Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published Date: October 2009
Price: Amazon ($9.95)
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.
The lyrical journey that Stiefvater composes is a composition, fingered by the characters’ own journeys and the fast sixteenth notes towards the end creating dread and foreboding.
Without knowing the past and the tragedy of Dee, Luke, and James from Lament, I started reading Ballad and actually liked the mysterious tone and atmosphere it created (Lol, truth be told, I spent about 100 pages waiting for little flashbacks, until I realized that this was the second book). So on that note, I wanted to point out that I recommend you read the first book. There were few parts I was like, “Wait. What are they talking about? What do they mean”, but I didn’t think it really subtracted a lot from the plot that it left you wandering around a dark forest. That being said, let’s get on to the gritty stuff.
Oh dear, I loved James, from page one till the end. His cocky, sarcastic tone, but also his sorrowful and tragic thoughts. I laughed at his smart aleck tone and wanted to murder Dee sometimes for being inconsiderate and mean. (How could she just hurt my James!)
I actually had mixed feelings for Nuala. In the beginning and even in the end, I had suspicions with Nuala. From the start, she wants to use James for her own selfish wants, but she later grows to love James. There were times when Nuala was acting like a jealous girl and was being cruel to Dee, so for the two girl characters, I switched back and forth between Team Nuala and Team Dee. But, there was no denying the romantic chemistry between Nuala and James, and the underlying “we can never be together” love. The idea of Dee’s text suffices for the perspective we miss. The unique idea of using the unsent texts as a window to Dee’s thoughts and mind was brilliant, because it shows how Dee is scared or too saddened to say what she’s really saying in her mind, which leads to the relation of unsaid words between James and Dee. However, one comment is that I wish that there were dates on the texts, since it might help follow the story chronologically.
I also loved the supporting characters, Sullivan and Paul. Sullivan was the teacher and mentor I would have wanted. The relation between the two was like of friends and I laughed with their banter. I wish there was more of a back story of Paula, like his past and how he became to be like James (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler for everyone).
The plot I thought fell short of the characterization. I actually liked the beginning and set-up, but there were parts when it kept going in circles as Nuala begs James to be her servant, while he repeatedly says no. Not until the end does the actually fairy battles and fights began, which to my disappointment ended rather too quickly. SPOILER: I thought Nuala’s burning and how they found her body in the dirt was too much like Stiefvater throwing the ending in at the last minute. It was way too anticlimactic and too corny. END SPOILER.
I loved the burning flames and its interference with the title. However, I felt like it was too blank to really fit the lyrical passage and the title. I understand the meaning of the leaf, as a symbol for Halloween and fall, but again I felt it was a bit out of place and didn’t really symbolize Nuala.
The characters and the writing really just stood out for me. The characters are beautifully characterized and complex, as they each have their own selfish desires, tragic past, but also their witty side. What I felt lacking was the plot. I loved the beginning but I felt like it could have been cut short in favor of the ending. I really wish there is a sequel to this!