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.
Maggie has really gotten her story telling technique down in Ballad. She stepped away from a single narrator (like Dee in Lament) and had Ballad told in alternate points of view (like Sam and Grace in Shiver). Ballad is told by James (Dee's best friend, super hot bag-piper omg I'm in love with you) and Nuala, a leanan sidhe fairy who is kind of a psychic vampire or a succubus stealing years off of men's lives in return for being their muse and inspiring amazing works of art or in James' case, beautiful bagpiping music. We also get to be a little bit in Dee's head by seeing some of her unsent text-messages to James.
I only have two complaints about Ballad:
1) It made me WISH that Maggie had written Lament in the same way. I'd love to have seen parts of the story from Luke's point of view!
And 2) This isn't so much a complaint as it was really hard to see the change in Dee's character from Lament, though if you know what happened in Lament, it's understandable.
But now onto the gushing. I have a crush on this book! I do! It's just so lovely, there is nothing like Maggie's command of language. The romance is....Maggie Stiefvater romances are in their own category. She has this way of taking the most mundane moments and stretching them into something epic. The result is her characters are so realistic, I forget they are being written by a writer. They just are, they feel pain, they bleed, love, laugh, cry, and I'm right there with them. The love in her stories feel true. What else is great? Her stories are thoroughly character driven and they have to make tough choices, and it's their choices I think that take them to another level.
In Ballad James is working through his feelings for Dee, working through his feelings for Nuala, and also issues with his own self-worth, life as an artist, mortality and the mark he will leave on this world-all things that whether you are an artist or not yourself, you can relate to.
What's also great is James never feels like Dee. Maggie is great at writing disctinctive voices and including little gritty subleties that let you know a boy is narrating or a girl.
Seriously, I just completely fell in love with James, and I want more. I really hope that we will get to read more about Maggie's fairies soon. All of Maggie's books definitely have a spot in my re-read pile. Ballad was fantastic!