Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

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Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: A book with lots to like, but enough flaws to make it worth a borrow, not a buy. Strong major characters, lyrical prose and interesting set up, but some missed marks on plot and minor characters.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: May 2011
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1407121123

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After his best friend fell in love with a faerie, James realised she would never love him that way. But his attempts to get away from her, and the unrequited love he still nurses, only lead him straight to more faeries than ever before. For at James' new school, Thornking-Ash, the student populace is entirely made of musical prodigies. And there's nothing that attracts faeries more than music. James has even attracted his own muse – the deadly and dangerously attractive Nuala. The music she helps him make is better than he could ever manage on his own, but James knows the deadly consequences of making a deal with faeries, and he knows Nuala won't give him freebies for long.

Nuala needs James to make a deal with her for her to survive, but the more she gets to know the piper, the less she wants to feed on his life force. But with Hallowe'en approaching, Nuala knows she can't afford to get close to anyone. Because Hallowe'en on her sixteenth year is the night she dies.

There's a lot to like about Stiefvater's writing. Her prose is spare and lyrical, her characters interesting and relatable, her world set up fascinating. However, there was something about this book that didn't grab me the same way as Shiver or Linger did. That may be because it's the second in a series of which I've not read the first, and granted that did mean it took me a while to initially get into it. But, I don't think the fact that I wasn't compelled to keep the pages turning can entirely be blamed on that. A great series should be able to grab you whichever instalment you pick up.

The story was interesting, and I liked the idea of the faeries being dangerous, cunning and feeding off humans. James' complex emotions surrounding Dee and his involvement with the faery world added further dimensions to the story but it felt like something was lacking. James' roommate Paul I felt was never fully explored as a character, nor was the subplot involving him and there were several moments where I felt a big jump had been made in terms of plot and what the characters knew, leaving the reader to make rather large assumptions about what happened in between. Yes I did like Nuala's character – she was a great mix of vulnerability and toughness, and her particular breed of faerie was unusual and posed all sorts of interesting questions about life and living forever. But again, there were wasted opportunities with regards to her family (can't say too much without spoiling the end) which left me feeling a little irritated.

Overall, there was enough here that was good for the story to be enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend a borrow, if not a buy. Though perhaps starting with Lament, the first in the series, would be advisable!

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

Fans of faeries might enjoy Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series or Julie Kagawa's The Iron King.

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