To gather my thoughts, let's begin with the characters. In order to sell the central relationship and the push-and-pull between them, Liesl and the Goblin King needed to be fleshed out and believable. At least up to a certain point, because, as I stated before, this does have a fairytale quality to it and therefore the reader will have to simply accept a few plot points as they rise, regardless of believability. So I was happy to be sucked into Liesl's world and into her head as soon as I began reading. I sympathized with her, yet had moments of frustration, and simultaneously loved her while wanting to shake her silly! I understood her fears though, especially in regards to her natural musical ability (which is clearly phenomenal!). When she finally begins to realize how incredibly gifted she is and learns to accept it as a beautiful part of herself, I inwardly danced and cheered because I'd been anticipating that moment for pages and pages and pages. Her love for her family is another beautiful part of her, yet I did wish they had been slightly more worthy of her sacrifice for them. But that's just a minor quibble.
Then there's the Goblin King himself. Oh what to say about him? I really liked how Ms. Jae-Jones truly captured his otherness. Every time he came onto the page, there was always a sense of other about him. He remains a bit of a mystery throughout much of the story, which surprised me yet didn't. Simply put, it worked. (Perhaps it was just my pure enjoyment of picturing him as David Bowie? :)
And then the writing....! Oh friends, I must commend the author for writing so vividly as to sweep me away into the Underground for several hours! The setting, the descriptions, the world-building is certainly well done. So much detail in just a few words, I could picture the scenes so clearly in my mind. I wasn't expecting the historical setting, I have to admit, but it worked really well, especially with the traditions and folklore that surrounded Liesl's human world. And the music! It swirls in and out of paragraphs and chapters and fills this story, even when not actually mentioned. Like Liesl herself, music is the very heart of the storytelling.
Yet it's not a perfect story either. As I mentioned above, there were several times that Liesl actively frustrated me to no end (some of her choices didn't make any sense). And there are questions that I never really got answers to. Which isn't inherently a bad thing, I just wish I could have understood a few of the characters actions a bit more, especially Liesl's. Also, at times, the religious references combined with the not-quite-graphic details mixed sort of weirdly to me. The switch between the two would throw me out of the story for a bit. Luckily it didn't take long for me to get sucked back in! :) The other part that bugged me was the ending. It felt very abrupt, leaving me with so many more questions on what happened after! But I hear that a companion novel is in the works, so perhaps that'll give me the satisfying conclusion I was hoping for? *crosses fingers*
So! Quibbles or no, this was a satisfying read for me. I was thoroughly immersed and so sad when it ended. It gave me just the bit of romance I wanted from Labyrinth and made me grin with each of the little nuggets from the movie that I recognized! In short, it is darkly romantic, with a vivid and fantastical setting and characters. So much of Labyrinth, yet so much of its own storyline too, it's the perfect combo of both! :)
"There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort
of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free."
"That one," the merchant said, pointing to Käthe, "burns like kindling. All flash, and no real heat. But you," he said. "You smolder, mistress. There is a fire burning within you, but it is a slow burn. It shimmers with heat, waiting only for a breath to fan it to life."
This was the immortality humans were meant to have: to be remembered by those who loved us long after our bodies have crumbled into dust.