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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: All the Crooked Saints - Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA, Magical Realism Published: Scholastic Press, October 2017 My Rating: 2 stars

"Not many people realize that the ordinary radiowave and the extraordinary miracle have so much in common. (...) What a shame that both miracles and radiowaves are invisible, because it would be quite a sight: ribbons of marvel and sound stretching out straight and true from all over the world"

I realize this is probably an unpopular opinion, but Maggie Stiefvaters books and I don’t always get along. All her books, in theory, sound perfect to me: magical, lyrical, filled with metaphors and themes that would generally appeal to me. However, the execution often leaves me feeling a little empty. <i>The Ravencycle</i>, although beloved by many, was a mixed experience for me and unfortunately, the same was true for <i>All the Crooked Saints</i>.

Stiefvaters writingstyle is beautiful as always. Often more poetry than prose, her words are truly like a piece of art in itself. However, a very abstract piece of art in the case of <i>All the Crooked Saints</i>. This is, in my opinion, the major flaw in this novel: for all its outward beauty, there is very little substance to be found within. Mostly, the novel is more about the ideas than plot, which there is very little of. This in itself is not a problem (I often like books like this), but the ideas presented, outside the metaphors, were not the most novel or interesting out there. In line with that, many of the ideas are a little bit wide-as-an-ocean, yet deep-as-a-puddle. Stiefvater tries to include a lot of concepts, yet doesn’t go in depth enough on them to be satisfying. Based on the atmosphere and content combined, this novel might have worked better for me in a short-story format, with some of the ideas explored more into depth, and others scrapped.

Maybe I am being overcritical of this one, but it’s just that I have read so many great books lately that combine metaphorical, lyrical writing with deep storytelling, that I know what is possible within this genre. Take Anna-Marie McLemore, Kirsty Logan, or even Emily XR Pan; all of which are others operating within this genre that, in my opinion, have written superior books to this one. If you, like me, were disappointed by this one, please pick one of their books up: they are worth it!

To quickly touch on the subject that I see discussed in pretty much half of the reviews down here: I don’t have any problems with a white woman writing within the magical-realism-genre. In fact, I have more problems with the people who say this shouldn’t be okay, because the genre has its origins Latin America. Personally, I think it’s great that genres evolve: basically everything does. Besides, we live in the 21st century: shouldn’t everyone, regardless of gender/race/etc., be able to express themselves in whichever genre they want? Criticizing someone for writing in a genre that originated in another culture frankly seems pretty idiotic to me. It would be like me bashing Marissa Meyer for writing the Lunar-Chronicles, as they’re based of Western European fairytales, and Marissa is American. I’m fairly sure we all agree that’s ridiculous, so I hope I made my point. Trying to write from the perspective of Latin-American characters however is a different story. I can’t speak to how accurate this was.

Regardless of the political discussion: I wanted to love this. There was so much potential, and the writing was exquisite as always. Despite this, All the Crooked Saints as a whole was quite a disappointment.

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