Book reviews

Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater

Release date: 1 August 2009
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★ – 9/10
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Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1) blurb:

And then I opened my
eyes and it was just Grace and
me—nothing anywhere but
Grace and me—she pressing
her lips together as though she
were keeping my kiss inside
her, and me holding this
moment that was as fragile
as a bird in my hands.

the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolfher wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn’t know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace… until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it’s spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

I’m not really a big ‘werewolf’ fan.  Twilight absolutely ruined paranormal for me.  Well, that and how they absolutely ruined The Southern Vampire Mysteries when they turned it into True Blood.  And because Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead series went on about eight books too long.  Maybe I just got sick of vampire books and threw werewolves in with them.  Regardless, I had written them off, but I read this because a) I didn’t know they were about werewolves when I bought them, and b) I would read Maggie Stiefvater’s crossed out shopping lists.

If you’re not interested in hearing me wax lyrical about Stiefvater’s poetic writing AGAIN (see review of The Raven Boys if you’ve forgotten), feel free to skip to this and the next paragraph.  Because IMHO, she can do no wrong.  Stiefvater is one of those supremely talented people that seem to be able to do anything they try their hand at – she’s an artist, a musician and an author.  I know this because I’m moderately obsessed after reading The Raven Cycle.  Not like obsessed enough to do anything crazy (partially because I live in Australia… primarily because I’m a grown adult who would be horrified to do anything too crazy), but obsessed enough to go buy hard copy versions of all her books and read them without even knowing what they were about.

So, the writing.  You can tell that it’s an earlier book than The Raven Cycle – the writing is less refined, but I think it also suits the story better as we’re not following four boys at an exclusive prep school having classes like Latin, speaking with trees and looking for long-dead mythical Welsh kings – it’s the story of normal teenagers in a run-of-the-mill school, doing normal teenager things like cooking meals, reading books and playing guitar.  In fact, one of the characters writes the occasional song lyric in this, and recites poetry (Rilke) and it all just works together seamlessly.  Which is a greater tribute to Stiefvater’s writing than anything I could say (and honestly, I could say a lot).

The story follows a young girl by the name of Grace who is intrigued (obsessed?) by a pack of wolves that live in the woods behind her house.  In particular, one wolf with yellow eyes.  There is some conflict in the town and the wolves are soon considered a danger.  As things progress, a young man appears, a young man that Grace feels that she knows and trusts – he has yellow eyes and his name is Sam.  Sam and Grace fall instantly in love and herein lies the beginning of their tragedy.

The story itself, along with the mythology of the werewolves is a new take (for me) and I quite enjoyed that it didn’t follow the traditional rules of lycanthropy that most other paranormal genre books do.  I happily applaud this (much more than sparkly vampires).

Because the book is written from the first person of both main characters (it’s not one for one in turns – you could have Sam 4 chapters in a row, but the chapter intro tells you whose perspective it is), it has this additional depth – as one character understands what is happening, and the other is still trying to piece it together.  So you, the reader, are still able to follow along as things are either explained in conversation or hinted at enough that you could figure it out.

The characters are well written, each with their own distinctive voice.  And as each chapter is written either from Grace or Sam’s perspective you get to hear the difference in their narratives more clearly.  Side characters are also well written, and each plays a unique, specific part.  There’s no one who doesn’t have a role to play, no one without purpose.  And if you think there are now, then (judging by my experience from The Raven Cycle) I can near promise that won’t be the case by the end of the books.

I loved the ending, it was beautiful and depressing, hopeful and sad.  I’m very glad I bought everything Stiefvater has ever published, and looking forward to Linger.


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