Dec 28, 2009

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

The Thornking-Ash Conservatory is unlike many other specialty high schools in the fact that is focused on fostering musically-gifted teens. Oh, did I forget to mention the slightly demonic fey who tend to gather nearby and want to prey on the students. I think they left that out of the brochure.

Ballad continues the story a few months after the ending of Lament. If you have not read Lament, I would suggest that you start there as this review will contain spoilers for that book. And then once you've read it, you can read my review here. Then come on back and read the tempting review I'm spilling now for Ballad.

So, after battling an evil faerie queen, James Morgan and Deidre "Dee" Monaghan are starting to move on with their lives when they chose to go to Thornking-Ash. Other than the fact that they don't talk much and aren't nearly as close to one another as they once were, things seem to be taking on a rather normal rhythm.

Then in walks Nuala. A waif of a girl, she begins her obvious enticement of James, only to find that he resists her completely. Nuala is not one to deal with rejection easily, so she pursues him more vigorously. Her plan backfires when he gets her to tell him what it is she is really after. A life-stealing, half-faerie, muse is following him around and he is at a loss of how to get rid of her. As his relationship with her morphs and grows into a closer bond, James starts to realize just how far Dee has drifted from him. Not to mention, there is something nefarious about this school. There are too many faerie for having so much iron around and they are stronger than they should be. Something is brewing and it's going to take everyone to fight the forthcoming battle.

Astounding! That is how I would sum up all that happens in Ballad. Dee and James continue to be interesting individuals as we learn more about them. Lament was mostly the story of Dee as a cloverhand. Ballad is mostly about James's incredible talent at his chosen instrument, the bagpipes. I felt like James really grew as a character and that we as readers obtained a more in-depth understanding of the complexity of emotions that he feels for Dee, while she was far removed from the main storyline.

Nuala added the same kind of intrigue and mysteriousness that Luke added to the last novel. She wasn't upfront with what she was, she was fighting her fate, and she couldn't help but be drawn to a human. While at times I found her mischievous nature amusing, sometimes it could get old and I just wanted her to get on with whatever she needed. James could be whiny at times, but I felt like his character really stood up and started to act like he was worth something.

Overall I really enjoyed this companion novel (because I don't really think it's a sequel and half the major players last time aren't really involved) with its new settings, new characters, and general shenanigans. The ending was quite a surprise to me, but I'm glad it ended up where it did. I wouldn't be surprised if she continued this world, but I think if she decided not to, that this was a fitting stopping point.

1 comment:

swiggett said...

Oooo - can't wait to read this! Thanks for the review!