18 April 2011

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

James Morgan has an almost unearthly gift for music.  And it has attracted Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and then feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die.  James has plenty of reasons to fear the faeries, but as he and Nuala collaborate on an achingly beautiful musical composition, James finds his feelings towards Nuala deepening.  But the rest of the faeries are not as harmless.  As Halloween—the day of the dead—draws near, James will have to battle the Faerie Queen and the horned king of the dead to save Nuala’s life and his soul.

  • Maggie Stiefvater’s work has always been my outlet.  Her gritty plots and edgy characters wrapped in humor make hers the books I go to when I need a good laugh to get some perspective back on life.  Her ability to write great, believable romances is also a factor, which is why I love her Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  Having witnessed her tackling werewolves, it was fascinating to see her take on faeries, her debut topic.
  • Let’s start with my favorite subject in relation to Maggie Stiefvater: humor.  Cause everyone who has ever read any of my reviews knows that I love to laugh.  And I love books that make me laugh almost out of default.  I managed to snag some of my favorite quotes from the book before I had to return it to the library.  These stand merely as representatives to Maggie Stiefvater’s signature humor.
“Yes,” Sullivan said, standing up with his mostly empty bowl of rabbit food.  “You’re fulfilling my ‘helping students who remind me of myself when I was young and stupid’ quota…Oh, and unless you need it to feel comfortable, you can leave your ego in your room; you won’t be needing it.”
Excerpted from the paperback edition, pg. 56

It’s quotes like that that make me think that Maggie Stiefvater was monstrous when provoked in college.
I stopped stroking his hair and smacked his head instead, becoming visible so fast that my head pounded.  “Wake up, maggot.”

James winced under my hand.  Without opening his eyes, he said, “Nuala.”

I glared at him.  “Otherwise known as the only female who will ever be in your bed, loser.”

He flopped his hands over his face.  “God have mercy, my head feels like hell.  Kill me now, evil creature, and put me out of my misery.”

I pressed a finger against his windpipe, just hard enough that he’d have to ask me for a hall pass to be able to swallow.  “Don’t tempt me.”
Excerpted from the paperback edition, pg. 104
Nuala slapped me, raising goose bumps.  “Shut up!”

I covered my face with an arm and kept laughing.  “God, woman, how’d you come up with that name?  It sounds like a drunk guy asking if someone’s got leprosy.”

Nuala slapped my arm again.  “Shut up.  It’s distinctive.  People would remember it.  You know, they’d be, ‘Oh, Izzy Leopard did this film.’ ‘Oh yeah?’ ‘She’s brilliant.’”

”And a leper.”

Nuala’s expression was fierce.  “I could kill you.”

”Oh, if I had a dime for every time someone’s told me that.  Oh, if I had a dime for every time you’ve told me that.”

She took the popcorn bucket from me and set it on the seat on the other side of her.  “I can’t believe I gave you popcorn.  I should make you drink popcorn butter for mocking my director name.”

I grinned at her.  “Truly, a fate worse than death.”
Excerpted from the paperback edition, pg. 137

  • Long passages, yes, but if that doesn’t make you want to rush to the library/bookstore to get it, what will? 
  • The largely enjoyable topic of humor aside, Maggie Stiefvater has a talent for romance.  Usually, when you pick up a book, you know immediately who’s gonna go with who and, if the author is particularly green, then you know exactly how.  Well, it states right in the synopsis that James has a specific interest in our faerie friend and considering how fierce Nuala is, we already know it has to be romantically explosive.  Well, I’m not going to tell you if it was or wasn’t.  All I will share on that subject is that it was satisfying.
  • James was a really awesome character, too, especially contrasted next to Nuala. 
  • Another one of Maggie Stiefvater’s talents: raising the stakes.  The choice James has to make at the end makes me want to start biting my fingernails (a habit I un-learned when I was eight.)  I was glued to my chair, about read to flip to the end to figure out what happens (but I didn’t.)  I was thinking that there is no way James could get out of that without losing something—or someone. 
  • The most distinctive thing that the book left with me is the sense of atmosphere and the character impressions.  I returned this book to the library several weeks ago (yes, and I know I fail epically for having taken so long to write this review) but I always thought that a book’s quality lay with how much you remembered after the fact.  For this book, it was the clear and concise atmosphere that I could practically picture myself in.  And I remember the impressions that the characters gave me.  That kind of ethereal feeling that I get from all characters.
  • If you liked Ms. Stiefvater’s previous work Lament and haven’t gotten to this one yet, you should get to it!  And if you haven’t picked up her faerie books, but loved her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, you should get to that too.
  • And also let it be known that this marks my 100th review.  That is all.
Book Info:
  • pages – paperback, 352
  • published – October 2009
  • publisher – Flux
  • genre – urban fantasy
  • received via – library :)
  • rating – 5/5