maggie stiefvater: a discussion
i feel like i need to start this off with a disclaimer that none of this is hate.
hello dear hpfters! it's half 5 in the morning, i've vacated my bedroom because a spider has fallen somewhere onto my bed, and i decided to write a blogpost because why not. this one is brought to you by sinner by maggie stiefvater which i finally finished today after about... two weeks?
i've actually read quite a few of maggie stiefvater's books
and yet i still spell her name wrong on the first attempt ever since i was a teenager. i've read scorpio races, i've read lament and its sequel, i've read the raven cycle and i've read the wolves of mercy falls aka the shiver series with varying responses. scorpio races didn't do it for me, but lament did. as for the raven cycle, i enjoyed it thoroughly and am definitely looking forward to the tv show (whenever that arrives), though i do have little things i nitpick here and there. but that's not why we're here today.
we're here because of sinner, a standalone/spin-off to the main trilogy of the wolves of mercy falls. if anyone doesn't know what this series is about, it's actually really interesting. the premise is this: grace brisbane lives in a small town in minnesota where she was once attacked by wolves and since then, she has been obsessed with them. this isn't really a spoiler since it's more or less mentioned in the blurb, but the wolves aren't just ordinary animals - they're werewolves. the reason i called it interesting is because maggie puts a little twist on the concept, as she often does with her books, and the shift into wolf-mode is not triggered by the moon but by the cold. it's involuntary and it lasts months.
bear in mind that i read the series a good few years ago, but i did enjoy the first book [shiver] a lot at the time. if anyone's familiar with her writing, they'll know that maggie (i can't for the life of me continue to accidentally do the typo in her surname so sayonara to that) often focuses more on the characters than a solid plot jam-packed with lots of events. the conflict is more often a conflict of the mind or the self and there's often a lot of introspection. even with the various supernatural settings, the characters are often shown when they're doing something mundane or ordinary, even if they're written as quirky or cut from a different cloth (for lack of a better term). a quick look at goodreads suggests that a lot of people found it too slow, but i honestly don't remember shiver being too much so. it moved along at a pace that worked for the characters and for the general feel maggie was going for imho and it ended at a satisfying place.
the sequels? i could've done without them.
i think they told a story that didn't necessarily need to be told. that being said, however, they did introduce some interesting perspectives and/or characters, namely cole st clair. sinner follows the story of cole and another character, isabel, after the events of the main trilogy. maybe i just left it too late to read, but i just... couldn't get into it. i finished it, of course, out of a faint curiosity but it didn't enrapture me. i wasn't fully engaged. i kept glancing at how many pages were left. which, y'know, isn't a particularly good sign.
i wanted to like it. i think isabel and cole are fascinating characters on paper - imperfect and aware of it, not necessarily nice, and their personalities sharp enough that they can't help but catch on each other's edges so that they're constantly dancing around one another. i think this, coupled with maggie's general style of writing, is what made me lose interest.
here is my take on maggie s.'s writing: she focuses on characters, particularly the parts that aren't so public-friendly and a little rough around the edges. they are a little off the beaten path and well-aware of it, a little lonely and get lost in their heads a lot. there's a real emphasis on the imperfect. these characters often communicate in gestures that might not seem like they mean much, but they do, which maggie often highlights with simple phrasing e.g. "She raised an eyebrow. He took a card." lol that's not a real quote but you get what i mean; maggie loads small actions with many implications, often creating an anticipatory air. sinner includes all of that and more. the characters are imperfect and cynical and they overthink a lot of things while doing very ordinary things.
and for some reason, i could not hack it.
it's not because cole was an arsehole or isabel was mean and the true definition of an ice queen. they're meant to be this way. it's that, when paired with the overall style of maggie's writing, i could not handle that level of narcissism, cynicism or the forwards-backwards dance of their relationship. there was something that was almost egotistical about it all. there's this whole sense of L.A. and california being this unreal state of artificial aesthetics and manufactured glamour that reels everyone in like a plastic spider on its web. cole and isabel are meant to be a stark, gritty contrast to it and i guess they are? but in a way that i couldn't really connect with either of them much better than i could connect to the bright lights of the city. i didn't hate them or anything. i just couldn't bring myself to care about their problems (as serious as they were).
all in all, i think that's the gamble that's taken with maggie's favoured style of writing. it worked in the case of TRC because i absolutely love ronan, who existed by being difficult on purpose, but i think the intended effect of her writing fell short here.
anyways, this was a little ramble i went on while i killed time before a bed clears up upstairs if you've somehow read this far, i'd love to be hollered at in the comments. whether you've read some of maggie's stuff and agree/disagree with my opinions, whether you have had similar experiences with not enjoying a writer or a book that you (or the masses) thought you would - comment away