Title: Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception
Author: Maggie Steifvater
Genre: Romantic Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.
Publication Date: October 2008
Trade Paperback: 336 pages
Stand alone or series: First book in a new fantasy series by debut author Maggie Steifvater. Book 2, Ballad is out this year.
Why did we read this book: This book has garnered rave reviews across blogland. Ever since we saw Angie’s review last year, we both decided that we wanted to give Lament a joint review. We love Melissa Marr, we love dark fairy tales, so we really couldn’t resist.
Summary: (from Amazon.com)
Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She’s about to find out she’s also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen’s sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren’t so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn’t exactly what she had in mind . . .
Lament is a dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore, plus cover art and interior illustrations by acclaimed faerie artist Julia Jeffrey.
Thea: I don’t know where to begin with Lament. I was so looking forward to this novel, it sounded like it had everything that I love in a book and I was so ready to settle down with a haunting, beautiful young adult dark fantasy. Given the unanimously favorable reviews floating around the web, I thought this was a novel I too would fall in love with…
But it wasn’t. This was almost a Did Not Finish for me–I nearly put the book down three times. There are parts of this book that are beautiful; I loved the music, the lyrical quality of the writing, and the haunting descriptions of faerie. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for any of the characters and felt the plot was undeveloped. Everything just felt off to me in this novel, and I am sad to say that I could not get into it. I wanted to be swept away in the torrent of melody from Dierdre’s harp, but instead was left cold and confused. Lament will draw inevitable comparisons to Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely books and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, but instead of becoming something new and standing on its own, Lament is overshadowed by these two predecessors.
Ana: Ditto, Thea. I had such high expectations about the novel as it seemed the perfect combo: it came with good recommendations, a beautiful cover, an amazing title. The prologue was absolutely fascinating and I really thought I was in for a treat. But alas, it was not meant to be: everything that Thea says above, is pretty much how I felt about Lament as well. Except, I think I liked the plot a little bit more than she did, not once I wanted to put the book down, I was so intrigued by the story, I wanted to keep on reading DESPITE the characters. Which is what makes me even more conflicted and frustrated – because beautiful writing, promising plot and god-awful characters equals really pissed off Ana.
On the Plot:
Dierdre is a quiet, shy girl that tries to be invisible to her peers and the world around her, save to her best friend James. She also has an incredible talent as a harpist, and on the day of her latest performance she seems to develop a new talent: she starts to see things that aren’t there. Faeries. A mysterious, handsome young man named Luke approaches Dierdre as she’s getting ready for her performance, and he immediately sweeps her off her feet. Luke has walked out of Dierdre’s dreams, but he’s guarding a dark, tortured secret. Dierdre’s life and the lives of all those she loves are in jeopardy, and she must figure out Luke’s secret before it is too late.
Thea: The overall plot is simple–Dierdre is “special” because of her musical talent and her ability to see faeries. This magical Luke who materializes out of thin air is “fascinated” by Dierdre (for no apparent reason) and cannot kill her as he has been charged to do by the faerie queen. They inexplicably fall desperately, madly in love, but cannot be with each other. Oh, and faeries are out to make Dierdre’s life hell, trying to kill her family and her. If Twilight and Wicked Lovely had a love child, Lament is what you might get…unfortunately it’s not nearly as entertaining as its parents.
The problem for me with the plot stems from the same character problem–none of it makes sense. Take for instance Luke’s first appearance to Dierdre (while she’s throwing up in the bathroom in nervous anticipation for her performance) on pages 9-10:
I still wasn’t done. My stupid hair was falling in my face, and my choppy haircut was too short in front to pull back into my ponytail. I imagined going onstage with chunks in my bangs. I cry only when I’m frustrated, and I was getting dangerously close.
And then, I felt a cool hand gently pulling my hair back from my face. I hadn’t even heard anyone come into the bathroom. But somehow I wasn’t surprised–like I’d expected someone to come find me here. I knew without looking that it was definitely a guy’s hand, and definitely not James.
I started to pull my head away, embarrassed, when the owner of the hand said firmly, “Don’t worry about it. You’re almost done.” […] I turned around to see who had witnessed the most unsexy thing a girl could do. If it was Andrew, I was going to punch him for touching me.
But it wasn’t Andrew. It was Dillon.
The guy from my dream. Here to save me from public humiliation and lead me triumphantly to a standing ovation.
Whaa? Who? Huh? They proceed to have a normal conversation, and Dee changes her recital piece to perform with the mysterious boy who teleported into the bathroom to hold her hair while she was puking. This is page 10 by the way. This guy appears out of thin air (and totally invades Dierdre’s private space by creepily touching her while she’s throwing up in secluded downstairs bathroom) and she just takes it all as a given? Turned on by it, even? Initially I thought my book had a misprinted chapter or something…but no. That’s basically how the plot proceeds, in a microcosm. Things just happen with no buildup or exploration of why they happen. What’s worse is, the characters react in such a bizarre fashion, it’s even more offsetting (more on that in the next section). There’s a late plot twist with a family member that is flat out ridiculous and had me tempted to close the book and never look back.
