A Review of Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie (Books of Faerie #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
by REBECCA, February 4, 2013
Ballad is the sequel to Lament, the first in the Books of Faerie series. Check out my review of Lament HERE!
James Morgan: bagpiping prodigy James has had the crap stomped out of him lately, isn’t speaking to his best friend, and is starting a new school where he doesn’t know anyone. And the school year hasn’t even started yet.
Nuala: a half fairy who must feed on the genius of humans, she has her sights set on James.
Mr. Sullivan: James’ English teacher . . . and, it turns out, much, much more.
Deirdre: James’ erstwhile best friend (and crush), she is also the cloverhand who has drawn Nuala and the other fairies to her and James’ school.
“Music prodigy James Morgan has joined his best friend, Deirdre, at a private conservatory for musicians. James’ almost unearthly gift for music has attracted the dangerous attentions of Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Composing beautiful music together leads James and Nuala down an unexpected road of mutual admiration . . . and love. Haunted by a vision of raging fire and death, James realizes that Deirdre and Nuala are being hunted by the Fey and plunges into a soulscorching battle with the Queen of the Fey to save their lives” (Goodreads).
Ballad picks up soon after the events of Lament leave off. Ballad, though, is a very different book. Different setting (music conservatory Thornking-Ash), different characters, and different narrators (James and Nuala). James, still distraught over losing Deirdre to Luke Dillon and almost being eviscerated by the fairy queen, is at sea in his new school. There is no music teacher who has anything to teach him on the pipes, he doesn’t know anyone, and he’s depressed. Also, he hears mysterious music emanating from a mysterious and otherworldly horned creature. Into this mess, enters Nuala, who offers to make James’ musical gift even more otherworldly (in exchange for his life force, of course, no big deal). James turns her offer down, but Nuala keeps hanging around and though they begin antagonistically, they are increasingly drawn to each other.
I admire Maggie Stiefvater for doing a series where the focus totally changes from the first book to the second. I really like James as a character and I was excited to read a story from his perspective. Ballad felt like it could be a stand-alone novel in some ways. And, bonus, Thornking-Ash is a boarding school. And you know how we feel about boarding school books!
I love music and was really taken with the premise of Ballad. But it was a slow starter for me—I think because I didn’t really like the character of Nuala. Nuala just wasn’t a character who really came alive for me. The narrative shifts back and forth from Nuala’s perspective to James’ and Nuala’s sections just fell a bit flat, especially in comparison to James, whom was a great, complex character. I loved seeing the hints of James that we saw in Lament really get filled out here. Little details, like the way James writes on his hands, came together beautifully with the cosmology of the book (but I won’t say how), and it’s just such little details that make me such a fan of Stiefvater’s work.
It was interesting to think of Ballad as a rehearsal of some of the themes that come so to life in Stiefvater’s most recent book, The Raven Boys, which I loved (full review HERE). The sections of the book that involve Mr. Sullivan and James’ roommate trying to figure out what’s going on with fairy magic reminded me so much of The Raven Boys.
Requiem, the third in the Books of Faerie series is forthcoming next year. To quote Maggie Stiefvater, “currently, the first two words of the rough draft are ‘Luke Dillon.’”
procured from: the library