Nuala is part muse, part psychic vampire. While the freedom to sing or write or create is denied her, her mark across history is unmistakable: a trail of brilliant poets, musicians, and artists who have died tragically young. She has no sympathy for their abbreviated life spans; every thirteen Halloweens she burns in a bonfire and rises from her ashes with no memories of what has come before other than the knowledge of how her end will come.
James is the best bagpiper in the state of Virginia—maybe in the country—plus he's young and good-looking: just Nuala's thing. But James, supremely confident in his own abilities and in love with another girl, becomes the first to ever reject Nuala's offer. He's preoccupied with bigger things than Nuala: an enigmatic horned figure who appears at dusk and the downward spiral of Dee, his girlfriend-who-isn't.
It becomes obvious to James that Nuala's presence, the horned king of the dead, and Dee's slow self-destruction are all related, and that Dee is the center of a deadly faerie game. While James struggles to unwind the tangled threads of the story, Nuala shadows him, seeing her conflicted, dual nature reflected back at her in him. She finds herself lending him inspiration for nothing. Not quite for nothing—for the hope of requited affection. But even as James begins to realize his feelings for both Dee and Nuala have changed, the thirteenth Halloween descends, with its bonfires and rituals for the dead, one deadly to Nuala and the other to Dee. James can only save one. (summary from author's site)
My thoughts...Ballad is the second book in this series and let me start by saying...read Lament first. The plot, the characters, the history of the story will make more sense if you do. I jumped right into this after finishing Lament and I was once again blow away by the incredible writing of Maggie Stiefvater. She incorporates the perfect amounts of poetry, conversation, mood, and emotion into the story to draw readers into her magical world.
This book picks up several weeks after Lament ends. James and Dee are attending music school, living on the same campus, but separate lives. This story will please anyone who was a fan of James in the first book. This is his story. Readers hear very little from Dee, except from the occasional text message. We do meet a new character, a lower-level faerie named Nuala. It took me a while to warm up to her, but once I did, she became one of my favorites. We also meet several other new characters such as a quirky English teacher, and Paul, who ends up rooming with James.
Like the first book, Ballad moves along at a perfect pace. This was one of those books that traveled around my house, because I did not want to put it down. James drew some attention, both good and bad, from the faeries for his musical ability. I don't want to give anything away, but readers should expect to experience heartbreak, fear, love, and friendship. I am hoping the story of these characters will continue for a long time. Stiefvater leaves us in a magical place that is full of possibilities. The ending of the story was satisfying, but left several unanswered questions. I look forward to the next installment in the Books of the Faerie series.
For more information about Maggie Stiefvater and her books, visit her at her website or livejournal.
If you have not experienced this magical world you must! Follow these links to order from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Remember, this is book 2, start with book 1, Lament.
**This book was provided by the author for my review.