The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep... (Review: Shiver by M. Stiefvater)

Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic 2009

"For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house.  One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without.  Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives:  In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl.  In summer a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away.  It's her wolf.  It has to be.  But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever."

(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads).

My first review!  I'm really quite excited and have decided to start off with a book that I really, really, love (makes it easier to get going and also it just seems nice to start on a positive note).

I know that people who read this genre have probably already read Shiver so this review is perhaps a little late, but I am keen to review it's follow up, Linger, when it gets released later this year and wanted to be thorough...

I have a lot of favourite books, ones that I can read again and again and they feel  like curling under a warm, comforting duvet of imagination (more about them in a later post), but even through I love them , it is rare that I find them completely faultless.  Shiver is different.  I first read it about 6 months ago after ordering if on a whim. I wasn't all that interested in werewolf mythology but thought the cover was pretty (yes, I DO judge a book by it's cover and defy those who say they don't).  I finally sat down to read it and am so glad that I did.

Grace and Sam are by far my two favourite protagonists of recent times - the story is told by both of them, switching between chapters, and this works really well.  Grace may seem a bit maturer than your average 17 year old, but it becomes clear that this is due to her largely absentee parents and Sam.... aaaah, Sam....  I've never met an 18/19 year old guy quite like Sam, but then he really hasn't led the kind of life that your average 18/19 year old guy has.  While seemingly quite different, these two characters fit together perfectly - it really is one of the best realised relationships I've come across in YA fiction.  And can I just swoon again - aaaaaaah, Saaaaaam.  He is utterly dreamy, tortured, has floppy hair and reads.  Poetry!  Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick (that's would be my boxes, BTW).

The story line is pretty dark in places.  Sam is a wolf, has a truly traumatic past (fully recognised when Grace has to get him into a bath - a scene which is a shocking as it is upsetting).  And then there's the fact that he can only be human when the weather is warmer, and eventually will have to relinquish his human identity for good. Which brings us to the temperature, which is as much of a character in the story as either Grace or Sam.  The cold is constantly hanging over these two like some ice-cracked sword of Damocles, allowing neither them nor the reader to relax into the romance of the love story - it creates an undercurrent of dread throughout and is used incredibly effectively.  When I think about Shiver, I instantly have images of cold breath in the air, frost underfoot and wind whistling through the cracks in a windshield.

Shiver is simply not a werewolf story. Well it is, but it is also more than that.  It stands out not for the paranormal aspects but for being a beautifully written story of love, loss, longing and hope.  And the writing is superb - Maggie Stiefvater seems to be able to create dreamlike prose which made me feel I was emerging from a pool of deep, clear water every time I put the book down.  Hmmmm, not sure if that metaphor works, but basically whenever I finished a chapter or had to put the book down to eat or sleep or other unavoidable necessities it took me a while to come back to the real world.

I am in two minds about the upcoming Linger.  While I am keen to return to the story, Shiver works so well as a stand-alone novel that I am almost tempted to leave the characters frozen as I last saw them... Nah, what 
am I talking about???  I'll snap it up as soon as it appears and if it is anything as good as it's predecessor then I will be a very happy bunny indeed.


It was an amazing book eh! I can't for linger! CONGRATS on starting your blog, there's about a month learning curve and getting your "feelers" out there, but I love my blog!!
Anonymous said…
I, too, loved Shiver. I love alternating POVs as well. I love Maggie's style of writing. I cannot wait until Linger comes out! In the interim, I hope to read Lament and Ballad.

Another author who does a great job with alternating POVs is Simone Elkeles. I loved Perfect Chemistry and Leaving Paradise.

Welcome to the world of book blogging :D
Splendibird said…
Oooh, comments! I really didn't expect any so quickly. Thanks for the support, guys! I've read a couple of reviews of Simone Elkeles' books recently and will have to add them to my TBR list.
Carla said…
Shiver is one of my most favourite books. I could read this again and again and take something different from it each time. Maggies writing is just beautiful, I have Linger waiting for me on my shelf. I am scared to read it ha
Splendibird said…
I'm so jealous that you already have it! I've read a couple of reviews of it and it sounds just as good as Shiver, so fingers crossed. Have ordered Ballad as I am keen to read more of Maggie's stuff but it is currently stuck in transit somewhere thanks to volcanic ash...
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