Lament does not ever feel like a cohesive story. There are moments of brilliance–I loved the music, some of the talks between (Seth–I mean Jacob–I mean) James and Dierdre, and most of all the descriptions of the faeries. But it all felt cobbled together in a hodgepodge story that didn’t flow at all, with characters that never felt real, for motivations that didn’t make any sense.
Ana:For me, the plot along with the writing style are the only salvageable features of Lament. From page 1, I was intrigued with the story and I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know exactly WHY the faeries sent Luke after Deirdre. This mystery and the dark, evil characteristics of the faeries themselves were what kept me going when the human characters reacted to the plotlines and circumstances in stupid ways (but more on that below).
However simple the plot may be – the Faeries want Deirdre for a reason, Luke is their hunting “dog”, they fall in love – the author is fairly accomplished in detailing the Faeries side , from their appreciation for music, from their almost mystical apparition to Deirdre to all of the tales that surround the characters. I also greatly appreciated how the author ended the book and the direction she took her story.
The failure comes from the human element – I felt they were completely off. From motivation to behaviour to the fact that as Thea brilliantly exposes, it seems they live in a microcosm – events do simply come out of nowhere without no explanation. Part of me, think this could have been fixed by a better editor: with a little more build-up between Luke and Deirdre, for example. It is impossible not to compare the Luke-Deirdre relationship to that of Edward and Bella in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight: the sense of fascination that both have for each other is extremely similar but where I could completely understand Bella’s fascination for Edward, for example (and share it with her, if I am being honest), I couldn’t understand Deirdre’s for Luke (or vice-versa) and I believe it was the complete lack of build-up.
On the Characters:
Thea: The characters were probably the biggest problem for me. Even with a plot that doesn’t quite fit together or is decidedly unoriginal, it’s salvageable so long as the writing is flawless and the characters shine. Unfortunately, these characters fall flat for me. Dierdre is certainly a step up from doormat Bella of the Twilight books, but her reactions again are what kill me. When a strange boy walks in on you in a bathroom stall, isn’t your first reaction to scream, lash out or run away? Or (slight spoiler!) later when she discovers what Luke’s secret is and what he has done in his past?! Ana and I were talking about her complete lack of fear when she discovers OMG Luke is a murderer. Many times over a murderer. And he was sent to murder Dierdre. And she’s just sitting there in the car with him, pissed off that he didn’t tell her who he was, or that he’s not who she thought he was. Where’s the mortal fear? Hello!?
Then there’s Luke himself. For some inexplicable reason, he’s so fascinated and in love with Dierdre. Why? Wha? Huh? Ok fine, love is blind, love is irrational, I get that–but I just never buy it here. At least in Twilight, Edward’s fascination with Bella stems from a very plausible reason, and we see how they fear and distrust each other before finally realizing they are in love. In Wicked Lovely, I adore how Melissa Marr goes the opposite direction and plays on the idea that Keenan and Aislinn actually do NOT love each other. They need each other, but love is not a question. In Lament, Dierdre and Luke have this pairing without any rhyme or reason to it, without any exposition or resolution. It’s not simply enough to say these two characters love each other at first sight and leave it at that. At least, it isn’t for me.
The secondary characters are also pale stand-ins. James is a generic Seth/Jacob hybrid, the funny sidekick who is desperately in love with Dierdre. There’s the Grandma who is distrustful and knows all about faeries (naturally). There are the clueless parent figures who hardly ever factor into Dierdre’s thoughts. There’s the EEeeeeeeevil Aunt, who is evil for reasons that make me apoplectic.
I did, however, enjoy the faeries, in particular the Daoine Sidhe, Una and Brendan. The titled faerie queen unfortunately makes only a couple of appearances, which is a shame–I would have liked to learn more about her and what motivated her own actions of the centuries. I also enjoyed the queen’s two henchmen, Eleanor and Aodhan–in many ways, their cruelty was the only thing that consistently delivered in this novel.
Ana:Ah. Now, where do I start? This is going to be a huge rant because the characters, specially the human ones were downright atrocious. Completely off. Take Deirdre for example. This shy girl, who had ONE friend (James, who was of course, Gorgeous, and a geek , very funny and completely in love with her and she was completely oblivious to it, and he was just trying too freaking hard to be different and I couldn’t stand James), described as common-looking and a very good harpist. And smart. Then she meets Luke and he tells her in these words:
“Some people can do anything. They want something, they make it happen.”
