Not all sequels work but this one does and how!
This time around, it is not Dee who is pursued by 'Them', but James. He and Dee now attend the prestigious music school Thornking Ash where he is pursuing his dream to become a better Piper (bagpiper).
He has unwittingly attracted the attention of one of the Leanan Sidhe who are Faerie but not quite Faerie (yes, that's right) and are also deadly to humans. Their aim is to give you something like inspiration for your music and in return you give them some of your years (life).
If you love Celtic mythology and lore and of course stories about the Sidhe then you will find this book utterly irrestible. It has elements of love, hatred, resentment, bravery, forgiveness in it plus a whole load of horror although not the slash, maul genre. It is both threatening and mindblowing.
Maggie Stiefvater certainly knows how to weave a story so expertly that you will want to read this book in one go and then you will be sorry when you have finished it. I am hoping that she will maybe turn this series into a trilogy.
on 12 February 2010
Ballad is a follow on from Lament and this book focuses on the life, love and faerie dealings of Dee's best friend James.Both Dee and James have gone to Thornking-Ash musical school and everything seems reasonably normal except that Dee is still moarning Luke, James is still in love with Dee and strange music keeps calling to James in the middle of the night.
I love Maggie Stiefvater's writing style and i am very pleased to say that Ballad is a beautiful follow up from Lament. There are some new characters all of which you will have strong feelings about and as the book focuses mostly on James, who was my favourite character from Lament, you will be swept into a world of music,fey and love that will leave you with the inevitable feeling of loss that you get after finishing a Stiefvater.Love it.
on 29 September 2013
I greatly enjoyed reading Maggie Stiefvater`s Ballad which in no way suffered from me not having previously read her earlier book, Lament. It was a pleasure to discover the unfolding relationship between a young, cocky musician and an all-powerful faerie bent on sucking the life out of him. The story literally overflows with desire and yearning and unrequited love and deep-felt hurt and cutting humour; a tale in which music is the prime mover.
I was wondering why Ballad reminded me of Julie Hearn's The Merrybegot. Rereading the beginning of Ballad I think I found the answer: both authors give more than ample room to a wider range of senses than other authors. As a result, both books are very sensuous. However, Ballad has one key facet that is not in The Merrybegot: that sensuousness overflows into sensuality and beyond to potent sexuality, albeit held at arms length, like in the scene in the practice room on the piano stool.
The intense passion that gripped me as I read Ballad dissipated somewhat towards the end. One possible reason could be the incursion of other characters in the dense relationship between the two main characters. But a more likely explanation was the acceleration of the story and the need to conclude and resolve the plot before the end of the story whereas I would have preferred to have lingered with that relationship and kept the tension unresolved.
Review first published on Secret Paths: http://about-books.secret-paths.com/?p=13
I have to admit I am already a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater and her Mercy Falls wolves series of novels, "Shiver", "Linger" and "Forever". I chose this book based on my love for that series of books, but I also purchased the prequal to this, "Lament". On its own the book is very well written and is an enthralling page turner, that focuses on the characters James and Nuala. However, to fully appreciate what is going on in "Ballad" you really need to have read "Lament" first to fully get to grips with it.
James is a music prodigy who plays the bagpipes like no other and he attracts the attention of Nuala, a Leanne Sidhe fairy who feeds off his musical aura.
James is in love with Dee, but she is in love with a fairy and despite almost losing his life for her, she keeps him at a distance and James feels lonely, but for the call of antlered Kings song. Nuala is a seductive temptress who can change her appearance to attract any young man, but she only wants James, but unlike the many men before him, she does not want to take his life and this has consequences for them both.
Will James ever have a love for keeps?
Recommended for female readers, aimed at young adult, but I am 36 and loved it! Also recommend that you read "Lament" first to get into the background of this novel. Fanatastic!
on 9 April 2014
This has spoilers from the first book in the series and the second.
