Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater

Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater (Flux 2009, YA, 352pp), picks up where Lament (2008) left off. Dierdre and James, having survived an emotionally wrenching, and in James' case, physically damaging, encounter with the Faerie, are now at a boarding school for the musically prodigious. In this second book, the story focuses on James--the smart aleck, eccentric, funny, loving bagpiper that I wanted more of in Lament. This change of focus makes Ballad work as a stand-alone; Dee, the central character of Lament, is mostly off-stage.

And this is breaking James' heart, because he loves Dee, and she, still caught up in the tangle of her love for the souless fairy assassin of Lament, seems to be shunning him. Or using him. Or both.

Into James' life comes Nuala, the Leanan Sidhe, who inspires supernatural heights of creativity in the men whose lives she uses to feed her own. But James says no to her offer of unlimited inspiration (and added bonuses), and sets their relationship down a path that will change both of them forever.

And the hills outside the school are echoing with the sound of faerie revels, and the song of the King of the Dead....and Dierdre, James, and Nuala are drawn into a darker story then they had ever dreamt of.

Gosh, I did so enjoy this one! Nuala is, hands down, my favorite fictional faerie lover. She's uncertain, smart, conflicted--just beautifully three-dimensional. James is a most excellently drawn character too, and their relationship is fascinating.

So much so that it's hard for me to think critically about this book. If I had stopped occasionally while reading to look closely at the plot elements of the faerie side of things, I have a feeling that I might have unresolved questions. But I wasn't at all in the mood for nit-picking as I read, and, frankly, I wasn't that interested in that part of the story. I just wanted to find out what happened with James and Nuala.

Because, you see, Nuala has only a few weeks to go before she must burn alive in a bonfire in order to come back to life, a cycle she has been enduring for centuries. So the question of her relationship with James is rather a, um, burning one.
"If you know you're going to die in a bonfire on Halloween, why not just lock yourself in a room somewhere? Then when they light the fires and ask you to come out, just tell them they can put their matches where the sun don't shine."

Nuala gave me the most scathing look in the history of scathing looks. "What a clever idea I've never thought of that. And I'm sure all the previous versions of myself never did either. Idiot."

"Okay, okay. Point taken. This will probably earn me another scathing look, but are you sure?"

"Sure about what? You being an idiot?" Nuala laughed, but her fingers were trembling in mine; I held her fingers tight to still them." (page 225).

A fantastic, fun read, told in the alternating viewpoints of Nuala and James, interspersed with text messages from Dee that she never sends...Even if you think the faerie thing has been done to death, this might well change your mind.

Here at Maggie Stiefvater's blog you can find both the playlist for Ballad, and an amazing contest...

At Angieville, you can enter to win a copy of Ballad (ends October 1). Here is Angie's review, and another review at In Bed With Books.

(review copy received from the publisher)


  1. I'm glad someone else loved this! I resisted quoting in my review, but barely. I wanted to do Nuala watching James sleep, commenting on him pulling his scribbled hands up to his face . . .

  2. I really loved James, and Dierdre drove me nuts, so I've been WAITING for this book for a long time...

  3. Oh, that is a nice scene that you mention, Liviania!

    And Tanita, I so agree about Dierdre...

    I bet you like this one lots!

  4. Somehow I missed mention of this series entirely until just recently. I will have to check into it!

  5. Charlotte, this review made me smile. I'm so glad you enjoyed BALLAD that much. So did I. James was just excellent and I thought it was a really beautiful book. Thanks for the links!

  6. I'm so looking forward to this book. Thanks for the review, I loved the quote.


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