I’ve been following S. Jae-Jones’s blog and newsletter for a while, but I only just read her debut novel, WINTERSONG. Here’s the description:
The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…
All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.
But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds―and the mysterious man who rules it―she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.
Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.
The book isn’t perfect, but I was startled by how deeply and intensely, even viscerally, it spoke to me. It practically throbs with an intense hunger–for love and sex, but also for freedom, self-actualization, and to create–that astonished and haunted me, and I had to write a post about it. And because music is so important to not just WINTERSONG’s story but its heart, I thought it made sense to make a playlist for it.
What is a Youth? – Joanna Wang
This is a cover of the famous theme from Franco Zefferelli’s film adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.” WINTERSONG has more in common with the myth of Persephone, but it deals with many of the themes in Nina Rota’s song: death, transience, virginity, desire, and of course, love.
Shalott – Emilie Autumn
This song is of course based on Alfred Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott,” and I thought it fit how Liesl feels at the beginning of the novel: repressed, trapped, and isolated as the rest of the world passes by. And of course, The Lady of Shalott is also about a stifled female artist and the danger–and liberation–that comes with desire.
Don’t Go Walking in the Woods at Night – Globelamp
This sounds, both lyrically and sonically, like a warning that parents would tell their children to keep them safe from evil spirits–like the stories that Liesl’s grandmother Constanze tells of Erl Konig. And then there’s that mysterious ‘he’…
The Sensual World – Kate Bush
Kate Bush is kind of required for any playlist that’s lush, darkly romantic, and of course, sensual. I like to imagine this song during the Goblin Ball, but it could really fit the whole book.
Goldeneye – Tina Turner
I’ve found this Bond theme indescribably sexy since I was young. I love the hunger and the kinky undertones and the menace–all from a female perspective! But the “You’ll never know how I watched you from the shadows as a child” could also fit the Goblin King.
Summer Wine – Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood
There’s a key story in Wintersong about a brave maiden who sacrifices herself to save the earth from perpetual winter. Strawberries and wine are also recurring motifs.
When the Bridegroom Comes – Judee Sill
I really love Judee Sill–truly a female voice that deserved more recognition, much like Liesl. There’s a really obvious literal reason for this song, but I also chose it because it’s actually a metaphor for Jesus–and spirituality is also a theme in the book.
Howl – Florence + The Machine
This song is so raw and ravenous. WINTERSONG is YA, and the sexual content is accordingly not especially explicit, but it is a very sexy book.
The Child is Gone – Fiona Apple
Loss of childhood and what it means to reach maturity is a theme explored throughout the book, but this also works literally with the Goblin King’s bewilderment at discovering that Liesl isn’t the young girl she once was. Fiona Apple’s voice also just works really well with Liesl’s.
The model for Liesl is French actress Roxane Duran; the picture of Tom Hiddleston is from the vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive, whose character reminded me quite a bit of The Goblin King.
The Music of the Night – The Phantom of the Opera
This was a really obvious choice, but the creative process is just as important to Wintersong as Liesl’s sexual and romantic awakening, so I had to include a song about music.
Religion – Lana Del Rey
More spirituality. Also, sex.
Death – White Lies
This song was used memorably in the Iranian vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I thought it fit the moment when Liesl became fully aware of what her pivotal decision really entails.
Winter Bird – AURORA
I was pretty surprised when this was the only song that was literally about snow/winter on this playlist. The rest of the lyrics also fit perfectly.
Go Long – Joanna Newsom
This song references the Bluebeard fairy tale, and the line “I was brought in on a palanquin made of the many bodies of beautiful women” fit with the long succession of brides of the Goblin King. The line “Who made you this way?” also reminded me of Liesl’s vain atempts to know who he really is.
Girl in Amber – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Girl in amber, forever young, forever unchanging, forever still.
Crying in the Chapel – Alexis Taylor
The guy from Hot Chip can sing! Who knew? Besides being a beautiful and emotional cover, it fits a crucial scene in a church.
It Is You – Natalie Prass
Natalie Prass’s self-titled album is really great–her vocals are so sweet and lovely, but if you listen to the lyrics, they’re actually very dark. That plaintive refrain “It is you, it is you” evokes what the Goblin King wants of Liesl–“You, entire”–but I also chose this song because when I listen to it, I immediately think of spring.