BOOK REVIEW: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Age Group: 14+
Genres: Magical Realism, Romance, Fantasy
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Add it to your Goodreads TBR here.
I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review.
This is a long text post.
There may or may not be spoilers in this review. I tried not to spoil anything since this doesn’t come out until October, but then again, my definition of Spoiler often differs from others’.
You can check out my original post on Goodreads here.
Also, I know about the drama circulating Goodreads regarding this book. I will not tolerate any hateful comments made regarding my opinion of this drama.
First of all:
I’ve read what I like to think is a good chunk of Maggie Stiefvater’s books and though I can appreciate that she has a magical way with words, I have never actually fully stopped to say, “Holy crap. That was beautiful.” This book had me doing that. A lot. I might even call it one of my favourite reads of the year so far. (It has been a good year for books).
In my very honest opinion, All the Crooked Saints is potential one of the best Stiefvater books out there. There are so many components to this book that it’s hard to fully even describe what exactly enthralled me so much about the story. The writing, the weirdness, the matter-of-fact reasoning behind the characters’ lives–it was all done so masterfully. This was truly a modern piece of literary art.
First, let me mention the elephant in the room: the use of Hispanic characters that has apparently become an issue with this book. I’m not Mexican, but I am Latina and I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with the book. The Mexican culture was not appropriated–the Latino concept of religion was flirted with in this novel, but a lot of the stories and mythology (I believe) were a creation of Stiefvater’s mind. I might be wrong, so you’re welcome to correct me (in a polite manner). But honestly, I just saw a story about kids who happened to be Mexican living in New Mexico and whose parents happened to speak Spanish. Frankly, I loved the whole concept of being able to read the Spanish sentences and grasping that extra layer of storytelling. I’m Cuban and if Stiefvater decided to write a story with kids who happened to be Cuban, I’d be all over it. For a world that begs for more POC in YALit, we judge non-POC authors harshly when they write characters that aren’t white, or stereotypical creations of the race they just happen to be.
Now that I’ve voiced my thoughts on that, back to the review!
In true Stiefvater fashion, this book is really weird, but in a beautiful way. The writing, at the beginning, felt very verbose but as the story progressed I began to appreciate it more. With every word and every sentence, Stiefvater created a more detailed picture of the world were miracles could happen. After all, it has to be a very magical world.
One of the things that always made me feel not entirely invested in The Raven Cycle quartet was the writing because at some level, some of the lines connecting the storylines were occasionally lost on me. While I loved that series, I always felt like I was a step behind in understanding why it was so beautiful and so memorable. I finally understand with All the Crooked Saints. Something just clicked for me as I read and the magic of the writing made it really hard to put this book down.
The Soria family is made up of peculiar people that together make Bicho Raro (Strange Bug, or Strange Thing–so fitting, imho) a very surreal place. I love the different kinds of people that inhabit this very tiny place in the middle of the desert. Everyone had a story to tell and because Stiefvater is a a fan of showing us different stories that all link up to the main story, we get to hear from a large portion of them. In my opinion, all of the characters in this book are cautionary tales of the imperfection of what it means to be human. We can all learn a little something from each character who is struggling with some aspect of themselves.
The romance in this novel is slow burning but wow, when Stiefvater finally gives it life, it’s a wondrous thing. You’re prepped early on for the potential for romance in that foreshadowing way that this author loves to use, but when it happens it happens like the very miracles that we are told about. There are many layers of miracles in this book that surpass the power of The Saint and of the eye, and the romance is a perfect example.
My friend, who is an avid fan of Stiefvater, commented that she loves how some of the otherworldly and superstitious stories that Stiefvater included in this book were just stated matter-of-fact, like they just existed. I agree with her because this book makes the unbelievable believable, especially set in a time where anything could have happened. It also plays into the idea that magical and unknown things could potentially happen in very small and rural areas. Its small and remote location is one of the reasons why Bicho Raro was so endearing to me, so add a dose of magic and I’ll be adding it to my must-visit list.
The use of religion in this book is much like the genre that Stiefvater appears to love to write: it is magically realistic, meaning that while religion is obviously a platform for this story, it isn’t really the message. I like to believe that the message is that while we search for miracles in the holy, it is us who come to terms with what we need to change in ourselves to truly get our miracles. If that makes any sense.
I may or may not be rambling at this point.
I think this is a must-read, especially if you’re a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s previous books. This is such a well-rounded story that you will be aching for the next book from this talented author. The writing is beautiful and weaves a unique story. I don’t know how she does it, but she is a master of really using her gift for words to their full effect.