Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (review)

30025336Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Stiefvater never fails to surprise me with her imaginative, atmospheric, fleshed-out novels. All The Crooked Saints is in all aspects, a very strange and unique story that seems to differ from most YA magical realism books in the writing, plotting, and introduction of characters. Stiefvater’s trademark style might run off the rails in the hands of another author, but the many elements of this novel that make it different, actually WORK. Not all the time, but often enough to make it one of the most intriguing stories I’ve ever read.

To start off, Stiefvater does do a few things differently in this novel when she introduces a setting, character, or certain situation. The beginnings of each chapter are usually characterized by a viewpoint of an abstract idea that is later connected to something important in the chapter. It could be a description of an area, an exploration of a theme, or simply a process of how something works. I will admit that this took some time to get used to and it was probably the only element that hindered me from enjoying this book to the maximum. Some of these musings turn into ramblings that take us nowhere, and by then it’s easy to lose interest. I could attribute this to the reason why this book felt so short yet so long, as it took me nearly 5 days to read when it should have been barely 3. However, I could also attribute it to my everlasting homework and duties to reading Pride And Prejudice for AP Lit. Side note: Screw you, AP Lit.

However, the prose in general was excellent, as expected. I’ve always adored Stiefvater’s writing, the way she can concoct a tangible atmosphere by infusing her magic into the most mundane features of a desert is amazing. Atmospheric writing is my favorite thing, and I would consider Stiefvater to be the queen of it. The exploration of themes such as love, fear, family, identity, and much more blend in perfectly with the aesthetic that is consistently kept up, and I love how whole and full every aspect of the story feels. The composition gives us a feeling of looking at this setting and set of characters from a birds-eye view, but everything can still be seen so clearly. Does that make sense? It’s probably one of those things you must experience to understand it.

The fantasy aspect of the novel was classic magical realism with its own twists and turns. The theories behind the miracles, pilgrims, Saints, and the Soria family legacy were all carefully unfolded throughout the course of the novel, and I loved how the tone was simultaneously dark and light while talking of the events that have taken place in Bicho Raro. The story still keeps the natural whimsical, weird, and magical feel that every magical realism novel has while adding its own unique touches.

Unsurprisingly, Stiefvater tackles a large ensemble cast and happens to tell their individual stories in a third person omniscient viewpoint. It’s a grand idea that is difficult to execute, but Stiefvater manages to nail it. Our main three characters, Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin are all equally developed but Beatriz definitely stuck out to me the most. I understood and related to her struggle to express herself and break out of the ‘no feelings’ shell that she has been comfortable in for so long. While those three are mainly highlighted, every single character has equal page time and equal characterization. Pete, Tony, Marisita, Jennie and the entire Soria family are all so well-developed and layered, Stiefvater manages to tell each one of their stories with such emotion and purpose.

All The Crooked Saints is a magical, bizarre, warm, dark, atmospheric exploration of the deepest parts of human nature and self. It’s truly one of a kind and I would urge to all to hop on the hype train before it’s too late and read it as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4 stars

Thanks for viewing, fellow readers! Let me know your thoughts below! 🙂


Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #4) | an enjoyable story w/ a dissatisfying ending

17378527The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I’m teetering between giving this book 3 or 3.5 stars, because while I liked the majority of the book, the ending failed to live up to the theatricality of the rest of the series, and failed the conjure up the amount of emotion I should have felt. If I gave into simply remembering the last few chapters, this book would have been a 3-star read, but the story as a whole was just as enjoyable as the others. I still can’t forget that clusterfuck of an ending though.

The writing was beautiful, as usual, but I did notice something different about it. Stiefvater relies heavily on further defining the ‘aesthetic’ of the series and describing the overall vibe of a setting, character, or group of characters in this particular book. There are a number of shorter, more descriptive sentences that encompass the feeling or visual aesthetic, which I quite liked, actually. This isn’t as easily seen in the other books, but I like how it totally enhanced the story without feeling forced. I’m usually very keen on emotional expression in the finales, and Stiefvater definitely delivered. Even if her writing style isn’t conventionally raw and honest while conveying emotion, the amount of feeling is still abundant through the unique prose.

In my opinion, the fantasy/science-fiction portions left a lot to be desired. There are a good amount of newer fantasy/sci-fi aspects introduced and they are somewhat elaborated on, such as Blue’s background and history behind her father and Henry Cheng’s whole deal. However, I still feel disconnected from these concepts besides there wasn’t enough time or elaboration involved for me to truly understand and absorb it. There are so many revelations made about the characters and the whole Raven Cycle world that are only quickly touched upon and left behind with no resolve. It almost makes me wish for another book, so everything can sink in properly.

As expected, the characters were brilliant and my favorite part of the book. All of them are still struggling to utilize their powers and discover further details about themselves to ultimately find Glendower and possibly save Gansey. I loved the emotion involved with out four main characters, it was so truthful yet poignant and understandable. The relationships between Ronan and his brothers, Gansey and Blue, and Ronan and Adam are further developed and constantly had me in the feels.

I don’t want to say much about the ending parts because I’ll be spoiling otherwise, but it did let me down to an extent. Honestly, it felt as though all the emotion that had been covered throughout the rest of the book was a waste, considering the very end, the climax, the true end was incredibly lackluster and anti-climatic. Everything was stated so plainly and blandly and things … just happened. I wish I could say more but I don’t want to spoil, and I don’t want to discuss spoilers because my thoughts are so jumbled and I’d probably never get them organized. Long story short, I hated that epilogue. Straight up.

Finales of series/trilogies are always difficult to read/review, because they could either make or break the series for you. I don’t remotely dislike The Raven King, but that ending was so soulless that I had to dock a star off. It’s upsetting to be dissatisfied with a goodbye to a series, but it is what it is.


Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #3) | an underwhelming third installment but still fairly enjoyable

17378508Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

I had fairly high expectations for this installment because I liked the other two so much, and while I did enjoy this one, it wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. This book is certainly slower and deeper plot-wise, the characters are getting closer and closer to finding Glendower and even more secrets about themselves. There are new characters introduced but the story mainly zeroes in on the complexities of their mission and the characters’ abilities, such as Adam’s connection to Cabeswater and Blue’s role other than being an ‘amplifier’. While all of this was pretty interesting, it definitely did take away attention from the psyches of each character and their psychological nature throughout. The characters and their complexities are my favorite part of this series, and considering I am a generally character-driven reader, pushing through this book was a bit difficult.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is certainly dirtier and harsher than the other two books when it comes to the hunt for Glendower. Welsh mythology is further delved into and the gang ventures into more dangerous territory, exploring caves, their own abilities, and Maura’s mysterious disappearance. I enjoyed it all honestly, but my liking for it was hindered by the very slow pacing. Parts of it felt as though there was so much yet nothing going on, but I did find the gang’s visits to redneck Virginia and expeditions through cursed caves pretty interesting even if I couldn’t love it fully.

The characters and their psychological development definitely take somewhat of a backseat in this book, compared to the others. Before, even if each book focused on a specific individual, all the characters were incredibly developed. Nothing new about this installment, but I did think the characters and their personalities were a little less vibrant this time around. Blue Lily, Lily Blue obviously looks closer at Blue, and I am quite thankful for that. I’m still not completely on the Blue hype train, but I can somewhat understand her struggle and inner conflict better than before. With that being said, I still felt as though her character didn’t ‘pop out’ as well as Ronan in The Dream Thieves or Gansey and Adam in The Raven Boys. All the characters were a bit underwhelming in this novel, actually.

On a lighter (or heavier) note, things between Gansey and Blue are continuing to heat up and I’m totally on board with this. I love their guilty late night talks and their overall dilemma dealing with Blue’s curse. It’s the perfect amount of angst and it doesn’t feel forced at all. Everyone is crazy for the Ronan and Adam pairing and I am too. I do wish there was more buildup because it does feel like it came out of nowhere, but I’m desperately hoping something happens between them in The Raven King.

