Release date: 5th May 2011
Genre: paranormal romance/young adult
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Scholastic
In this mesmerizing sequel to Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, music prodigy James Morgan and his best friend, Deirdre, join a private conservatory for musicians. James' musical talent attracts Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. Composing beautiful music together unexpectedly leads to mutual admiration and love. Haunted by fiery visions of death, James realizes that Deirdre and Nuala are being hunted by the Fey and plunges into a soul-scorching battle with the Queen of the Fey to save their lives.
In Lament, the first book in the Books of Faerie series, the story focused on musician Deirdre and her forbidden romance with Luke, a soulless fairy assassin. They had to part at the end of the novel, but what makes Ballad a unique and intriguing sequel is that it does not focus on Deirdre and Luke anymore, as one might expect; instead, the focus is moved on Deirdre's best friend James and his own entanglement with the Fey. I was thrilled that the narrators of the sequel are James and the faerie muse Nuala, as they both offer interesting and exciting new insights.
At the beginning of Ballad, James is experiencing emotional pain caused by his unrequited love for Deirdre. This situation gnaws at their friendship as well and James, although focused on his music at a private conservatory for gifted musicians, cannot fill his mind, and heart, with anything else - until Nuala walks into his life. Nuala is a faerie muse who inspires artists and then feeds on the energies of their creativeness until they die and their souls come into her hands. Now, she chooses James as her new victim. Nuala is despised by the Fey and rejected by James, the first man ever to deny her, but as much as James wants to shun Nuala and as much as she wants to make him succumb to her, they cannot predict the strong bond and need that form between them, making the prey and the predator fall in love. As James and Nuala fight the unwanted emotions, but slowly begin to give in, a new danger arises and it will be a fight to the death.
I enjoyed Lament very much, but Ballad surpasses it, which makes Ballad a very worthy and wonderful sequel, indeed. Stiefvater remains true to the mythology she created in Lament, all of it based on actual Celtic mythology about faeries. The tone of the book, therefore, feels very Celtic, and in this sequel, it becomes darker and even more atmospheric. The suspense is both strong and, strangely enough, quite beautiful. The beauty comes from Stiefvater's lyrical descriptions that caress the reader's mind. The novel digs deeper into the world of the Fey, showing these fantastical creatures as truly whimsical, mischievous and merciless. The author creates a unique world.
James is a great hero who is not perfect, but who possesses many delightful qualities - he feels strongly, he is intelligent and he is a gifted musician. Nuala, first his nemesis, later on his romantic interest, is a dangerous Fey creature who survives by sucking the life out of her artistically gifted victims, but who is punished every sixteen years with a cruel and painful death. Nuala, known as leanan sídhe in the book (and in Celtic folklore), is definitely a highly intriguing creature. She is quite bad, but she evolves a lot over the course of the novel, showing that there is more to her than what mythology makes her to be. Both James and Nuala are well written characters and their story really drew me in.
One thing that bothered me was that sometimes, the descriptions and explanations were very abstract, and while I am a fan of the abstract, I would have preferred some things to be more straightforward. I love beautiful, lyrical language, but sometimes it's best to just present some things in a direct way. That aside, I think I can say now that I am quite in love with this book series and I am not ashamed to admit it.
I definitely recommend this novel to all fans of paranormal romances with a darker, different twist. Ballad will have you fall in love with the wicked, yet attractive and fascinating Fay world.
Becky says: Thank you for this wonderful review Irena. How unusual and delightful to find a sequel which is as fantastic as the first. Bravo!
Both our thanks go to Scholastic for sending the book to review.