This book was frustrating. I liked the way Dee's story was semi interwoven with the texts because it let you know a little on what was going on, but on the same page, I hated it because everything is then more dramatic than it needs to be if they just had one tough conversation at the start then a lot of crap could have been avoided. People complain about their problems but some things are easily solved once you stop making a drama out of it. It peeved me off so much throughout the whole entire book and I found Dee's character becoming more un likable throughout the novel. James, was okay. That's all.
There is just something missing from these books and I can't quite put my finger on what. I'm supposed to care about these characters and I just...don't. I'm just not connecting. It's not as if it's badly written either. I find the world she has created interesting as well, so I don't know why I'm really not enjoying this series.
Nuala was interesting. Without her, this book would have been dull and I felt like I knew her more than I had ever gotten to know Luke. Which is a plus side as Luke was like a ghost in the last book, yet we were supposed to understand why the Dee falls in love with him in five minutes.
This book was a lot better than the 1st but I still feel like the ending was rushed, neverless, ill probably end up read the last one, because I like knowing the full story. This is her worst series that she has written, I much prefer her later works, The Raven Boys is excellent and has some beautiful prose. I would avoid this and buy that instead.
on 21 February 2013
This is my review from Goodreads.
I can't actually explain what I like so much about this book.
I mean, maybe it's James. He's hilarious, he's sarcastic, and there's this bitter edge to his words that makes you feel perhaps he has a reason for being funny -- perhaps he's trying to hide something deeper. His brilliant musicianship isn't just an accessory to his life: it defines him and who he is. He isn't a character who plays instruments: he IS a musician.
Maybe it's Nuala. She's also a great character, in a different way. Longing and danger and hope are all wound up in her voice, which is tinged with confusion as things she thought would last forever start to close. I'm a sucker for doomed characters, and if anyone's doomed it's a leanán sidhe destined to burn every 16 years.
Maybe it's the way emotions are written -- the way Maggie Stiefvater portrays James's hopeless unrequited feelings for Dee, the way their friendship comes across, the way major confessions aren't blown off but explored in depth as they would in real life. It's realistic and speaking as someone who has been in a similar position, it's nice to see it handled in that way, instead of being blown way out of proportion or brushed off as unimportant.
Maybe it's the faeries and the king of the dead and the magic and the mythology, because they've always been close to my heart and a book that winds them so cleverly together is going to be very special to me.
I don't really know.
I mean, this book isn't 100% perfect. At least, the more I read it the better it seems, and it was pretty damn good to start with. There are literally about two lines in it that I'd change because they always bugged me -- a slight repetition of ideas. Even so, if I had written this book, I'd be proud of it. That would be enough. This is the one book that I wish I'd written not for fame or riches but because it tells a story that I wish I was capable of telling and it portrays emotions and characters and plot in a way I wish I was capable of portraying them.
So I don't really know what it is that makes it one of my all-time favourite books. I don't know why I've read it so many times I can recite large passages off by heart for no reason other than because, well, I can.
I just know that I do like it. I love it. This book changed my life and to be honest, whenever I'm sad or need motivation to write or anything, I just pick it up and reread it. Again.
i love the way Steifvater writes, so for me it's difficult to not to find her novels to be Gold. But if I'm completely honest, which I feel I shoul be since you don't want to be buying a rubbishy book, I'm not convinced this is her best. Actually, as a series I found Lament and Ballad to be half as gripping as the Shiver series; I even liked her stand-alone novel "The Scorpio Races" a billion times more. So what happened that made it all go down hill?
Dee is no longer our narrator, which is fine because James is a hilarious character and I found him to be more than fantastic as the lead - how nice is it to see the story from the guy's perspective for once? We get to see how hurt James was by Dee's actions in the previous novel "Lament" and his unfailing love for her (alongside his absolute hatred of her!). James and Dee have enrolled at Thornking-Ash - a boarding school for the musically talented, which just screams of faerie interest! Which is exactly why James meets Nuala (or so she tells him, her real name remains unknown predominately), a dangerious faerie muse. A Leanan Sidhe - a beautiful faerie with the ability to exchange musical inspiration for years of human life.
