Thursday, June 17, 2010
Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan, a gifted harpist who regularly plays for weddings and other events, has the kind of stage fright that makes her physically ill before a performance, which is an inauspicious way to start a romance; but while vomiting before a competition she meets a gorgeous boy who comes into the restroom to hold her hair. He is Luke Dillon, a flautist who proceeds to accompany her in a truly stellar performance. As four-leaf clovers start appearing everywhere, Deirdre develops telekinetic powers and encounters strange, unworldly people who seem to bear her ill will. Her best friend, James, also a talented musician; her beloved grandmother; and her mother all are in danger, as Deirdre is targeted by the queen of Faerie. Deirdre eventually discovers that she is a cloverhand, a person who can see the denizens of faerie, and Luke, not the only immortal who has her in his sights, is a gallowglass, an assassin assigned by the queen of Faerie to kill Deirdre but who falls in love with her instead. This beautiful and out-of-the-ordinary debut novel, with its authentic depiction of Celtic Faerie lore and dangerous forbidden love in a contemporary American setting, will appeal to readers of Nancy Werlin’s Impossible (2008) and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Illustrations by Jeffrey are fitting. (courtesy of Amazon)
Like many people, I picked up Lament after reading Maggie Stiefvater's incredible book Shiver. Lament is not Shiver, but it is excellent in its own right. My favorite part about Shiver was Maggie's writing; it was so stark, fresh, and beautiful. Her sentences felt like winter - ice cold air, untouched snow, icicle-laden trees. The writing in Lament is very different but still wonderful. The prose is lush - bright green, springtime, clover fields. The settings of both books exactly correspond to the feeling I got from Maggie's writing. I'd like to know whether it was intentional.
Lament was my first faery book. It is heavily influenced by Celtic mythology and folktales. Deidre Monaghan is an incredibly talented harpist and singer. She seems to specialize in Celtic music. At a music competition, she meets a flautist named Luke Dillon, a boy she'd seen in a very strange dream, and feels an unexplainable attraction to him. On a whim, they enter the competition with a duet; together their music is simply otherworldly. They bond between them becomes incredibly strong, incredibly fast. Deidre soon discovers that she is a Cloverhand, a human able to see faeries. She is also telepathic and telekinetic. Luke has secrets of his own - he is a gallowglass, a 1000-year old assassin for the Faerie Queen. Deidre was to be his next target, but he falls in love.
Apart from Luke, Deidre has a decent support system. The Cloverhand trait runs in families. Granna has much to teach Deidre. She also has a steadfast best friend, James, who is never without a joke. Her life is made more difficult though, by her overbearing mother and hostile aunt Delia. Deidre relies on James, Granna, and Luke to help her through this new world of faeries.
The fey themselves are fascinating creatures. I particularly like Brendan and Una, two Irish music-loving faeries who are nicer than most but still not entirely trustworthy. We also see humans who have interacted with faeries for so long that they are more a part of the fey world than human. Many fey are evil, using humans and animals as play-things for their sadistic whims. The faerie queen is the biggest force to be reckoned with. She destroys anything that threatens her power and Deidre is the biggest threat to her ever...
Lament only gets four stars from me despite enjoying the book a great deal. I did have some problems with it. I think most of the problems are common first novel issues. For example, Deidre's best friend was flat. He was funny all the time - everything was a joke. Even when he showed a little more depth and ability, it was still all a joke. I wish we saw more of him. Also, Deidre's father popped in and out of the story. For the first half I didn't even realize Dad was in the picture. Everything revolves around her mother. Then suddenly she starts referring to both "mom and dad." But Dad is still just kind of there. The plot would have flowed better if he'd just been gone altogether.
I didn't always like Deidre. Her lightening-fast, icy temper was just weird - normal people do not fly off the wall that often and that quickly for such minor things. She also used the word "friggin" way too much. I almost would have preferred her to just use the actual "F" word despite my general dislike of swearing. There is some swearing in this book. It was unnecessary, but with the exception of "friggin" it didn't really bother me. I also don't like the way she treats James. As soon as she meets Luke, James pales in significance. Even his fairly obvious pining doesn't garner her attention or sympathy. Despite my misgivings about Deidre and some of her choices, she is a caring, kind, and courageous girl. She redeems herself as the book goes on.
Rating: 4 / 5