Words on Maggie: Lions & Tigers & Homicidal Faeries, Oh My!
…actually, I was lying about the lions and tigers, sorry to disappoint. Today’s topic of discussion is, in fact, homicidal faeries – specifically the homicidal faeries of the most awesome Maggie Stiefvater!
So, way back like ages ago right after I met her, our lovely Saya began dropping not-so-subtle hints that there was this amazing woman named Maggie whose books I absolutely had to read. When I moved to Virginia, it turned into this amazing woman named Maggie whom I absolutely had to meet since we now lived officially in the same state. Well, as fate would have it, Maggie in all her glory had a book signing here in March right before she ran off to promote her next book all over the world (specifically Italy – she really is that amazing).
I was lucky enough to get a picture taken with Maggie (see above) and also get her to sign a ton of stuff for us! But Saya will talk more about that later. Right now I’d like to introduce to you two of Maggie’s books: Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception (October 2008, Flux) and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie (October 2009, Flux). Saya realllly wanted me to read Maggie’s other book first (more about that later, too), but being the arbitrary sort of person I am, I insisted on starting with Lament, which was Maggie’s first book.
Lament is the story of best friends Dee and James and the awkwardness of being an adolescent music geek. Having been one of those myself (did I just say that out loud?) I could relate more than I wished to admit. Specifically, Lament is the story of what happens when freakishly amazing music geeks hit adolescence – weirdness. A lot of weirdness. (I think this is a good time to thank God for not having made me a freakishly amazing music geek, because I am not sure I could handle the weirdness with the finesse of Dee and James.) Sparks fly when a new (hot!) guy named Luke comes to town – and Deirdre falls for him in the most intense way. Except he’s not quite the boy next door he appears – okay, well, he never really appears to be the boy next door, but he sure brings “bad boy” to new heights of complication. Between figuring out whether Luke wants to kiss her or kill her, dealing with the changes in her relationship with James, and uncovering a family secret tied to the faeries that seem to be appearing everywhere, Deirdre has a heck of a lot on her hands.
I really enjoyed Lament – more than I probably thought I would. It moved a bit slowly at first and until I really got into the plot (I avoided reading synopses and spoilers at first) I was a bit wary of the “new boy comes to town and entrances girl who then hangs on his every word” trap – but Maggie eloquently sidesteps this with her development of Luke’s complex character and, at the same time, her eventual portrayal of Deirdre as a capable, all-too-human heroine. At the same time, I couldn’t help falling in love with James – who comes across as more than just a secondary character. He’s the loyal best friend, but he’s a beautifully painted character in his own right.
This comes through even more in Maggie’s sequel to Lament, entitled Ballad. To add to the list of things Maggie is awesome at (to be extrapolated upon further at the end of this post), writing absolutely gorgeous sequels has to go at the top, for sure. One of the things I love about books are series – sequels, trilogies, prequels, epilogues, I’m all about it. If I fall in love with a story, I am forever wanting there to be more.
This can be a serious character flaw.
Aside from it being one of the things that makes me a bit of a nut for fan fiction (did I really just admit that, too?), there is the excitement of waiting and waiting and waiting for a sequel, prequel, third book, continuation, etc. and having it just fall flat. We’ve all been there, as readers. It sucks.
Let me take care of any worries you have on this subject insofar as Maggie’s work is concerned: the woman can write sequels like nobody’s business. If anything, Ballad was even better than the original – more complex character development, more gorgeous prose, more new characters and secondary characters that just leapt off the pages and into life.
Ballad is really James’s story – well, James and Nuala’s story. Remember how I said Dee was all too human? Ballad asks the question of what that really means – being all too human – and what it means to be not human enough. In Ballad, Deirdre’s story takes a backseat to the development of James’s relationship with Nuala, an outcast faerie who exists by basically stealing the lives of great artists – and James was next on her list. Except things are always more complicated than that. Nuala learns that she can be more than the nobody she’s expected to be – and James learns that making choices really sucks. Dee is still present in the background – we get to see her through James and Nuala’s eyes, as well as through the unsent text messages she writes to James. And at the end of things, her decisions may shape the fate of them all.
Maggie is one of those so-unbelievably-awesome-it’d-be-hard-not-to-hate-her-if-she-wasn’t-so-lovable people. You get to see a little of her in Dee and James – because not only is she an accomplished writer and artist, she’s also an accomplished Celtic musician. And really just one of the sweetest, most down to earth famous people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. You can read her blog, Words on Words, here.