Nuala is a brilliant character for the most part. She's fiesty and exciting, despite her inherant badness, and even gets her own first-person chapters which was interesting. Dee however doesn't get a look in. Her narrative is excluded from this novel and replaced with text messages she would have sent James but didn't have the bottle to.
The problem is, aside from James and Dee's failing relationship/friendship and the newfound relationship/friendship between James and Nuala there really isn't a lot to this book. Nothing seems to happen. The main plot honestly doesn't kick off until a good three quarters into the book when Nuala and Dee appear to be in danger. So although I enjoyed the new perspectives, the jealousy from Dee and the witty yet vicious faeries, I just couldn't love this book - and believe me I tried.
Still a good read, but not at all Steifvater's best. If there were ever to be a third installment released I can confidently say I wouldn't pick up a copy which is such a shame because the characters are brilliant but the world just isn't interesting enough for me.
Those of you who are not writers will have to bear with me a moment. Those of you who do make a living writing, will know what it is to hand in a book. Before it, there are the weeks, possibly months, of lock-down, when your friends think you've given up on them, your partner thinks you've fallen out of love, your parents and children think they've lost you to some cult which prevents you from ever contacting the outside world and when they have the bad grace to die before the book's done, and their surviving spouses want some kind of input, they are surprised when you bite their heads of because, don't they get it? Nothing Matters But the Book.
Strangers who think they can just ring up in the middle of a working day (which stretches from getting up to going to bed) are put right with very little sympathy or tact, editors get one-line answers to lengthy emails, planned meetings with agents are cancelled because the book isn't done yet.
And then one day you come to the end of the fifth, or fifteenth draft and suddenly all the pieces have slid into place and the writing is at last coherent and your editor who said, 'the answer is always in the text' was absolutely right and you've put the last full stop at the end of the last sentence and tidied up the presentation and attached it to an email and hit 'send'...
And then there's the vacuum of afterwards. Granted there is a pile of admin to be done that would reach to the ceiling were it not all electronic, but there's a gap when you can't touch the book because it's gone to someone else who is going to edit the version they have and the one thing worse than handing in a poorly finished book is messing with it aftewards: version control is everything.
That's when you need to sit down and devour someone else's writing. You know it took them a year of hard work to create, but you're still going to read it in a day. Or less. You need absolutely stunning, magical, wonderful, awe-inspiring writing, but it needs not to be in your field. It needs to be utterly impossible for you to sit there and wish you'd written it, or wonder why you hadn't written something just like it. It needs to be different. And inspiring. And how hard it is, exactly, to find that kind of a book amidst all the absolute drivel that is printed and published?
Very hard. But Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater is that book. Granted, it would help if you're read it's predecessor, 'Lament' first, but you don't have to, and actually, it won't hurt if you read them in reverse. Lament was about Dee, who fell in love with Luke - the faerie assassin sent to kill her - and Ballad is about Jamie, who loved Dee, but falls in love with Nuala, who lives by feeding off superbly talented young men. And Jamie is as talented as they come. It's a love story. It's a faerie story, but these are not Tinkerbell 'say-I-don't-believe-in-fairies-and-watch-them-die' kind of fairy, these are faeries, and they kill people. They don't like iron, they can be summoned by burning thyme, they are afraid of Cernunnos, in his guise as the Thorn King, Lord of the Dead (Stag-dreamers, read this; you'll love it) - or they were until the new queen of Faerie, devised a way by which they might ally themselves with Him.
It's a school story too - Thornking-Ash is a boarding school for talented musicians, but the teachers know more than they should do about Faerie and the narrative arc of Sullivan, the coolest teacher in the world, is outstanding.
It's the use of language that sets Maggie Stiefvater's writing apart. The sheer, glorious poetry of every line. The ability to get inside the heads of her characters, so that everyone, even the most minor, is full and rounded and not a cardboard cut-out two-dimensional cipher. These are real people, who can hear the Thorn King singing.
