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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.
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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!
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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!
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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
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 November 2012
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.
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VINE VOICEon 16 June 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was so looking forward to this book after reading Lament, the first book in this series, but I have to say I was a little disappointed. I am a huge fan of Maggies work, especially the Mercy Falls Werewolves series but there was just something missing from it.

It may be to do with the fact that the narrative is mostly centred around James and his talent for the bag pipes and hardly any of Dee and her lovely harp. Instead the presence of Dee is replaced with Nuala who is a great character but I couldn't help but want to hear more of Dee and less of Nuala. The small amount of run in's James and Dee have in this book are short and full of tension, nothing like what we witnessed in Lament. I missed that. Not to mention that even James as a character was a little under developed considering how cocky and witty he was previously, and how much full of charm he is. It just doesn't seem to translate to the reader which is such a shame.

It has to be said, I did learn to love Nuala. Her fierceness and vulnerability eventually begins to show towards James and I thought this was an interesting path especially when thinking about how it seems the more she falls for James, the more she gains of her humanity, and at the same time seems to loose a bit more of the fairy inside her. While the relationship of James and Nuala was nice, it wasn't the passion I felt in Lament with Dee and Luke and I know that Maggie is capable of this all encompassing, passionate love because I have read nearly everything she has written and it seemed like this was what she was good at.

The story, while being interesting, lacked the atmosphere, tension and that spark which makes you want to read more, turn the page and not want to put it down and as a result it took me a while to read. Believe me, it takes a lot to find fault in Maggies work, and until now I couldn't but Ballad is just not in the same league as her earlier works, it needs more work, more Dee and more of the raw emotion, passion and love I felt coursing through the pages of Lament and tugging at my heart strings.

Cassandra220689
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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.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A teenage supernatural fantasy romance novel. It's the sequel to an earlier book called Lament. Which I've not actually read but I had no trouble getting into this one anyhow.

Recommended reading age I would say would be fourteen and up, because the faeries in this are the faeries of legend. Dark and dangerous. And there's also a scene where one tries to assault a female character.

It runs for three hundred and eighty eight pages and is divided into many shorter chapters, which are told alternatively in the first person by one the two characters.

E mails from a third to one of the main ones form occasional interludes.

Lament told of a girl called Dee who lost her heart to a faerie. And Ballad is the story of her friend James. The events of lament have left his relationship with Dee dented, so he's gone off to music college to start a new life there. Not that he really needs any tuition as he's a very gifted musician. However Dee has gone to the same place. And James runs into problems when he encounters a faery girl called Nuala, who has designs on him.

At least, that was her plan.

Because as the two start to get closer and James and Dee have to work out where they go from here, the school has secrets. And danger lurks...

Not a novel of action, but there's plenty of character action, which drives the whole thing along nicely. And makes the middle section fly by. The characters are pretty good as well, Nuala acting like a believable human being rather than some mystic creature. And everything that happens results from the way the characters act and the choices they make.

Danger does come into play in the final quarter of the book, which does manage to be quite a gripping finale. And it also manages to be pretty much self contained whilst leaving the door open for future stories about these characters.

This genre is becoming a very crowded field, but this is an above average entry in it.
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In the sequel to Lament the first person narrative has been taken over by James in place of Dierdre (Dee). It was really interesting to see James' personality develop, enabling additional understanding of his actions/emotions. His wonderfully snarky witticisms captured my heart.We catch up with them a few months after the explosive finale to Lament now enrolled into a private school for the musically gifted.

We are introduced to a whole array of new characters both human and Fey, expanding the plot and adding dimension to the relationship interactions already established. The musical references virtually flowed off the pages. Alternating chapters between James and Nuala provided both sides of the story; showing how easy interactions are misinterpreted.

All the characters were three dimensional, James development in particular was astounding. The 'support' cast of characters were a pleasant surprise in their use within the narrative. Yet I could not reconcile Dee's transformation from Lament into what I could only visualise as a 'wet lettuce', where had all her 'powers' gone and why wasn't she using them.

The plot developed seamlessly from Lament, making it necessary to have read the book to fully understand the nuances of the storyline.

I adore Maggie's writing style and descriptions, I devour them as quickly as possible and feel as if I have generally been hit by a tidal wave of emotion by the end of the book. I can completely immerse myself in the worlds she creates, sometimes to my detriment when I am sobbing in the early hours of the morning.

I do have one complaint about this book.......there are still unanswered questions I have and I need another book to reconcile them. *BEGS/PLEADS/GROVELS/BRIBES*
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