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Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 400 pages

Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater's life decisions have revolved around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you're a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical writer (all of which she's tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists (she's made her living as one or the other since she was twenty-two). Maggie now lives a surprisingly eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dog.

Maggie Stiefvater Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Maggie Stiefvater is one of those maddeningly talented people. Her bio has her as mother to two young children, and describes her as a musician, an artist, and an author (whose first novel appeared in 2008)-- and all this by age 27.

And not only is she all these things, but where at least one of them is concerned, she is very very good at what she does. Shiver was a one-sitting read, and it is everything that the fabled Twilight tried to be (but, for so many of us, was not).

It's a supernatural love story. Young Grace, whose parents tend to forget that she exists half the time, was once (when she was very young) dragged off by a pack of wolves into the woods behind her home -- and was rescued by one of the pack, a wolf whose golden eyes she has never forgotten and with whom she keeps up a strange and distant relationship during the winters of her lives when the pack is roaming the woods. She has plenty to handle in the rest of her life -- her parents' absences, her best friends's own growing-up tics and neuroses as well as her own -- and then things slide into chaos as a boy from her school is apparently killed by the wolves which have had such a long-term connection with herself, and nothing can ever be the same again as the secrets come spilling out and her sleepy town is revealed to be nothing like it appears to be.

Stiefvater has a lovely and firm hand on her characters, and I particularly liked the broken but acerbic Isabel who is the one who eventually holds the key to the resolution of the novel. The story is gripping, and moves forward at a snappy pace which keeps the reader riveted -- particularly since it is established early on that temperatures have something very important to do with Sam's identity at any given moment, and should the temperature fall below a certain point then Really Bad Things Are Going to Happen. Stiefvater does a tremendous job playing with that, and the wrench towards the end of the book, when the temperatures finally catch up with our protagonists, is a real and emotional one.

If I have a quibble with the book, it's that the ending feels strangely at odds with itself. Olivia is the one who has the "happy ending," and this works beautifully -- but Isabel's cure for what afflicts the rest of the main characters seems a little arbitrary in its effects, manipulated in one direction to provide maximum tragedy (Jack) and in the other to provide the other, the REAL, happy ending for our main couple… which feels contrived, almost as though it was grafted on by Disney after they bought the movie rights to the book. There isn't even an attempt to explain away the uncomfortable issue that the cure failed for someone still human enough to respond to it, and for someone who was being given every care to survive the fever which was supposed to scour him clean -- and succeeded for someone who had no care at all and who was in fact another species entirely when the fever was supposed to hit, especially after it was pointed out that one would HAVE to be human in order for the cure to work properly. It's the very fact that nothing ever comes out perfect that made a book like The Time Traveller's Wife such a resounding success -- and the ending to Shiver deliberately sets out to make everything end well for the main characters, and let the chips fall where they may for the rest of them. It's still a great book, a fantastic read, but not succumbing to the lure of the happily-ever-after would have made it, in my own opinion, much more memorable and a far stronger work.

But all that aside… I reiterate… Maggie Stiefvater is a very talented young woman, and this is a fabulous book. I look forward to more from her pen.

Copyright © 2009 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days.

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