Book Review: Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by: Maggie Stiefvater

Summary: 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.

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie is the sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception; together these books fit perfectly into the increasingly popular young adult genre but, unlike most of the other books sprouting up everywhere, these books don't contain fangs, they contain Fey. Ballad picks up a couple of months after the events of Lament, placing James, the unrequited best friend, as the main character.

The depth of research Stiefvater attained is increasingly obvious with the turn of each page. Ballad is chock full of amazing traditional Celtic faerie folklore and even a thoroughly researched Deity. "The Good Folk" have been an inspiration to thousands of writers throughout history; much of the folklore and faerie tales have remained consistent with each passing decade, and Stiefvater remains true to that tradition while adding her own flavor by revealing some folklore that is not popularly known. Her addition of Cernunnos, a traditional Celtic Deity usually depicted as representing for the dead, is what in my opinion pulled Stiefvater from researched well, to absolutely amazing. The plot was fast paced, action packed, and perfectly braided with the folklore and the characters.

The characters in this book were also, in my opinion, spot on. It has long been a belief from children's fables that faeries are a benevolent race of magical beings, but in this book, they are depicted as they originally were written, as a warning against the evils of magic. James is a typical teenage guy, with the addition of a genius musical talent and a smattering of psychic ability. Nuala is a not so typical faerie who trades musical inspiration in exchange for years of one's life. James's ability to recognize the faerie is the only thing that saved his life and brought these two characters together. The relationship that forms between Nuala is completely honest from the beginning and so different from the love that Dee and Luke shares in Lament. It was amazing that James could fall in love with Nuala even after everything that happens to him Lament; his ability to forgive and adapt is hopefully what will save the friendship that was destroyed by Dee being a selfish idiot.

At some points throughout the book Stiefvater could have let the reader into some of the secrets she was harboring earlier, it got a bit confusing in some areas due to what the reader is unaware of. Things of course become clearer at the end but, for a little while in the middle,  the reader spends time trying to figure out the reasons for some of the inserted passages when there really is no need. It is suspect that they were written in an effort to foreshadow but as a young adult reader, it may have been too much. Overall this book was enjoyable, not as imaginatively pleasing as Lament but definitely not bad at all.

For more information or for purchasing visit Maggie Stiefvater's webpage

I give this book 4/5 stars. ★ ★ ★ ★

Discussion Question:
1. James is a flawed and heart broken character, do you find his mental peculiarities charming or annoying? Please do explain.
I think they are charming, I think his sense of humor is off beat and funny, as well as his ability to come back at anything anyone says at anytime. His flaws are apart of him and I think his pension for writing all over himself is part of his psychic gifts.

2. What did you think of James and Dee's kiss? This being a pivotal moment for their relationship, how do you think it changed James?
I thought that it was a kiss and that's it. We all know that Dee doesn't want James "like that". However, her saying she was picturing her previous boyfriend while doing it was not good at all. I think James felt betrayed completely and it totally showed James that Dee is basically incapable of feeling for him the way he feels for her. I think it helped him move past her.

3. Whom do you prefer Dee or Nuala?
This answer is difficult. I read Lament, so seeing that side of Dee, I prefer her. To see her in James' book, I totally prefer Nuala, in Ballad, Dee does nothing but whine all the time it seems.

4. What's your verdict on the best way to read Ballad?  Is it a stand alone book or do you need to read Lament first?  If you read Lament, what did it add/not add to Ballad?  If you haven't read Lament, do you think it would have added to your reading of Ballad?
I think you definitely have to read Lament first. There is so much backplot that helps with understanding Ballad like:
- Why Dee is so depressed
- How James almost died
- The Faerie abilities both characters have
- How they got introduced to the school
- Relationship with Dee's aunt
There are a ton more, I just don't want to keep on listing them.

5. We've been reading a lot of stories with fairies as the central paranormal creatures.  What are your thoughts on the "Fair Folk".  Do you believe in fairies?
I love faeries. I love the books and stories that portray them as a species with different races as opposed to just one big group of beautifully winged creatures.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, hun. I very much enjoyed this book. - Parajunkee


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