“Do you ever get the feeling that something awful might happen?’ James asked me. . . I sat up. ‘I’m the awful thing that happens.”
The beautiful second installment to Maggie Stiefvater’s musical Books of Faerie series. Great mythology and deadly fantastic faeries come together in a book that surpasses its predecessor with prose and characters. Despite being a sequel, it perfectly stands alone by itself. Some may mind this, some others like me won’t.
Recommendation: Those who enjoyed the first book will definitely enjoy this second one, those who didn’t enjoy Lament will find themselves liking this one much better. But might still not be their cup of tea. For those who enjoy musically rich books, unconventional characters and a fresher approach to romance. However, despite containing a rich story, the book doesn’t have a lot of substance either.
Ballad tells the story of Deidre’s best friend, the also musically gifted James Morgan as he sets out to follow his dreams in a private conservatory for musicians. Still hurt by Deidre’s actions from the previous book and her increasing distancing of him in favor of the world of Feys, James draws further into himself, only to attract the attention of a deadly Fey coming after his musical talent…
But Ballad also tells the story of Nualla, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Initial refusal from James’ only draws her further to him, and the soul scorching music they compose together leads into an unusual friendship and mutual admiration. Soon, they realize a lot more troubles lures behind the seducing world of the Fey, outside of Nualla’s murderous intentions…
In many ways, Ballad is everything Lament should’ve been without the allure that Deidre and Luke had. Ballad is a deliciously eeriee story that shows both sides of the seducing world of magic, dangerous yet motivated faeries. Both Deidre’s soul-fated love that went wrong, and James’ wrong love that led into a star-fated destiny.
While Luke and Deidre barely had any substance and chemestry in Lament, Ballad delivers two deliciously complex characters with sure and secure motivation, sharing such a frustrating chemestry that will make you want to scream and squeal all throughout its pages. James provides an often unseen and underrated voice in Young Adult fantasy and romance, sarcastic and rather crude commentary to life mixed with a breaking away of your typical, unrealistic lead that follows its romantic interest to dangerous distances only because the plot dictates they fall in love (Much like Deidre would previously do in Ballad’s predecessor, Lament).
In many ways, James narrating is very grounded in reality, pleasant and more realistic due to its sarcasm; which is a very pleasant breakaway from Dee’s femenine and much weaker narrative. Like any standart YA, her storyline was dictated on following the hot honcho with abs of steel. Meanwhile James story in Ballad dealt with many much darker themes and great moral choices.
We see a lot of character development throughout the book, though nowhere near as good as Maggie’s future works with the Raven Cycle. Both Nuala and James change because they meet each other, they perfectly shake up the world’s they belong to and leave behind a firey, delicious mess. Both Dee and James are perfectly shaken up as well, both still struggling to cope with the events of the last book, James more able to look past it than his best friend. It is interesting to follow their development from the last book in this new and independent storyline, and despite Deidre’s character arc resulting farther and farther from James.
One of the biggest criticisms of this book is Dee’s attitude, selfish, bitchy and entirely self centered, despite her being rarely seen throughout its pages. However, this is also a very pleasant break from regular YA and their resilient heroines. Dee is a sixteen year old girl who lost her boyfriend to mythical creatures she can barely understand and is not forced to carry on with her life as usual despite going through a wild and world-shattering summer. Recovering from supernatural creatures attempting to murder you and then attend school is a rather difficult thing to do, kids. Also: No Luke in this book 😦 So fair warning for those like me who were hoping for this hot honcho with abs of steel.
However, Dee’s most interesting development happens through the texts we see her typing to James (despite never sending them) about what’s going on on her side of things and how Luke is fairing and how her life and sanity are slowly going down the drain. Each text keeps you hooked chapter to chapter and excites you for the third book to read its resolve… If it were only published. Sigh.
The biggest criticism I have for its book is the lack of closure we experience regarding Dee and its switching first person POV, though the last part isn’t very bugging to many others. I read Lament and Ballad back to back, and was rather disappointed to find Dee’s storyline not to be developed since I was still hung up on her and Luke. I find it more than perfectly okay, and great even to decide to switch storylines to a great character such as James while hyping up Dee’s and Luke’s continuation by keeping us in the dark about Deidre. However, more than 8 years later and we still haven’t gotten the third book, I feel a bit sad, cheated and craving for some well deserved closure from these characters.
But in the end, it’s also endearing as hell. James does get his unconventional yet very, very happy ending and that blesses me. A really good book.
Perhaps this is still my bias regarding this series, but so many years later and I still can’t wait for the third book to be out. Perhaps someday Maggie will be pulling Requiem out of the back burner.
“Death smells like birthday cake.”
Here is some fanart I did of James and Nuala titled: “The Horned King’s March”
And make sure to watch how I drew it right here !