- Page Count: 448
- Release Date: February 7, 2017
- My Rating: 4 stars
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-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 Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.
This book really did feel like two different stories, so I’m going to start with the first half because I absolutely LOVED that. (I liked the second half as well, but just not the same enthusiasm level of throwing the book at everyone I see).
Ok so first — I didn’t realize this was a retelling of Labyrinth when I read it and kept thinking that the story reminded me so much of Labyrinth meets a hint of Little Red Riding Hood. So obviously that worked.
“Once there was a little girl who played her music for a little boy in the wood”
Mmmk the girl’s name is Elizabeth but I’m going to call her Liesl because I thought that nickname fit the setting better (it’s somewhere around Austria & Germany in the time of Mozart). Anyways, Liesl played with the Goblin King in the woods as a child, but eventually forgot about him and his game of asking her to marry him.
Liesl became more focused on sacrificing everything to take care of her younger sister and brother because their father’s a drunk. She’s not beautiful and is talented with composing music, but she’s shoved to the side while the spotlight is on her brother’s violin playing. Her attitude is still awesome as she composes music for her brother and I LOVED the whole focus on classical music… it just made the setting way more vibrant. And I really connected with Liesl’s character and loved how much the story got into her emotions and thoughts.
The story gets really cool when the Goblin King shows up, takes Liesl’s sister, and alters reality so nobody remembers the sister exists. Liesl’s grandmother is also super
creepy awesome with her cryptic warnings. The Goblin King tells Liesl she has to play his game and bring her sister back to her world by the next full moon. Lots of weird, cool stuff in the goblin world follows and it’s clear that if a mortal stays there they basically die and can never return to their own world. “The longer you stay the sooner you leave.”
And it’s basically impossible to not picture David Bowie.
THEN things get a little odd at 50% when Liesl sacrifices herself so her sister can go free. Turns out kidnapping her sister was a means to an end for the Goblin King, who just wanted to marry Liesl because he “loved the music within her” and lots of other complicated plot points. Then her personality changes (and so does the writing) as she decides to claim what she wants for the first time.
There’s a lot more about WHY the Goblin King wants these wives and magical stuff about love, but I wasn’t as into the intense angsty romance. Something there was just a bit off for me. But I really loved how there was a red cloak and the Goblin King even called himself the wolf. Yay retellings.
And the writing was absolutely amazing at creating a magical setting: “A faint mist wrapped the trees along the path into town, writhing their spindly braces into spectral limbs” The first half of the book with the goblin market and the Goblin King showing up in random settings in Liesl’s life was just so well done. I didn’t dislike the second half by any means, but I definitely thought the characters and setting were more fully established in the first half. I don’t know how to explain it… there’s was just a clear divide for me.
Anyways, I really did enjoy this book a lot! The writing’s wonderful and a retelling of Labyrinth is a really clever idea. I was a little confused at the ending because it’s just… over. It felt like someone pulled the plug on the story. But thank you to everyone in the comments for telling mere there’s another book coming! If it’s really a companion novel about her brother, I am 200% more into it because he was my favorite character!! His story was adorable and I definitely want more about him.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC!