Ballad exceeded my expectations and managed to surprise me at every turn. No longer are we focused on Dee, but on her best friend James. When he begins attending Thornking-Ash, a school for the gifted and talented, he finds himself mystified by a faerie named Nuala who just can't seem to leave him alone, and not for evil reasons either. Soon, James finds himself torn between right and wrong, friendship and love, and life and death.
I was pleasantly surprised when Ballad broke away from Dee's narration and was told in the point of view of James. His narration was strong and enjoyable to read, a vast difference to Dee's weaker and more feminine voice. I felt that the action increased ten-fold and the novel itself moved at a fast pace, whilst still effectively developing the characters and entangling us in a variety of story lines.
Dee is largely absent in this book and makes only a few appearances at crucial moments, although the book is littered with unsent text messages from her to James. While she slowly withers away inside, due to prior events, a fire is kindling between James and Nuala, a faerie who feeds on the energies of others to survive. After a certain amount of years, she must burn alive, to be reborn without her memories. This is her last year. I found the jump between couples (Dee and Luke in Lament) to be very easy and honestly preferred this relationship a lot more. The feelings were more realistic, the romance less filled with mind games, and the stakes much higher. I quickly became emotionally invested in their journey together and found the ending to be very suitable.
The only negative about this book is Dee. After the first two meetings she had with James, I grew tired of her damsel-in-distress-I'm-so-sad attitude. Never getting over Luke, who was taken in by the faeries, she's a little unstable and a constant pain in everyone's behind. Thank goodness we didn't have to deal with her a lot! I had expected Ballad to be a continuation of Dee's story, so the complete lack of development and conclusion of her character was underwhelming.
Another great novel by Maggie Stiefvater, this author can do no wrong! Magical and romantic as always, Ballad will leave you wanting more, even after you've turned the last page.
Who's read this? Good, right? :) Love Maggie's trailers!