I first read her book Lament and have to admit didn't understand all the love that was being sputtered over it all over the blogsphere. I liked Dee, Luke was intriguing and torn and oh the scene at the end, back at the school had me grasping the pages with such interest I couldn't read fast enough. There's just something missing that holds me back from singing Ms. Stiefvart praises from the mountain tops and I can't quite put my finger on it.
Ah, but I digress, this review is on Ballad and not Lament. Ballad is not a continuation of Dee and Luke's story but a love story for James. One that is much deserved I think, the poor thing was all but snubbed in Lament. James follows Dee to the school for the musically gifted, Thornking-Ash Conservatory. There James is met with Nuala, a faerie who takes great interest in him, (gaining interest from any faerie, by the way is NOT a good thing) his inner-turmoil of feelings for Dee and some interesting characters on faculty at Thornking-Ash. Come Halloween night James is faced with a decision he does not like and keeps him torn between what he should choose.
Let's first start out with why I keep coming back to Ms. Stiefvater. I love the musical element Ms. Stiefvater has in these books. It was what initially kept me pulling back to finish Lament, the fact that Dee played the harp had me intrigued (I play the harp, and grew up in a musical family) and James with his bagpipes had me yearning to hear them. I absolutely love the bagpipes! The wonderful Irish Folklore Ms. Stiefvater infuses her stories with keeps me enveloped in the story and flipping pages.
When I started Ballad I did not like James. Who was this self-loathing, logo t-shirt wearing, kid who's humor I didn't get, and what did he do with James? I had read Lament a while back but I thought I remembered James being more of a happier amiable character. I remember liking him! The story is told from James's point of view and Nuala's with an occasional unsent text message from Dee. The text messages in the beginning bothered me and were a nuisance, I wanted Dee to get off it and just talk to James or just send the dang text. I wanted James to wake up and actually tell Dee what he wanted to tell her and not just what she wanted to hear.
I didn't say anything for a long moment. I wasn't sure what I'd expected. At least honesty. What was I going to do, call her out on it? I sighed and rested my head against the dingy wall, "I just wanted to make sure."
"Thanks," Dee said. "that means a lot to me."
I looked at my reflection in the old, narrow mirrors on the wall across from me. The James-in-the-mirror frowned back at me, the ugly scar as dark as his knitted eyebrows.
"I better go," Dee said.
I hung up. She hadn't asked me if I was okay.
Dee isn't a bad person, selfish maybe, but not a bad person. She doesn't love James the way he loves her and knows it. Seeing James tugged by a string Dee seemed to inevitable always have at her finger tips was a bit aggravating.
Nuala was an intriguing character to me, I wanted to know exactly what she was. She does become quite protective of James and does not like Dee at all, but to me I think James needs someone like Nuala, as snarky as she is I like her, or like her more than Dee in this book. The story started to pick up towards the middle and swept me away, as the pattern with Ms. Steifvater's books seem to do. She's not my favorite author, and faeries aren't exactly my supernatural of choice, But I have heard a lot about "Shiver" and "Linger". I think I will read those two. I'm so bummed I didn't fall in love with these books as most people do, because I "met" her on Facebook and she's so sweet and the kind of gal I'd like to kick back and have laughs with. (Yes I deducted this all from a Facebook conversation) And when you meet people like that you want to like their work you know?