Review: Lament, Maggie Stiefvater

The beginning: The beginning of Lament (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) is not promising, dear friends. A teenager called Deirdre (Dee) meets a mysterious and handsome boy called Luke at a music festival, and they play a stunning duet together. There is some mysterious magical stuff going on, and then Dee and Luke are madly in love forever.

American cover

American cover

British cover

British cover

Cover report: Ooo, this one’s tough. Aesthetically I think the British cover is better, but I hate the tagline, and I think the American cover says more about the contents of the book. I’m giving it to the American cover in a squeaker. I will accept counterarguments.

The end (here there be spoilers so skip them if you don’t want them): The faerie queen who is so awful gets deposed, and Luke something soul something something. (I don’t know, I was bored with Luke’s whole quest to regain his soul.) And James doesn’t die. Hooray. I like James because the faerie all call him “the piper”, which makes me think of Fire and Hemlock and have consequent warm fuzzy feelings.

The whole: I love and trust y’all so I am giving Lament the benefit of the doubt, and I’m going to read Ballad to see if things improve from here. I read it at a slightly unfortunate time, having just made a list of love story fails for the Eleanor and Park podcast, and Lament fell into a lot of those traps. Stiefvater included just enough pleasing details to keep me interested — like the four-leaf clovers that kept appearing on Deirdre’s clothes — and just enough subverting of gender norms to make me curious about the subsequent books. (Further details on this would be spoilers, but suffice it to say that a lady is called upon to rescue a gentleman, rather than the other way around.)

That said, there is a dreadful power imbalance in the central relationship because Luke is a hundreds-of-years-old faerie assassin and Deirdre is a human teenager, but this isn’t addressed. Important question: Doesn’t Luke feel icky about this? Because I would feel icky dating a teenager now, and I am much fewer than hundreds of years older than a teenager.

Also: Insta-love rears its ugly head. There are so many ways to make insta-love suck less, and I don’t understand why authors are too lazy to do them. For instance, the author could signal the reader that this is not as true a love as the starry-eyed teenaged protagonist thinks it is. Or the author could pay lip service to depicting a few reasons why these characters would want to be around each other. I can see why Deirdre would be intrigued by a handsome older guy who plays duets with her and thinks she’s amazing, but it’s not really clear why Luke is so into Deirdre, out of all the girls and women he’s encountered over centuries of work. What makes this one so particular? Is it just her way around a harp? (Because that’s all it seems to be.)

Also: Love triangle. Gag. Over it. I am particularly over it because of the thing where you can see a million sensible reasons why Deirdre would be into James, her age-appropriate joke-making best friend, and like two reasons she would be into Luke. I don’t mind if Deirdre isn’t into James, but if she’s going to be into Luke and they’re going to have James moping about on the sidelines, I’d like to know why. What’s good about Luke besides that he’s following Deirdre around? What’s stopping her from being with James? (Not into him is a valid answer, but say the answer. Westermarck effect is also a valid answer.)

If you are a Maggie Stiefvater fan, would you be willing to make some remarks in the comments about this book vs The Scorpio Races and the Shiver books and The Raven Boys? Is this an early effort that you can tell it’s an early effort and her later books are better?

17 thoughts on “Review: Lament, Maggie Stiefvater

    • I know, I know, but it’s different when you’re LOOKING at people. The same is true on Vampire Diaries, but Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder look age-appropriate for Nina Dobrev, so it’s not as weird. It comes off weirder and ickier in books.

    • But Buffy is a kick-ass Slayer, and Deirdre plays the harp. In my mind, there’s a huge difference between Buffy and this chick. Buffy could possibly fight and kill her lover, she was quite powerful. I don’t know how it goes with Deirdre and Luke.

  1. Her later books are better. No contest. Scorpio Races is AMAZING and if you haven’t read it yet what the heck are you waiting for???! :-) Read it!!! And it’s even greater that it’s a total stand-alone, none of that sequel nonsense.

    Raven Boys is good, but not as great as Scorpio Races. Still miles above the Ballad-Lament thing, and the whole werewolf saga (can’t even pop up the names of that trilogy, that’s how far back in my memory they are…hang on…Shiver, Linger, Forever – had to google that) – anyway – my daughter went through all of these and I read them after her and we both discussed these only yesterday and Scorpio gets the prize, hands down.

    The second book (Dream Thieves) in what will be a 4-book Raven Boys series is all right, but not as good as Raven Boys, reports daughter. (I haven’t read it yet.) It gets a bit off-topic, she reports, and introduces a bunch of new characters, leaving some of her favourites from Book 1 just treading water. But two more to go, so the next ones may pick up the pace a bit.

    There were bits of both Ballad and Lament that I really liked; you could see glimpses of how Stiefvater’s “voice” is developing, and she definitely does progress as both a writer (technically she improves a whole lot) and a plot-maker with her subsequent work.

    In my opinion. ;-)

  2. OMG! Later books WAY WAY better! And Scorpio Races! Yes yes yes! Can’t say enough good about it! And yes, you MUST read it and then you MUST try her recipe for November cakes, which I made and which were so good I HID THEM from my husband and ate them all myself! …which shows you my limitations on so-called love… No instalove for ME! (Unless it would be maybe eyes meeting in the ice cream section of the grocery store….) And yes yes yes for the Shiver trilogy! But Scorpio is outstanding.

  3. I didn’t love these, either. And I have only read the first book in her werewolf series. I do plan to try some of her newer stuff, though. People seem rather enthused about it.

  4. I have not read Lament and Ballad or the werewolf books, but based on this review it sounds like I wouldn’t particularly enjoy them either. BUT, The Scorpio Races. I have no words, but please, please read it! I also quite like the Raven Cycle books so far…they haven’t captured me the way The Scorpio Races did, but they’re good, I think. Book #2, The Dream Thieves, is probably one of my top 10 reads of the year.

  5. I read the Shiver trilogy and became frustrated with it so although I own The Scorpio Races I haven’t read it yet. The comments here make me want to pick it up. Thanks for the review. I think I’ll steer clear of this one until further notice.

  6. Only one I’ve read is Raven Boys, which I mostly liked. There are a few spots where it looked like it might be taking a tedious (to me) romance/angst direction but it always kept moving on to other things.

    I am not so much sick of love triangles as BAD love triangles. It seems like so often they are added in for no real reason.

  7. Yep. Doesn’t look like it’s for me. I can see things I’m going to have issues with. Which is a bummer because I would love to read YA books anyday, if only they could be made more adult-sensible. But then that would be adult books, right?

  8. My first experience with Stiefvater was The Raven Boys; loved it. While waiting for Dream Thieves, I read Shiver. It was…O.K. Then, The Scorpio Races, which I liked.
    Finally, I read Dream Thieves when NetGalley released it.

    My preferences: 1) The Raven Boys, 2) The Scorpio Races, 3) Dream Thieves, 4) Shiver. I didn’t like Shiver enough to read the next in the series, though. Unless, of course, NetGalley offered another free ebook.

    I didn’t choose to read Lament because it was about fairies. I have usually been disappointed in the fairy realms in YA novels.

  9. Concur – SR and DT are soooooooo good. I read Shiver and do think you can see her changing as a writer (maybe working out how to write what she wants to write while still being commercial) as you move through her work (or maybe I’m just way too affected by the lovely piece she put up about SR and writing the book she always wanted to write), but have avoided these books because they just don’t seem like anything I would enjoy.

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