Well that was a journey that I am still not sure I was entirely ready for.
Receiving an ARC of Shadowsong was a dream come true (corny yes, but also entirely accurate). I finished reading it early into my plane ride home for Christmas and was then left to stew in all the feelings that SJ Jones invoked in me. I have been trying to formulate thoughts for three weeks, and I really hope I can do Shadowsong justice. So, with that being said, let’s get to it.
If you pick up Shadowsong expecting the same type of story that Wintersong brought you, then you are going to be disappointed and/or confused. Wintersong was a romantic journey, but it also read (to me) as a novel of self discovery. Leisel was never quite sure where she belonged in her family, in her society, and found acceptance in the Underground with the Goblin King and his realm. Shadowsong is a journey into the troubled mind of Leisel (and her brother Josef) but also is about peeling back the consequences of burying ugly emotions for years. I was left picking apart and analyzing what leaving the Underground really did to Leisel throughout the book, and I am not sure I am even accurate on my assumptions. Wintersong is a beautiful book, but superficial in retrospect. Shadowsong is deranged and dark, and heartbreakingly sad at points.
JJ is such a wonderful writer, and she has established herself as a go-to author for me after this duology. Her words have this melody to them; her stories are lyrical and folkloric and haunting. Shadowsong had the same lyrical quality to it as Wintersong; mesmerizing, entrancing, and utterly beautiful, but it was almost horrific to read such dark happenings and despairing emotions in such beautiful words.
The entirety of the novel read to me as if I was standing on the edge of a cliff, looking into a black unknown. It wasn’t just waiting to fall, it was wondering what I was about to fall in to. There was an overwhelming sense of anxiety and anticipation because I had no idea what was going to happen, and I assume the uncertain tone of the book was meant to reinforce how unreliable of a narrator Leisel was/is.
Because unreliable she is. While she may have been the savior in Wintersong, in Shadowsong, Leisel reveals how selfish and moody she really is. She is unpredictable and mean, lashing out at the people around her that love her most: her family.
Which brings me to my favorite aspect of Shadowsong, the sibling representation. It was amazingly refreshing to see both sides of the coin in a close-knit family. Too often, especially in YA, do you see families represented where the sibling despise each other, or are in fact nonexistent in anything but a name. But JJ really captured a tight family unit in this book. The fighting and the mean, hurtful things we hurl at our siblings because we think there may be no consequences, paired with this fierce, undying, never faltering loyalty. It was beautiful and real, and as a member of a big family, I really appreciated it.
Honestly, I could probably write another 1000 words on my particular analysis of Shadowsong, but because I understand and sympathize with those who do not have the attention span or willingness to read an entire essay for a simple book review, I will wrap this one up.
While I closed the book with a few lingering questions on side characters and their backstories, I am overall, so immensely satisfied with the conclusion of this story. It was sad, beautiful, and sweet all at once. This was the conclusion to the Wintersong duology that we all deserve, even if we didn’t know we needed. Thank you JJ for this journey.
4.5 – 5 stars!
Oh HI! Yes, I am not quite done here. You could say this is a bonus round, just because I can’t help myself. I thought I would bullet point some other aspects of this book that I thought were worth mentioning, but I couldn’t quite fit into the main portion of this obnoxiously long review! (and enjoy my personal aesthetic while you are at it!)
- This book / duology is not just a journey of self but also of family.
- For some reason, Kathë and François stood out to me as the most amazing secondary characters, and I was so, so pleased with their development throughout the book (even if they were backstage).
- The relationship between François and Josef was effortless and tragic and gave me all the feels.
- The symbolism in this book. WAS. AMAZING. There are reoccurring themes of poppies, which I loved, but what really stands out is this constant contrasting of black and white. You will have to read it to see, but it was breathtaking.
Okay, now I really am done. I hope you love Shadowsong as much as I did, but this is a book that I completely understand isn’t for everyone.