The Mountains of Instead

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

Dee-lightful (Review: Lament by M. Stiefvater)

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception
Maggie Stiefvater
Flux 2009

“Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a prodigiously gifted musician. She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand - one who can see faeries. 

Unexpectedly, Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy named Luke, who enters her ordinary life, seemingly out of thin air. But his interest in her might be something darker than summer romance. When a sinister faerie named Aodhan shows up with deadly orders from the Faerie Queen, it forces Dee right into the midst of Faerie. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. 

Deirdre had been wishing her summer weren't so dull, but taking on a centuries-old Faerie Queen isn't exactly what she had in mind”.

(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

I have no problem admitting that I purchased this to feed my Stiefvater addiction until Linger came out (I really can't spend all my time reading Shiver repeatedly... sadly). On one hand, Lament was exactly what I thought it would be and on the other, completely different. I expected lovely writing, likeable and three-dimensional characters and a story that left me with an inability to put the book down. I got all of that.

Dee (the main protagonist) is great. She's strong and sensible without being perfect or boring. She seems to exist on the periphery of her peers through choice - just choosing whom to speak with carefully and content to be one of life's observers. This works very well. It would have been very easy to have made her into a stereotypical “shy” character but that is definitely not the case. Over the course of the novel she changes gradually, due to the bizarre and often frightening circumstances that she finds herself in, yet I never felt that her thoughts or actions were so far removed from the Dee at the start of the book – her character development is believable and nicely handled. James, as her best friend, is great. Very much a classic sidekick, he's all bad jokes, kindness and unrequited love. Oh, and telepathy... While he doesn't have a huge impact on the overall story arc, I get the distinct impression that there is a lot more to his story and I look forward to finding it out. Luke, the main male protagonist is very interesting. Is he good? Is he bad? I couldn't decide. He is painted in shades of grey and is a genuine enigma, yet I never felt that Dee was making a mistake by being with him. Apart from his blonde loveliness, he has a tragic air of self-awareness that I suspect would bring out the swoon in most right-minded ladies. I was really interested in his back story and it was nice to see a character of this nature who was allowed to be genuinely flawed – there was no takeback for his past and he didn't apologise for that. Nice.

The Fae in this story are also great. The ones that we come across most are wickedly nasty and even the nicer ones seem completely amoral – willing only to act kindly if incentive is offered. They are a lot of fun and written at times with great humour (I particularly like Eleanor and Aoghan's little “play” towards the end of the book). The only real issue that I had with both characters and story was that of Dee's Aunt and Mother. Both clearly have issues and an interesting back story but I felt as if this was skated over and will admit to being a little confused by exactly how Delia, in particular, fit in. I may have missed something, though. Delia was certainly delightfully horrid and a lot of fun to read.

So, so far so good - as expected. Maggie's writing continues to amaze me. While Lament doesn't have the dream like quality of Shiver (and neither it should, being a completely different type of book) the words just spring of the page and draw you back into Dee's world effortlessly. While I sometimes find that I can identify the author of a work just by reading a few lines of their collected works, I don't think I could have identified Maggie from Lament. It's like it's written by a completely different, yet equally talented, author. I don't know many writers who do this quite so successfully.

What I didn't expect was the depth of celtic mythology (yes, I know that all Faerie stories are steeped in the stuff, but bear with me on this...). I grew up on a Scottish island and live in the Highlands of Scotland to this day. As a child I read countless books of traditional Scottish and Irish folk tales and the mythology that has been used to furnish Lament took me right back to my childhood. I could recognise these fae and their mercurial ways and felt that rather than their myth being imposed upon modern society as in many recent faerie stories (Tithe, Fragile Eternity, Wondrous Strange – all of which I like) instead the modern world is placed within the Fae's ancient realm. I've also never seen folk music used the way in which it is here. Again, I grew up with many of these songs and with the Gaelic used throughout the book and it lent the whole story an air of authenticity for me. I was glad to see that these things weren't omitted in favour of easier, modern themes and music.

So, another winner! Can't wait to get my mits on Ballad and then Linger. Lament has firmly placed Ms. Stiefvater in my top five authors.


Pepper Ink said…
Wonderful review. I'll check the book out. :)
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