Maggie Stiefvater (pronounced Steve-otter) is a brilliant young adult fiction author, who is becoming as beloved as Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) or John Green (The Fault in Our Stars). She is creating her own brand of fiction that is usually based in reality, but has a paranormal twist. Sometimes the fantasy nature of her novels begins small, like in The Raven Boys, or begins with a bang and just keeps growing, like in The Scorpio Races.
Maggie Stiefvater’s books vary, however, in how well they are written. In some of them, the story may be imaginative and engrossing, but the writing is too thick or too thin. In others, the writing becomes almost poetic, while the story seems to need a kickstart.
I love Maggie Stiefvater’s books. Although I recommend all of her books, some are still better than others. Here is the order in which I recommend them, regardless of where they fall in their respective series.
[Mild spoilers ahead. You have been warned.]
#1 The Dream Thieves
This is the second book in The Raven Cycle series. Why is The Dream Thieves at the top of the list? The story is absolutely brilliant and unique. At the end of The Raven Boys, the first book in the series, we find out that Ronan, who is rough and rude, has a magical gift. It’s a startling and amazing revelation, for the readers and the characters. But it’s in The Dream Thieves that Ronan’s gift, and his inner life, is explored.
I confess that Ronan is my favorite character. He may be offensive, rude, ill-mannered and taciturn, but he is also noble, loyal, strong and smart. I love that we find out Ronan is not the boy we thought he was. Ronan’s inner life isn’t the only revelation in The Dream Thieves. We get answers to some big questions, and the story moves at an almost breakneck speed.
Maggie Stiefvater’s best writing happens in The Dream Thieves. She paints such vivid pictures of the characters’ surroundings that you can almost touch them. And her characters are written in such a way that you yearn when they do, and hurt when they do. It’s truly wonderful.
#2 The Raven Boys
The Raven Boys is the first book in The Raven Cycle series. The only reason it isn’t at the top of this list is because so much more happens during The Dream Thieves. The Raven Boys introduces characters who are so much more than they seem. I fell in love with Gansey, Adam and Ronan in this book. I also fell in love with their close friendships. Blue and her family of females are also introduced. They are each unique and fascinating.
By the time Stiefvater wrote The Raven Boys, she had written seven other books, and it shows. Her writing matures with each book she writes.
When I read Shiver, I had no idea it was written by the same woman wrote Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception, a book that I ranked at nearly the bottom of this list. Shiver absolutely nails what it’s like to be a teenager who is wiser beyond her years. The tender relationship that forms between Grace and Sam is very sweet, and very sad. The stakes are very high in Shiver, so the pages practically turn themselves. Plus, we meet Cole St. Clair, one of my favorite characters of all-time. Stiefvater wrote a one-off about Cole, the pop singer who fell through the cracks, but he deserves an entire series of his own.
#4 Blue Lily, Lily Blue
Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in The Raven Cycle series, and the most recently published. Blue Lily, Lily Blue didn’t enchant me the way the first two books did. Far too much of it was pragmatic, moving characters from point A to point B. Granted, the story needed to move along, but the character exploration I had come to love got left behind. Three new characters were introduced: One who was terribly endearing; and two who were pretty much throwaways. I felt about the throwaways much like I feel about murder mysteries when the murderer turns out to be someone we’ve never met; it’s disorienting, irritating and unsatisfying.
#5 Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie
Ballad is the sequel to Lament. Sort of. It isn’t a continuation of the main storyline, but switches focus to one of the characters from the first book.
Ballad is a much better book than Lament. After reading Lament, I didn’t think I’d read Ballad, because although I enjoyed the first book, I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep reading. The writing was mediocre. The dialogue was pretty standard for YA books. The characters were pretty typical. There just wasn’t anything new or exciting happening. But I was in between books, and bored, so I read Ballad.
What a difference a year made for Maggie Stiefvater! Shiver was published this same year, and I wonder if she wrote them concurrently, or wrote Shiver before Ballad, because the writing was remarkably better than Lament. The characters had more depth, more facets. And the dialogue wasn’t so rote. Even as I read it, I was surprised it was the same author.
I ranked Ballad higher than Forever and Linger, two books that are part of the popular Wolves of Mercy Falls series, because I was just so enchanted with James, the main character of Ballad. His own growth in the book is remarkable. Because he was so interesting, I hoped for a third book in the series. Sadly, that’s not happening.
Linger is the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Linger just isn’t as strong as the books above. It wanders, lost at times, and the ending nearly comes out of nowhere, but not in a good way, like The Raven Boys. Although I enjoyed getting to know the characters more, some of the book is spent covering old news.
Forever is the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. Why is it that so many times the final book in a series is a let down? Is it because the writer hadn’t really thought that far ahead? Do they become bored with their own story? Are they moving onto something else in their mind even as they’re writing? I was disappointed with Allegiant, the final Divergent book; Mockingjay, the final Hunger Games book; and Breaking Dawn in the Twilight series. All of them had unfulfilling endings, some of which felt spackled together.
Forever wasn’t quite as bad as being spackled, but it lacked the mood and shadow of Shiver. The final battle seemed logical, perhaps too much so. The solution to their wolfy problems was confusing. But overall the book had a “wrap-up” kind of feeling; it certainly couldn’t stand on its own.
#8 Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception
Lament is just a mediocre book. There’s really nothing more to say about it than I have already said above.
#9 The Scorpio Races
The Scorpio Races is the Maggie Stiefvater book I read most recently. It’s the book that prompted me to write this list. I had started listening to it months ago, but when it didn’t grab me, I dropped it. Then I saw one of Maggie’s posts on Facebook that said she had just gotten a deal to have The Scorpio Races made into a movie. She continued to say that, of all of her books, The Scorpio Races was the one she wanted to see on film more than the others. That piqued my interest, so I started reading it again.
Now, fans of Maggie Stiefvater will no doubt be scratching their heads, wondering why The Scorpio Races is at the bottom of the list. The whole time I was reading it, I was scratching my head wondering why Maggie liked this one so much. It was published between the Wolves of Mercy Falls series and The Raven Cycle series, so her writing was certainly more developed. Perhaps that was the problem. The Scorpio Races seemed like it could have used a lot more editing. A lot. Nearly all of the book is spent introducing the main characters and talking about the island and how dangerous the races are. The introductions last a long, long time, and then suddenly we’re at the end.
Yes, the concept is very interesting, and the characters are written really well, but so much time is spent doing nothing that the book drags. I broke one of my cardinal rules of reading (abandoning a boring book) just because I like Maggie so much. Over and over, the characters seem to be surprised at something that they had already encountered in another character. So much time is spent on descriptions that nearly copy themselves, that you could almost turn to any spot in the book and find something that had already been written. Introduce something, someone, something and then move on. Don’t wallow.
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