Overall, Blue Lily, Lily Blue was a bit underwhelming to me, but I suppose I expected it to be much greater due to my love for the previous installments. I’m so ready for The Raven King to come through and break my heart.


Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Dream Thieves (Raven Boys #2), by Maggie Stiefvater || an engaging sequel with lots and lots of Ronan (YES to this)

20257177If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.
Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

I was initially worried about reading this sequel, because of the amount of time that passed between now and when I read The Raven Boys. I always try to continue a series at a consistent rate, because I tend to forget the story told in each previous book when I move onto the next after a long time, but it doesn’t always work out. This is the reason why getting into The Dream Thieves took a few chapters, but after sinking into the characters and settings I knew, it was such a fun, interesting read. Steifvater upgraded literally everything in this book; the writing, the atmosphere, the character arcs. It only gets better and better as it goes on.

The elevated atmosphere and Stiefvater’s effortless prose: Stiefvater’s writing in this book is effortless. I use that word in every damn review, but when I say that, it means the emotions expressed in the words are so easily understandable. I enjoyed the writing in The Raven Boys but The Dream Thieves contains some of the most beautifully stringed words ever, and the flow is absolutely perfect. This elevated nearly everything in the story, from further developing established characters (Adam and Ronan and everybody actually) and newly introduced characters (The Gray Man, Joseph Kavinsky). The homey yet mysterious vibes of the Virginia suburbs echoed throughout the events of the story, and I’ve come to love Henrietta even more.

A mix of thriller and fantasy with newer themes: This book also introduces a new fantasy aspect to add to the spirits concept … dreams. As we all know, Ronan has the mysterious ability to reach into his dreams and bring things out of it. The history of his ability and how far it can go is expanded on largely in this book, and while I thought it was a bit vague at times, most of this new information is made pretty entertaining due to some awesome characterization, which we’ll get to later. I also loved the mysterious Gray Man subplot going on, and I thought it was perfectly interpolated with the fantasy elements.

Them characters throughhhhh: I really like how Steifvater is doing this thing where each of her books focus on a specific character. While all the characters were greatly written, The Raven Boys was clearly dominated by Gansey and Adam, and this time around it’s Ronan and I couldn’t be happier about it. I stated before in my Raven Boys review that I understood that Ronan was complex, but I found him to be a tad underdeveloped regardless. Well, that’s changed. Ronan is crafted into difficult, angsty, complex, and all the way vulnerable person with a number of secrets throughout this book, and I definitely gained a whole new perspective on him. The Raven Boys only gave us a glimpse of Ronan, and The Dream Thieves tries to take us all the way. In fact, Steifvater’s character writing is so improved, I feel as though she can take Ronan’s persona to an even more complex level.

Despite the focus on Ronan, Gansey and Adam are also incredibly defined and present throughout this book. Adam is just starting to come to terms with his act of awakening the ley line in the previous installment, and has troubles with his relationship with Gansey, and newly, Blue. Gansey himself is struggling to deal with Adam, and in this book, we see the adventurous and ambitious side of him, as well as the broken and bleak side. Noah flashes in and out, can’t say much about him. Joseph Kavinsky and I carry a complicated relationship, and I can’t say much about him because spoilers. But, watch out for this dude. He’s way more important than you think. The Gray Man is another new character, and I absolutely love him. The way he’s introduced and maintained throughout the story is very anonymous and quiet, but after discovering more and more of his true nature and past, he becomes a very interesting character.

I’m still lost on Blue and I don’t know why. Her issues are definitely more defined in this one, she’s struggling with her identity and purpose, as well as her relationship with Adam and Gansey. And, of course, there’s that no-kiss deal. Yeah, she’s got problems, but I really can’t understand them and dive into her personality. I still like her jabbing, sarcastic remarks, but she seems very unnecessarily irritable throughout, and I just don’t get it. It’s probably just me though, because every other character in this series so far is wonderfully written.

