August 18, 2010

REVIEW! Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie.

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie
Maggie Stiefvater


Remember us,

so sing the dead,

lest we remember you …

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 fairies 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.

My rating: 4 stars.


Beautifully crafted magic, brimming with life and discovery. Ballad’s plot is not all too predictable, yet not all too solid. Much is left unexplained; the details I needed can only be found in Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception, which is the first book. Unfortunately for me, I’ve yet to read Lament – which most explains my utter confusion concerning Deirdre “Dee” Monaghan.

What is her deal? and Why is she so important to James? are only two of the many, many questions that fluttered in my mind whenever Dee happened to appear in the story – which wasn’t very often. It got to the point that I wondered why she needed to make appearances at all. I understand her purpose, but it didn’t come through until the end, and at that point, I’d already had enough of her. Dee is interspersed throughout the story in the form of unsent – and dreadfully grammatically incorrect – text messages (all addressed to James). From these text messages, and her pointless/random appearances, I’d gathered that she’s an annoying, unstable, petty girl of a character. Then, almost as if out of nowhere, I’m told by James that she’s actually intellectual and driven.

Let’s just say this didn’t add up to me.

James, on the other hand, is a refreshing change from many other YA male characters – he’s spunky, intelligent, and yet, still a typical boy. Stiefvater characterizes him well, without overdoing it on the snarky dialogue.

And then there’s Nuala. Not only did I find her annoying, but also too changeable. Nuala is meant to be different from other fey, but the changes she goes through so suddenly are predictable and transparent. It felt more like she had to change, just to carry along the plot.

The relationship between Nuala and James was, at first, endearing and light. Later, it escalated into a love that didn’t seem fitting. It felt as though because there was no other important female character, she had to fulfill the role of love interest.

What really enhanced Ballad was the writing itself: fluid, beautiful descriptions and purposeful dialogue. These save the book, as a whole. Less than thrilling characters were not enough to impact my overall liking of the novel, but came dangerously close to doing so.


  1. I've read Lament so I've been lingering over reading this for exactly the same reasons you have cited. Her writing is engaging but only up to a certain point I find that as much as I really like her writing, I am somehow unable to connect to the characters and this leads to my detachment to the entire book. I will probably read this anyway. Wonderful review.

  2. The only reason why I read "Lament" was because I loved the character of James. He's witty, smart, and snarky. I didn't want to say goodbye to him and really wanted him to be happy. Still feel bad about Dee though.

    Great review!

  3. I just put Lament on order from my library. Looking forward to reading it now that I know she did a good job fleshing out a male character.

    Have a great weekend!


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