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Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie - Maggie Stiefvater Concept: A
Plot: A
Character Development: A
Writing: A
Pacing: A
Ending: A
Cover Art: A

Look, a straight A student!

Dark, romantic, and beautifully written, Ballad shows that this series is succeeding where Wolves of Mercy Falls failed by becoming progressively better and more exciting. Although more far-fetched than Lament (an exclusive art high school that was really founded to protect teens who are likely to be kidnapped by fairies? was that necessary?), Ballad introduces a hero and heroine deeper, smarter, and more thoroughly explored than Deirdre and Luke were. James was always a fun character, and Nuala is a lovely combination of anger and warmth, somehow managing to be helpless against her own fate and still be kind of a bad ass. This installment is funny, sexy, and full of emotion, but it doesn't sacrifice danger or excitement.

While I cannot wait to read the next volume in this series, my one complaint is that Stiefvater makes Deirdre, the heroine of Lament, completely unsympathetic here. I wasn't wholly in love with her anyway, because she struck me as awfully slow on the uptake in the first place. In this book, she makes some poor choices, really uses poor James, and is never given a chance to explain her side of the story. From the standpoint of treating James like dirt, she doesn't really have a side of the story to tell, but apparently some very important things happen in her life that pertain to the fairy, and it's only explained briefly with a couple of text messages and an "it's the climax quick do the exposition" blurt. I mean, the fairy are the crux of the plot, and Dee is the cloverhand (person the fairy must follow) so you would think we might get a bit of her perspective. Instead, we just know she's been on self-destruct mode, made bad decisions, didn't talk to her friend about it, was terrible to her friend, and had to be rescued in the end. Now I REALLY don't like her and don't want to return to her pov in the next book.

But other than that, this was a terrific ride!

Extra credit: Showdown between "I want him because now I can't have him" Deirdre and "He's mine now so shove it, you harpy" Nuala. Take that, Dee, and I hope it hurt!