I am super excited to be participating in the blog tour for the absolutely gorgeous conclusion to S. Jae-Jones’ Wintersong Duology: Shadowsong!
If that isn’t one of the most beautiful book covers you’ve ever seen, you’re lying. So obviously I was dying to do a cover glam post for it. But then I was also blessed by St. Martin’s and received an advanced copy of the book, so I figured why not share my Shadowsong inspired makeup and review the book all in one go? So that’s what we’re gonna do.
While my post will, of course, be 100% spoiler free for Shadowsong, it will inevitably include some spoilers for Wintersong. If you have not read Wintersong yet, continue at your own risk. But also, if you haven’t read Wintersong, you really really should. It is dark and twisty and gorgeous and I cannot recommend it enough.
I have to admit, when I first did this look, I wasn’t thrilled. I couldn’t find my obnoxiously bright colored eye pallets, so my makeup doesn’t pop the way the colors on the cover do. But after reading the book, I feel like this look definitely fits the vibe of the story: cold, wintery purples with an impossible dash of bright red poppies.
Shadowsong picks up a few months after the end of Wintersong. Liesl has returned to life with her family at their inn, but she remains haunted by her time in the Underground and heartbroken for the loss of the austere young man she left behind.
When a mysterious benefactor offers her the chance to join her brother, Josef, in Vienna she jumps at the chance, hoping that putting some distance between herself and the Goblin Grove will help her heal and move on. But nothing about Vienna is what she imagined. Josef is cold and distant, there are dark rumors about their benefactor, and winter is clinging to the world even as spring should be starting. Liesl soon realizes the balance between worlds has been tipped by her decision to leave the Underground all those months ago.
Eyeshadow: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea; Seashell, Wave, and Abyss
Lips: Smashbox Liquid Lipstick; Disorderly
It is rare that I enjoy a sequel more than the first book in a series. It is even rarer that I finish a series completely content and satisfied by the ending.
Shadowsong managed to accomplish both.
From the very first page it is clear how much more confident S. Jae-Jones became as a writer from Wintersong to Shadowsong. That is not at all to say I didn’t enjoy Wintersong–I absolutely adored it–but Shadowsong is notably stronger. She found her voice and she ran with it, and the final product is gorgeous.
Shadowsong gave me so many things I live for in my fantasy. Morally gray characters. Honest mental illness rep. Dilemmas with no good solutions. It is unapologetically dark and twisty and brutal and raw. I never wanted to put it down, and if I hadn’t been reading during my lunch breaks at work I probably never would have.
The mental illness rep, in particular, was so, so well done in ways I’m struggling to articulate. It was honest, yes. I loved the moments where Liesl was reflecting on her own illness, openly struggling to control her moods despite being so aware of them.
I knew I was insufferable, yet my irritability was a force both beyond and beside me. Even I found my own whining exhausting at times. I vacillated between rage and despondency, furious I couldn’t force happiness on myself.
I related to this line so much it hurt. Oh. And I see all you reviewers badmouthing Liesl as being whiny, or annoying, or inconsistent and unrealistic. I see you hating on a character for her mental illness. It’s been very disappointing and hurtful seeing this, but especially from people claiming to be diversity advocates. Those of us with mental illnesses know we’re your last priority, but you could at least pretend.
More than all of that, what really struck me about the mental illness rep was how seamlessly it was woven into the greater plot. This duology is dark, but in Shadowsong S. Jae-Jones really forces you to stare that darkness in the face. Liesl’s story is not just about a girl trying to run from her past, it is about a girl trying to run from herself. And seeing her learn to embrace her madness as part of herself, even if it is a part she hates, was incredibly empowering.
The character relationships are also incredibly well done, especially Liesl’s relationship with her siblings. We get to see much more of Kathe and Josef in Shadowsong than we did in Wintersong. We also frequently get chapters in third person that follow Kathe or Josef when they are not with Liesl, so we get to see how they develop both in relation to Liesl and on their own. Kathe becomes much more of a character in her own right than I remember her being in the first book. She’s grown up a bit, and I really loved getting to see the relationship between the two sisters.
I think that choosing to have some chapters follow other characters in third-person rather than sticking to Liesl’s first-person narration was a risky move that paid off big time. It provides so much of the story’s tension by giving you little snippits into what is happening elsewhere. It also slowly delves into the Goblin King’s past, which were some of my favorite chapters. The shifts never felt sudden or disorienting. It was handled masterfully, and makes the book so much better than it ever could have been from Liesl’s perspective alone.
There is a content warning in the beginning of the book that I strongly encourage you read before starting Shadowsong. Characters have suicidal thoughts, exhibit reckless behavior, deal with addiction, and there are references to self-harm. Everything is handled very well, in my opinion, but they can still be triggering.
I will also add a warning for my fellow ace-spec babes: there is a line near the end of the book that seems to imply that one of the ways changelings are different from humans is that they do not desire physical intimacy. I think the line is meant to explicitly state that this character is ace (though again please always remember that asexual does not equal sex adverse thank you), but it definitely suggests that his being a changeling is the reason he is ace. The book makes it very clear that love without interest in sex is not a lesser form of love, but the fact that sexual attraction was used to differentiate changelings from humans did catch me off guard.
All in all Shadowsong is a beautiful, haunting story and I loved absolutely every second of it. I have no doubt that this will be one of my favorite 2018 reads, and I hope you all love it as much as I did.
Want a chance to win yourself a copy of this gorgeous book? Enter the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s Tour Giveaway!
Fancy just buying yourself (or a friend!) a copy instead? Shadowsong can be found at:
About the Author
S. Jae-Jones, called JJ, is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and the NYT bestselling author of Wintersong.
Born and raised in sunny Los Angeles, she lived in New York City for ten years before relocating down to Dixie, where she is comfortably growing fat on grits and barbecue. When not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skydiving, taking photographs, drawing pictures, and dragging her dog on ridiculously long hikes.