All the Crooked Saints blurb:
Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: What it takes to get one.
Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado, is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.
At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.
They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.
I know how repetitive I sound when I talk about Maggie’s writing, but it’s genuinely like reading beautiful, heart-wrenching, urban-fantasy, magical prose. This book could absolutely have been a weird, semi-religious, south American story set in the 1960’s, but instead it’s a beautiful story about how miracles can change a whole family’s perspective on life for the worse, and how being true to your real self can fix all the wrongs in the world.
Let me start again (without the gushing)…
All the Crooked Saints is set in the desert of Colorado in the summer of 1962. A family that can perform miracles has moved here to Bicho Raro after being chased out of Mexico. The Soria family are famous — but the most famous of them is the Saint; a title that is passed down through the generations. The story is a little about the current saint, Daniel; it’s a little about his cousin, Beatriz and how logic rules her heart; it’s a little about their other cousin Joaquin and his desire to whisper a little death into the worlds ears; it’s a little about the pilgrims that flock to Bicho Raro to receive their miracles; and it’s a little about Pete who comes to Bicho Raro (but not for a miracle); a little about Francisco and his quest for the perfect black rose; a little about Antonia and how she’s angry at the world; but mostly it is about the darkness that manifests from the miracles.
What? I hear you say… Yes, the Saint who performs the first miracle gives the darkness inside of the pilgrim a physical manifestation. Once the pilgrim has their first miracle, it’s up to them to perform the second miracle that will take all their darkness away. The Soria’s are not allowed to interfere with the Pilgrims on their personal journey to the second miracle, otherwise the darkness will descend upon them. So, what happens when they do? Guess you’ll have to read the book to find out!
Like most Stiefvater books, this is an urban-fantasy (urban-paranormal?) world setting, meaning that Maggie has taken a very real place, and given a little bit of mysticism to the characters. I’ve never been to Colorado (or even the continent America), but Maggie’s descriptions make me feel like I’d know it as well as if I lived there.
The characters are just amazing as well. Each of them have their own personality, their own motivations, their own demons. Personally, I loved how Maggie gave each of them a dream and a fear when she was introducing them:
Here was a thing he wanted: to stop having dreams of being laughed at by tiny birds with very long legs. Here was a thing he feared: people watching him while he ate.
It gave you a sense of what was important to the character, and this really differentiated them from each other.
Look, I love Maggie Stiefvater books. I’m making it one of my goals to finish her entire back-catalogue of books by the end of this year. But I absolutely acknowledge that she isn’t for everyone. However, if you can get through this, then I highly recommend you also try reading everything else she’s ever written!