Then all of a sudden, just like that, Deirdre is a musical genius, who has all these powers, telekinesis, can read minds, etc, and she takes it all REALLY well; Like it’s all normal, she doesn’t think too much of it, she just goes with the flow, because Luke is so hot, she just doesn’t want to think he is not normal or something. He keeps showing up and helping her and repeats throughout the book a sentence that made me want to puke every time I read it:
“You wanted saving, didn’t you”?
So which one is it? Can she do anything or does she need saving? This is completely bipolar and does not make any sense – and yet they are uttered by the same character!
Then, Luke tells her he is fascinated by her (God only knows why, I am still trying to figure out) and she gets all pissy and thinks:
“I wasn’t angry. I was disappointed. For once I didn’t want someone to look at everything I could do and be awed. I wanted someone to just see me, what made me me, and be fascinated. I was so tired of hearing how great and amazing I was from people who would never know anything about me. I had let myself believe all this time that the real me was what Luke was flirting with, not the me destined for CD covers and exceptional alumini lists”
This is a perfect example of the microcosm Thea was talking about – The girl is clearly CRAZY – she says, “I had let myself believe all this time” – It seems they know each for a long time right? But this is a quote from the morning after they have met from the first time! Please note that I have nothing against these feelings – they are completely legitimate specially coming from a teenager, my main gripe is that they are simply out of tune and out of place with the story – again a simple case of better editing – move this paragraph to a point later in the story and voila, instant, believable conflict!
Thea mentioned the part when Deirdre finds out that Luke is a murderer and how she reacts by getting….pissed off – she was not nearly as pissed off as I was though. Come on, what happened to good old fear? You are locked in with a guy who you think is a serial killer out to get you and your reaction is to get angry because he lied to you?
As you can see, I feel really strongly about these characters, because generally speaking the characters make or break a book for me. I got extremely frustrated, sad even, that the potential I felt in the writing and the plot itself were washed away with Deirdre, Luke, James, Grandmother and the evil aunt. The only characters that had a shred of authenticity and attraction to me were indeed the faeries.
Final Thoughts, Observations, and Rating:
Thea: Overall, I was sorely disappointed with Lament because I was expecting so much more. I think the ending of the novel was clever and well executed, but that doesn’t change how frustrated and let down I felt while reading the book. Part of this has to do with the fact that I had such high expectations from the overall positive reviews–which really isn’t Ms. Stiefvater’s fault.
I will say that the actual writing style and Ms. Steifvater’s voice is wonderful and I do think she has a great talent. I will give her books another read in the future…but so far as storytelling goes, it’s just not there yet. I’ll still give her books a try, but Lament was not at all for me. There are so many books about fairies out there these days, and unfortunately Lament will draw those comparisons and come up short.
Ana:Yes, disappointment is the best word to describe how I felt about Lament especially taking into consideration the quality of the writing and the potential of the plot – that sadly did not work out in the end.
I am with Thea though, I would give her next book a try.
Thea: I loved this scene with the Daoine Sidhe:
I put my hand to my face, covering my tears.
Una, outside the rotunda, watched the tears sliding through my fingers with interest. “May I have one?”
I bit my lip and looked at her. “What will you give me for it?” I managed to say.
“A favor,” Una said immediately. “And you need all of those you can get.”
I wiped my face and held my arm out of the rotunda. A tear dripped from my fingertip, and Una, only inches away caught it in her outstretched palm. Then she darted away to the thorns, smiling as ever. I looked away from her to Luke, who was watching me with a hollow expression.
Ana:An example of potential: Deirdre worked at an Ice-cream shop and she really loved it- she felt like she made ice-cold masterpieces.
“Whoa, that looks so good”, said Customer Number One as he watched Costumer Number Two take a sundae out of my hands. Of course it does, I thought. Each scoop is perfectly round and I made the syrup and whipped cream perfectly symmetrical. The brownie is square and covered just so by ice cream. The nuts are sprinkled with enough creativity to look random and yet not patchy. It should be in the cover of Ice Cream Today. Most gorgeous Sundae ever. Created by yours truly.
Additional Thoughts: Books about fairies are all the rage. We’d highly recommend these, especially for folks that might feel Lament was wanting:
We adore Melissa Marr’s novels: Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and her upcoming release Fragile Eternity (both of us loved this fantastic new novel–fans will not be disappointed!). There’s also Nancy Werlin’s Impossible, Holly Black’s Tithe, or for those who might want a bit more of the adult persuasion, C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul books or the beautiful works of Juliet Marillier (we recommend Daughter of the Forest and her newest novel, Heir to Sevenwaters).
Thea: 4 Bad, but not without some merit
Ana:4 Bad, but not without some merit
Reading Next: Melusine by Sarah Monette