And then there's the plots - she understands the rules of the old Celtic ballads, of the ways They (the faeries) work. But she knows that rules are there to be broken and it's in the breaking of them that she shines.
Read this: it's easy, it's wonderful, it'll make you laugh out loud and wish you were adolescent again. Well, maybe not the latter, but it will make you smile. And it will re-affirm your belief in the power of language and the ability of black marks on a white page to hold someone completely against the lure of computer games and all the internet holds.
Ballad continues on (not directly) from the first book, Lament, and this time focuses on James. Dee, the main character from Lament is still around though and does play a quite large role in the story. She and James are on rocky ground and their friendship is suffering after things that happened in the previous book. If you haven't read Lament though, don't worry, the story is quite easy to pick up and you will soon get what is going on.
I loved James. He was cocky, arrogant and a little full of himself but there is also so much more to him which is shown slowly throughout the story as things begin to happen. I liked him from the off after having already read Lament but as I turned each page, I liked him a little bit more each time. Even though James has a tough exterior, it is easy to see what else there is to him e.g. when he gets nervous or wants to remember something, he writes notes all over his hands and I thought this was a really sweet and different characteristic for someone to have. It gave him depth.
Unlike Stiefvater's other books, this one focuses on the fae. Nuala was a fantastic character and was so interesting. As she changes every 16 years, the name she has this book is not the one she had before and not even close to her real name. Fae lore has a massive thing about real names being revealed and if they are, the person who knows has power over them so the changing of Nuala's name was actually a pretty big part of this book. She originally starts off as the villain of Ballad, being everything that James could ever want and wish for and therefore, making her job a little too easy at times. As with James, there is more to Nuala than meets the eye although we don't get to learn this quite as quick as we do with James.
Ballad is a well paced book with a large focus on music (as the name suggests). It is told from the points of view of James, Nuala and Dee and I thought that this was a great way to find out things from different perspectives. Each character has something interesting and exciting to add to the story and without it being told this way, a lot of the little details would have been missed out. Stiefvater's fae books are so different and magical compared to The Wolves of Mercy Falls series but her writing still remains as wonderful as ever!
James has had a rough year. His best friend, Dee, fell in love with a faerie and he realised that she would never be in love with him while his experiences with the faeries resulted in a car crash that left him seriously injured. Now he and Dee have started at the Thornking-Ash School of Music, but the faeries haven't left them alone. James can hear strange music coming from near the school and then Nuala, a faerie girl, starts visiting him, keen to make him accept her offer of music in exchange for his life force.
Although James knows better than to accept Nuala's offer, he nevertheless finds himself drawn to her just as his friendship with Dee is beginning to fall apart. Unbelievably, Nuala also seems to be developing genuine feelings for him. However Nuala, James and Dee all find themselves pawns in the faeries' latest deadly plan, which will see James forced to decide whether to betray Nuala or Dee ..
BALLAD is a sequel to LAMENT, which you probably need to read first. I hadn't and although I followed the plot events, much of BALLAD focuses on the changed relationship between Dee and James. Having not known what that relationship was, I lost some of the character development.
That said, this is a deftly written novel told in strong alternate first person chapters from James and Nuala's POVs. I particularly liked the cynical James, who's struggling to come to terms with his feelings for Dee and Nuala, who should be his enemy. With his quirk of constantly writing things on his hands, his smart mouth and his sharp sense of humour, he's a likable guy and his supreme talent with the bagpipes (not the most obvious instrument) drives him. Nuala is also interesting as she becomes more conflicted over her feelings for James and the knowledge of what her half-faerie/half-human heritage means for their relationship.
The weak link for me is Dee, mainly because her story with Luke happens off-age and she's passive, constantly writing text messages that she doesn't send. As a result, it's difficult to see what James sees in her (but again this might make more sense if you've read LAMENT).
All in all, I found it an absorbing read that had me rooting for the main character from start to finish and I'll check out the first book.