Lynn's Reviews > Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
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's review
Dec 20, 2011

really liked it
Read in December, 2011

I think that the more I read by Maggie Stiefvater the more I love her books. I have found so much to appreciate about her writing. This book does not disappoint.

Be forewarned that if you read this book right after Lament you might have unfulfilled expectations. There is very little Dee and what you get of her is a very different side than in the first book. More about that in a sec. Also there is no Luke. This book if from James' perspective and takes off on a different but related direction than the first book. I think this book is more enjoyable if you take a break after reading Lament and read this one later. I enjoyed it so much more because I was prepared for the shift in narrator and focus and not pining for Dee's and Luke's story as much as if I had read this right after Lament. This allowed me to fully appreciate this story and James as a narrator and character.

There are potential mild spoilers after this so read further only if you don't mind those mild spoilers. I won't give away anything really important but some people don't want to read anything so those people beware.

One of the criticisms I had heard about for this book was involving Dee. Some people said she seemed weepy and weak. Others said she seemed like a b!#@h. I don't think that either of those criticisms are fair and here is why. It is pretty clear by the end of the book (and for me throughout the book if you pick up on the clues) that Dee is spiraling down into a deep depression and is not in a good frame of mind. She is not adjusting to the things that happened to her the prior summer. I found this very realistic. No it doesn't bring out the best in Dee, but really we are never in her head to know the depths of what she is going through. We are in James' head and thus we ache with and for him and our sympathies all lie with him. He doesn't see what is truly going on with Dee (her descent into giving up by the end=suicidal) and thus we don't totally see it either. He is understandably and rightfully hurt by the things Dee says and does. He doesn't understand how she can do/say these things nor ever seem to remember that he is hurting too. Again, we suffer with him because we are in his head and hearing everything from his perspective.

The truth is, though, that depressed people don't/can't think outside themselves very well. They are in too much pain and it is hard to see outside that cage. Compound this with the fact that Dee does love/care about James, just not in a way that matches how he loved/felt about her. She doesn't know how to relate to him or be his friend knowing how he feels about her. That is seriously hard territory to cross for a mentally healthy person, much less someone who is struggling and further more a teen. She doesn't want to involve him with the Faeries anymore either. So she takes all this stuff into herself.

I really enjoyed seeing and learning more about James. I like the way Maggie develops him and all the facets to his personality. One of the things I love about Maggie's main characters are all their facets. They seem so much more real than some of the other characters in YA I read. I also love how the male "hero"/love interests are often so different from the typical and overused YA types. You don't get some desperately beautiful bad boy that is magically tamed by the girl into someone who can finally love (but always just the one girl ever after of course). Maggie's guys can be tender/sensitive and poetic ala Sam from Shiver. They can be cocky, quirky, compulsive musicians who also suffer from some insecurities that they try and keep hidden. James is partly rebellious but also partly nerd. I love all of that about him. It made him so much more real and relatable. There is a little of James in myself so I can relate to him especially. The hero/love interests can also be silent, proud, horse whisperers who seem to be part of different species ala Sean form the Scorpio Races. You get the point.

I really hope she finishes the third book in this series. James seems to get his happy ending and Dee is left with only our hope that she can finally start to heal. It would be nice to see things move in a better direction for her and for her to have some sort of closure.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) This was my least favorite of her books, but I love her writing. I recently read The Scorpio Races and it was excellent. There is something just different and special about the writing in all of Maggie's books and you are right about her guys. The audios of Shiver/Linger/Forever are I believe my favorite audio books that I have.

Lynn Terry, you make me want to pick up her audio books. I have never tried one of her books in that format but now that you say something, I can see how they would be beautiful. Her writing is so lyrical and laced always with potential heartache and promises at the same time. I think I appreciate her writing the more I read by her. I just finished Scorpio Races not long ago and loved it too.

I am currently rereading Lament. I think her writing is better in Ballad, but Lament was a really good first novel. I can really see how far she has developed as a writer. The main thing that bothers me in Lament is that she brings up a lot of things and then just lets them drop. One example is James commenting at having seen Luke at a music store with a fiddler and some knowing understanding b/n the boys when they first meet. It is never picked up or referred to again. There are many such things in Lament and I don't recall this ever happening in any of her other books. It bothers me that there are so many loose strands left dangling.

I think Ballad would have been my least favorite if I had read it right after Lament as I was still longing for more of Dee and Luke and wanting some hope for them. I also would have expected it to be a sequel in the traditional sense which this is not. But I did enjoy it I think because I went in with the right frame of mind for myself to enjoy it.

I just really, really hope that she finishes the third book in this series which she says on twitter that she is currently working on. I still want the rest of Dee's/Luke's story.

Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) I seriously recommend the audiobooks of the Shiver series. I only buy audiobooks of favorites I have already read and listen to them when driving. They changed the reader for Sam after Shiver and it was a change for the better although the first one was okay. The way she wrote them with the different chapters being by the different characters is perfect for an audio book and in the last two books, the readers are incredible. They don't just read - they ARE those characters. And Cole is soooo incredible. The guy has a sexy voice to begin with and his reading is more like an actor in a movie as he just has the perfect amount of feeling without going too far.
I read Lament and Ballad quite awhile ago so would have to re-read them to read a third book - but I would. I don't remember them all that well. I used to be into horses (breeding and training) so The Scorpio Races was really good for me. Maggie got the essence of the horses and the training just beautifully.

Lynn I think my son might like the Scorpio Races and am considering trying it, first, on Audio Book for a road trip. Thanks for all the information Terry!

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