Review: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Book of Faerie #2
Title: Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie
Publisher: Flux (October 1, 2009)
Paperback: 360 pages
Price: $9.95 from {amazon}
Summary: from {goodreads}
In this mesmerizing sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, music prodigy James Morgan and his best friend, Deirdre, join a private conservatory for musicians. James' musical talent attracts Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Composing beautiful music together unexpectedly leads to mutual admiration and love. Haunted by fiery visions of death, James realizes that Deirdre and Nuala are being hunted by the Fey and plunges into a soul-scorching battle with the Queen of the Fey to save their lives.


Review: I was hesitant about reading Ballad, because, face it, James isn't that major a character in Lament. He's cute, but basically this sad, background prop, doing his little, heart-breaking stunts in an effort to win Dee's heart. I'm going to admit that I can't pass a good deal, so when I managed to get my hands on a Borders coupon, I bought Ballad straight away because, well, it's Maggie Steifvater who is AWESOME. And I definitely wasn't dissapointed.

Ballad is concentrated all on James, from his and Naula's, the Leanan Sidhe, POV. Being honest here, at the beginning I thought James was a little overdramatic and my main feeling for him was pity. But I soon warmed up to him and his witty comments, which literally started from page 4 and lasted throughout the entire book. Though, overall, I enjoyed James' edgy remarks, I wish Maggie Stiefvater could have toned down the cursing and witty-ness a tad because I grew annoyed at how often they showed up, which was practically every page. It grew to be more like James had to constantly prove that he is this musical, sarcastical rebel that's okay without Dee. On the other hand, there were quite a few hilarious quotes that I applaud Maggie Stiefvater for thinking of. Case in point:

"Guys weren't allowed to bring girls into Seward Hall (under penalty of having your nuts chopped off and sent back to your parents in priority mail)..."
-from James' POV
My heart also went out to Naula, Jame's musical muse, while my opnion of Dee really went down. I liked the format of the book, how Dee was conveying what was happening to her through these unsent messages to James, but everytime she popped up, she did one of those typical "I'm a weak girl who needs someone strong to comfort me - like yoooouuuu" that got me extremely frusturated. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's an aggravatingly clingy, manipulative girl. Excuse me while I vent my frustration. Looking on the opposite side of the spectrum, I liked Naula's kick-ass exterior that hid an extremely sweet and lonely core. She's like the little girl around the corner that never had anyone to comfort her or to give her a shoulder to cry on. After Naula and James start getting closer, I clearly saw each of them softening toward each other and revealing their inner pain and turmoil, which was perfect. I loved how their realtionship developed, and at the end of Ballad I grew to see them as a sort of entity, two people that could never be apart.

I read Ballad in spurts and bursts, and it still amazes me how much Maggie Stiefvater managed to fit in the 352 pages. The plot moved and relationships developed so fast that when I thought I'd read 30-pages worth of development, I'd actually only read 10. And that's a good thing because it wasn't some weak foundation, but a testament to Maggie Stiefvater's writing skill that she could use a small amount of words to perfectly and poetically depict the characters' thoughts and feelings. She even manages to bring about a set of secondary or occasionally-appearing, vital characters and flesh them out, so that even though I didn't see or hear much of them, I still felt there was solid basis for their actions. I'm serious, if I could steal Maggie Stiefvater for my English papers, I would definitely get an A.

And for those of you who haven't read Lament, there is a beautiful world filled with prose, faeries, and supposed myths that are your greatest fears and wonders.

Romance: Intense. Can I say again how much I loved James and Naula's relationship? They were perfect for each other, and their romance was crazy, but sweet.
Cover: 4.0 - Pretty, pretty, buring leaf.
Writing: 4.5
Characters: 5.0
Plot: 4.0

Bottom Line: Ballad was a thrill. The plot was twisted, ethereal, and complex, the writing was lyrical and descriptive, and the characters (for the most part) were relateable and solid. I felt that the ending was a bit rushed - technically very climatic, but not enough time for me to savor it. In the end, I loved learning about James and seeing the world from his POV. I would definitely recommend Ballad to anyone in search of a good book, and highly recommend it to people who like reading of faeries and all things magical. While it would be helpful to read Lament, the first book in The Gathering of Faeries series, I don't think it's necessary because Ballad doesn't deal much with the past, with what happened in Lament. That being said, I would still recommend Lament, and I definitely hope Maggie Steifvater uses this setting again for future books!

Submitted as a Blog With Bite review. Check them out! :)