The Mountains of Instead

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

Whose Woods These Are (Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater)

Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic 2010

Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. If you haven't read the first, Shiver, then GO AWAY! Even the synopsis contains spoilers. Read Shiver (seriously) and then come back.

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole. (Blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

Shiver was the first book that I ever reviewed for this blog. I stated in said review that I would happily have had protagonists Sam and Grace finish their story at the end of the book, in that final, simple moment – full of love and hope. But NO! Ms. Stiefvater just had to go and write Linger. I've just finished it and find myself half wishing I had just left them at the end of Shiver, happily ever after... because more than anything Linger, for all its beauty and finesse, is terribly and inexorably sad.

The story picks up just a few months after we last see Sam and Grace, with Sam struggling to believe in his sudden future and Grace quietly reassuring him while growing less sure of her own tomorrows. As in Shiver, sections of Linger are told from both of their perspectives but two other voices are now introduced to the mix. Isabel, who was introduced as a secondary (if important) character in Shiver, now joins Sam and Grace on centre stage along with Cole – a new wolf, who is having trouble staying, er ...wolfy. It says much for Maggie Stiefvater that not only had the guts to have four running narratives in one novel but also that she has the talent to carry it off without the story ever becoming convoluted, over-crowded or confusing – it really is quite an achievement. Character wise, Isabel and Cole start strong and become stronger. Isabel was a compelling character in Shiver and it is a pleasure to learn more about her here. She is at once incredibly strong and smart while being conversely vulnerable and ignorant of her own emotions. Interestingly she increasingly becomes the voice of reason in Linger and was, without a doubt, the voice with whom I most agreed. And then there is Cole. I was always going to love Cole – he had me at sardonic (all the best ones are) and that was before I even realised he played piano. It is as if he was written for me, and me alone. On a more serious note, Cole is an excellent example of a character not necessarily having to be nice in order to be likeable, nor kind in order to be sympathetic. Of all Maggie's characters (both in this book and others) I found him to be the most complex and was pleased that he became so much more than a junked up rock star – a truly multi-faceted persona, I am sure that he is only going to get more interesting. And sardonic. And handy on the old ivories. Pls.

Grace seems to take an almost passive role in Linger – more reactionary than active. While this could be seen as a weakness, it is an interesting direction in which to take a character who has previously been perfectly in control of every aspect of her life. Her relationship with her parents is spotlighted further in Linger and I found her confusion on how to response to their sudden interest very believable. The scenes between the three of them were quite conflicting to read, as what they have to say to her and to Sam would be fairly reasonable when not coloured by their previous neglect. However, while Shiver always felt to me like Grace's story, Linger absolutely belongs to Sam. Sam was always the real reason that I wanted to leave him and Grace at the end of Shiver – of all the characters I have ever read, there is none that I wished happiness on more than he. His character development in Linger is never less than believable, with his reluctance to trust in his own humanity and future tangible in its hopelessness. We also get to see a bit more of his past – allowing us to find out what makes Sam Sam. From the moment I started to read his perspective, I found it hard to believe that things could just pan out easily for him – because he never truly believes it himself. A particularly heart-rending moment finds him sitting on a wet, bathroom floor, head in hands, asking “what did I ever do to you?” - a scene which sums up life vs. Sam pretty well.

As usual, the writing is breathtakingly lovely. At times flowing and poetic, at times stark and straight-forward it is never less than absorbing, enveloping you into a world of icy winds, frozen tears and sudden, surprising shafts of sunlight and wonder. This is certainly a book that I will pick up again and I eagerly await the final part of the trilogy, Forever. It is a pleasure to read a series of books and have no idea where the author is going to take you next, yet this is what Maggie Stiefvater has achieved thus far in The Wolves of Mercy Falls. I, for one, am happy to place my trust (and tears) in her capable hands for the final leg of the trip.


Oh my your review left me with goosebumps coursing through my veins. You manage to express the emotions of the book so clearly, that even though I haven't read it yet, I can already sense that I'm going to be crying an ocean for this one. Exquisite review Sya!
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