Ballad

The second of Maggie Stiefvater’s faerie books focuses on my favorite character from Lament, James. In Lament, James was the best friend of Deirdre, the harp player who finds that faeries are drawn to her. In the sequel, James and Dee have started their first year as students at Thornking-Ash School of Music, and their friendship seems to have fizzled out. And James has caught the attention of Nuala, a faerie whose intentions are sinister, as a faerie’s intentions always are, although it quickly becomes evident that she’s not behaving as expected when it comes to James.

This book took me a while to get into. I found the rift in James and Dee’s friendship frustrating, not because it wasn’t believable, but because it wasn’t adequately explored. And the murkiness of Nuala’s motives made it hard to get interested in her relationship with James. As the story developed, I got more interested and found the overall storyline pretty exciting, if perhaps a little too tidily mapped onto the storyline from Lament. I appreciated the way Nuala and James’s relationship developed and the way it complicated his relationship with Dee. And the conclusion, with the faerie mind games, was riveting.

However, the characters in this book just didn’t come to life for me overall. Both Dee and James felt more alive and interesting in Lament than they did here, and none of the secondary characters were quite believable, especially when compared to the complex characters of Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle. This book’s plot is just about as exciting as the Raven story, but the characters are what make that series extraordinary. The characters in this series seem engineered to serve the plot, rather than feeling like living and breathing individuals caught up in a plot. These books have their pleasures, but they don’t show Maggie Stiefvater at her best.

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