Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, is the sequel to Lament, a story about a girl named Deidre which I reviewed enthusiastically a while back, and Isabelle reviewed just a little bit ago.  Yes, it’s good enough that we both took a shot at it.

Somehow I was taken by surprise when I started reading this and found myself seeing through the eyes of James, Dee’s neurotic-but-quietly-awesome best friend.  I’d even read that it was from his POV, but that had been before I’d read either book, and some hopeful forgetful part of me had blanked it out and was waiting for more Dee.  It didn’t take me to see that Stiefvater definitely knew what she was doing when she decided that James was certainly capable of carrying his own novel—not to mention more than worthy of his own happy ending.

James is barely there in Lament—or really, no, he’s not, but it feels like he is, as the reader, through Dee’s perspective, generally takes him for granted, enchanted as she is by Luke and her own developing possibilities.  Ballad starts as James and Dee are starting their first year at Thornking-Ash, a musical conservatory that sneaking suspicion says has more to it than meets the eye.  Well, sneaking suspicion and that nightly song of the dead.

It doesn’t take James long to wonder just what the hell he’s doing there—he’s already the best piper (yes, bagpiper) in the state, and no one at the school—or even the surrounding area—has the expertise he’d require in a teacher.  He’s not kidding himself, though.  He knows he’s followed Dee there.  Dee, his best friend, who he carries a tortuous unrequited love for.  Dee, who saved his life from homicidal faeries the year before—but who still chose Luke, in her heart.  Dee, who refuses to talk to him about any of it, and avoids his company unless she’s looking for a distraction.

Meanwhile, someone else is distracting James.  Not an altogether welcome someone, either.  Nuala is a muse, offering unparalleled inspiration in exchange for very little—just the years of your life.  James is still pissed at what the faeries have done to both him and Dee, though, and isn’t about to make any deals, even if he is bored out of his mind.  Nuala sticks around regardless, though.  Even at a school full of musical talent, no one can grab her attention like James.  Eventually they start making music together anyway, with no deal being made, and James can’t help but be struck with how human Nuala is.  Well, not human.  But human-ish.  And as a side-bonus, she’s a slap in the face to Dee, which James can’t help but enjoy, just a little bit.  Things come to a head on Halloween night, though, when both Nuala and Dee are faced with death—and James can only choose to save one.

I can’t tell you how awesome this book is.  For some reason, I’m a bit fonder of Lament, but when the pure Awesome in the two books are compared, Ballad blows Lament away.  James is the most fascinating narrator I’ve encountered in a long, long time, and what he says out loud is only half as funny as the things he stops himself from saying.  As a reader you’ll find yourself fluctuating between hopeful and frustrated with his encounters with Dee, and I think the best scene in the book is the one where James realizes that there are different kinds of love, and that you can’t change that, even if you want to sometimes.  I won’t even start on the side story with James’ teacher, Sullivan, which I loved as much or more than the rest of it.

Besides all that, this book has the best ending line I’ve read in some time—a line I’ve been wanting to hear from YA fantasy for a long time, and one I wholeheartedly agree with.  A definite A+.

And so you know, we’ll be interviewing Maggie Stiefvater here for Fun Friday this week!  We’re so excited!

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About Lisa Asanuma

Lisa is a professional freelance writer and editor, along with a bookbinder and knitting obsessee. Lisa has a passion for YA literature (inside her passion for literature in general) and is currently working on her first novel. View all posts by Lisa Asanuma

9 responses to “Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

  • Book Geek Wednesday: We Geek over Ballad « Tales From The Hollow Tree

    […] ya book review, ya fantasy, young adult fantasy, young adult fiction) Okay, so yesterday we put up a review of Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater, who we’ll be interviewing on Friday.  […]

  • silvia

    Can pls someone tell me what happend to Luke in Ballad ?

    I am still reading Lament , or doese he die in Lament

    10x
    Silvia

    • Lisa Asanuma

      I’d really encourage you to just finish reading, but you should know Ballad isn’t about Luke, it’s barely about Dee. It’s all about James.

  • silvia

    Hello Lisa ,

    I just finished Lament last night and Luke dose not die 😀 !
    I know that in Ballad , James kisses Dee and I was wondering if Luke dies or if they break up or something like that .
    So they are ok , Dee and Luke I mean , or it doese not say .
    Thank you
    Silvia

  • silvia

    I have just finished Ballad and indeed it is very beautiful and very different from Lament (more fun to read) .
    I just hope that Maggie will decide to write a follow up for each Book. It would be great to read more about Dee and Luke or James and Nulla.
    I you can recomand similar books it would be super .
    Have a fantastic week !
    Silvia

  • Scarlett

    Lisa,
    Does it not ever mention Luke in Ballad?? Please say he doesn’t die 😦
    I’ve just finished reading Lament and its my all time favorite book. And does Dee start going out with James in Ballad or does she still love Luke?
    Scarlett

    • Lisa Asanuma

      Hi Scarlett,

      Luke is mentioned in Ballad, but if you’re hoping for more Dee/Luke, you have to understand… it’s not a straight sequel… Dee is just a side character. The story is James’ alone. But it’s very, very worth the read! James’ voice is so much stronger in Ballad, and really I like the story better as a whole—that’s me saying that as someone who LOVED Lament. 🙂

  • Joe

    Hey, Lisa,
    I don’t really get it.
    What happened to Luke? Did he not end up with Dee? Or did he die? I’ve finished reading Lament but haven’t start on ballad. Im just really curious about Luke, Where is he? Why isn’t he with Dee?

    Joe.

    • Lisa Asanuma

      Hey Joe, Luke’s story is actually being written right now. It will be the third and, I believe final story in the series. He isn’t with Dee at the moment because she wasn’t able to save both him and James. I hope you read and enjoy Ballad, and I hope that the third Faerie book will be written quickly and answer both of our questions about Luke!

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