Rating: 3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Anyone, even the faerie-resistant
High point: The completely different angle (from Lament)
Low point: Clingy Nuala
Reader maturity: 13+
Ballad is the sequel to Lament, my first foray (in a long time) into the world of Faerie. While it explores some of the same topics and is certainly a decent novel in its own right, I much prefer the story of Lament.
For starters, Ballad follows James, who was a cool enough character in Lament but didn't interest me enough to carry Ballad. I also found Nuala to be quite clingy and desperate. Even as Deirdre (the main character from Lament, pining after Luke) is falling apart, she still seems like a stronger, more likable person to me than Nuala. I also didn't understand how everyone could just run after the Horned King every night without anyone noticing. Or how a 16 year old boy could be so good at the bagpipes that no one can teach him. Or that no one notices something's wrong with Deirdre. Or that James would be so cold to her. I know he's mad, but she did...[spoiler alert for Lament] save his life!
And there's so much subterfuge that results in a very inefficient ending. Don't get me wrong, it was a great ending, but the lead-up to it felt wasted, like this was an ending for a different story; I was expecting something totally different.
One thing that I did really like about Ballad is that it explores a completely different angle than Lament while still centering around faeries, so while it's a sequel, it doesn't simply regurgitate the events of Lament. The background information is seamlessly included, and I was fascinated by all the castes and legends.
Whatever my nitpicking complaints may be, Maggie Stiefvater is obviously very talented, and while I enjoyed Lament more than Ballad, Ballad is still a strong tale with interesting mythology.
Title: Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Teen Fiction - Faeries
Book Source: Won from The Serpentine Library