel Differently: 3.5/5

How Long It Took Me To Finish: 4 days

A 1 Sentence Summary

A sexy German fairytale about a young, female–and therefore often overlooked–musician who is whisked away to the Underground to become the bride of the mysterious, dangerous, but somehow familiar Goblin King.

My Favorite Quotes

“This was the immortality humans were meant to have: to be remembered by those who loved us long after our bodies had crumbled into dust.”

“’A sparrow is beautiful in its own way,’ Käthe said severely. ‘Don’t force yourself to be a peacock, Liesl. Embrace your sparrow self.’”

wintersong

What I Loved About It

I really loved this book.

Jones’ prose is phenomenal. It’s musical and magical and drew me in from the very beginning. It’s similar to Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina (which I also love) in that the main character’s musicality reflects in the prose of the book itself.

The magical fairy tale-ness of the book makes it a fun and compelling read.

It’s also just a great romance. Jones does such a good job in making the Goblin King a tragic yet sexy villain AND hero. And the love story between Leisl and the Goblin King is alluring and also probably the steamiest romance I’ve seen in a YA book.

Though the novel is a fantasy and is set in Germany in the 1800s, I found it easy to relate to the main character, Leisl/Elizabeth. One of my favorite quotes (the one above about the sparrow and peacock) alludes to the fact that Leisl has always been considered plain by everyone who knows her except the Goblin King who sees the beautiful music in her soul and loves her for it (I know that sounds insanely corny but trust me, Jones pulls it off so well). As a girl who has been considered on the plainer side (but with a great personality!!) by many people, I definitely related to that feeling of being a sparrow on an embarrassingly visceral level. I think my students could relate to that too.

What My Students Could Learn From It

Not a whole lot. Though I truly LOVED this book, the main reason for its 4 star rating instead of a 4.5 or 5 is because while it is a fantastic and fun romantic read, it’s not a book that changes your views on something or puts you in a melancholic funk for days (like All the Bright Places). There’s not a ton my students could learn from it, other than a little bit about 19th century German culture and folklore.

Nonetheless, it’s a FANTASTIC romance and a really fun read. And I’d definitely recommend it. To my students AND my readers.