I just tore through a terrific fantasy novel, Ballad: a Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater. This tale touches on two of my favorite fantasy concepts: the world of Faerie in the modern day and how music might interweave with magic. I expected to love this book. What I didn’t expect was that I loved it so much I had to go through it a second time, taking notes.
I’m embarking on the first rewrite of my own most recent fantasy novel, and Ballad turns out to be a perfect book for me to study. In it, Stiefvater weaves together a remarkably complex plot using three different point-of-view characters. One of those characters “narrates” only in the form of unsent text messages—a few pages of thoughts sprinkled through the novel that lets the reader know what’s happening in her world. It’s a terrific idea, and absolutely perfect in this book. The other two characters have such distinct voices that I never lost track of who was narrating.
She manages to take the reader through two fully developed character arcs while methodically unfolding a plot that would be difficult to follow in less skilled hands. She doles out clues and information piece by piece, until everything comes together at the story’s end into that delightful “ah-ha!” moment when it all makes sense.
If you love contemporary fantasy such as Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, Emma Bull‘s War for the Oaks or Charles de Lint’s novels (Jack the Giant Killer is a personal fave), you’ll find Ballad a delightful read.
And if you’re a fellow fantasy writer, you’ll love checking out the details of her world-building, story pacing, and character creation. This book definitely merits two reads, because the first time through you’ll be too caught up in the story to pay attention to craft—and her craft is worth studying.
P.P.S. Back to that rewrite….