The Raven Cycle is turning out to be a pretty kickass series, and I can’t wait to read the next installment, which is apparently focused on Blue. Hopefully it turns around my opinion on her and keeps up with the greatness The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves have delivered so far.


Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater


3.75 stars

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

The Raven Boys has been recommended to me by possibly everyone I know, and it sucks that it took so long for me to get to it, but I’m glad I finally did. It’s really not the type of book I would have picked up my myself, as I haven’t had the best experience reading Shiver (Maggie Steifvater’s only other book I’ve read), but giving this author a second chance was definitely worth it.

I was honestly in disbelief as I took in the writing of this book, wondering if it was the same author that wrote the purple-ridden prose of Shiver. I’m unsure if Steifvater wrote so flowery in Shiver to fit the supposed gentle, fragile atmosphere of it, but the writing in this book was a solid step-up, considering I was actually able to read it. Steifvater’s writing personally doesn’t strike a definite cord within me, but I actually enjoyed the easiness incorporated into this one. I could definitely feel the atmosphere that she was trying to create more clearly without the excess description. In fact, the atmosphere created was one of my favorite things about the book. I loved the homey yet mystical pull of Henrietta, the southern town in which the characters live in, as well as the busy and cluttered yet lovable characteristics of Blue’s all-female, familial, psychic household. I also enjoyed the numerous subplots involved in the story, from the Welsh mythology to rituals gone wrong and unintentional murders and all the mystery surrounding Blue and her father. It was a well-created setting and mood, one that seeped through the pages smoothly.

The characters were also surprisingly interesting and layered, another step above from the blandness of Grace and Sam from Shiver. I came in expecting tropes and cliches for the rich ‘Raven Boys’ (the fact that they have a collective name predetermines that), but they had depth and emotions and certain likability to all of them, even at their worst moments. Gansey’s wit and determination was expressed well throughout the book, as well as his uncertainty when it came to his plans and his feelings for his three friends. His arrogant yet caring nature when it came to his friends can be misinterpreted by many, but I love that aspect because it brings about many perspectives about his judgments, especially toward Adam. I love their flawed relationship, as well as Gansey’s relationship with Ronan. Adam is certainly a favorite as well, and possibly the most fleshed-out character in the book. His insecurity about the wealth around him, as well as his outstanding yet unassuming determination toward dictating his own future were incredibly done. Adam doesn’t really create that much of a presence toward the beginning, he’s quiet and shy, but as the story goes on, his emotional capacity grows and grows to a loud and rattling point. His character is so vulnerable, but the vulnerability is so well-written you can’t help but love it. I have a feeling Ronan was supposed to be the most in-depth character of the book, and while I see the anguish, he could have been more expanded on. While his backstory was relieved, I couldn’t dive into his character as much as the others. Perhaps this has to do with his guarded nature, but I do hope he is more focused on in the next book.

I have mixed feelings about Blue Sargent herself, because while I do like her confidence and funny commentary here and there, she comes off as slightly immature and obnoxious. This feeling wasn’t present throughout the whole book, but she comes off as a little too quirky and childish in a mystical, more emotionally mature book such as this, and the fact that she makes her own clothes and seems to judge rich people constantly only adds to the ‘meh’ feeling. I don’t really see the hype that everyone else sees in the book, but I like how she isn’t a complete special snowflake and actually has a personality, so here’s hoping that she improves in the sequel. With that being said, I actually really liked her interactions with other psychics in the household, and the psychics themselves too. I loved the unsettling yet likable Persephone as well as the confident, straightforward Calla. Even characters that were merely described (such as the chatty Orla) were described well and added a significant amount of personality to the household.

I would definitely recommend The Raven Boys to anyone looking for a mysterious urban fantasy which has a good balance of lightness and maturity. Don’t let the synopsis fool you, it’s really not as cliche as it sounds. 🙂