Note: This review contains spoilers from All the Crooked Saint by Maggie Stiefvater.
Yesterday, I finished All of the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater and I feel like the first thing to point out is that I had mixed feelings towards this book. First and foremost, I am immensely grateful to it for dragging me out of a reading slump I had been in for the best part of a month. I also thought this book in general was absolutely beautiful (more on this later) but in terms of Maggie Stiefvater novels (if you’ve visited my blog before you might know I’m a huge Maggie Stiefvater fan)? I’ve got to say I was a little disappointed…I think.
I think my main issue with this novel was my lack of connection with the characters and in many ways, lots of their relationships. Interestingly, each character was introduced alongside one thing they wanted and one thing they feared. You would think this might make you feel closer to the characters, knowing something about them that is so often kept hidden. Even so, I felt distant from most of the characters in the novel.
I found this most striking with the character of Pete. It was really strange because while I was reading I was aware that Pete was the type of character I normally have a crush on (hardworking, very moral, slightly scared of dogs like me) but I just wasn’t that fussed about him. The same went for pretty much all of the rest of the characters. To be honest, my favourite characters were probably Tony and Joaquin and neither of them had enough coverage for my liking (I love the idea of having a sequel following Joaquin and Tony as they negotiate working on the radio and fame .etc.).
I also found the same problem with most of the central relationships in the book. In terms of Marisita and Daniel I just felt that I didn’t see enough of them to truly get behind them as a couple. We were told a lot how in love they were but it wasn’t until near the end that we got the story of how they came to be in love and by that time I wasn’t that fussed about them. With Beatriz and Pete, the presentation of their love story was really beautiful (I thought it was really clever when there was a section concerning Marisita about how perfection is impossible but then it’s pointed out that Beatriz’s thumb ‘fit perfectly’ on the inside of Pete’s elbow) but I just didn’t care about them that much. In truth, my favourite couple in the book was Francisco and Antonia and they have actually provided me with a current favourite book quote:
While his wife spent her nights making paper flowers so beautiful they seemed real, Francisco spend his days growing flowers so real they seemed no fake.
I feel like Francisco and Antonia’s relationship had the best ark and resolution throughout the book and I love how at the end, Antonia makes Francisco a black rose out of the ashes of the fire.
To be fair (and this applies to a lot of this novel) I feel like I was only disappointed because I love Maggie Stiefvater so much. For example, two of my favourite literary couples come from different Maggie Stiefvater’s series and I normally absolutely love the characters so it was just strange when I didn’t feel the same this time around.
Even so, I don’t think that the characters are the central element of this novel. I think that honour belongs to the style of the book and the way that it is written, and I will say that I found it completely beautiful. The whole of book had a really dreamlike, fairy tale quality for example when Marisita’s segueza is being discussed and Stiefvater says it ‘was so excellent that time itself stood still while you were eating it in order to savour the flavour along with you.’ This quality of the novel is even highlighted by Stiefvater herself when she says that Salto the stallion ‘merely leaped over the station wagon like the cow over the moon’. I do absolutely love this explicit comparison of the book and nursery rhymes and this similarity was something that struck me throughout the book.
Something else I really enjoyed in the novel was the stunning imagery. From the first paragraph of the book I was completely hooked (plus it appealed to the star obsessive in me by saying (of miracles and radio waves) ‘it does not take them long to part ways with the ground and head out to the stars. Wouldn’t we all if we had the chance?’ to which I was just like yes, yes I would). Even more than just imagery though, at times while I was reading this book I couldn’t just see what the characters were seeing, I could feel and hear what they were going through. The best example of this is when the desert notices Pete singing and joins in*. I genuinely just had to take a minute to come to terms with how gorgeous this passage of the novel is and I really did feel like I was living the moment with all of the characters.
I should also point out that I really like the presentation of magic and miracles in this novel. I really liked the concept of the first and second miracles and I really did appreciate the revelation at the end that the Soria’s need to start confronting their own darkness in order to reconnect with each other. It’s a massively astute observation from Stiefvater that really made me consider some deep topics like humanity and the connection we have with each other and also to self reflect a little and perhaps begin to wonder what my own darkness might be.
Lastly, this novel was quite John Green-esque for me in some of the quotes in there. I honestly don’t think I have made so many notes reading a novel and it was literally just because pretty much every other page I had to write down something beautiful or profound Steifvater had somehow managed to put into words. I don’t normally include a list of quotes in these reviews but I just wanted to share some with you because I feel like they deserve to be read by everybody!
- We men and women often hate to be rid of the familiar, and sometime our darkness is the thing we know best
- We all have darkness inside us. It is just a question of how much of us is light as well.
- Doubt was not truth, though; it was opinion (I feel like I will actually be using this as a motto for life from now on)
- I was looking for a miracle, but I got a story instead, and sometimes those are the same thing (can I just point out that this comes from the acknowledgements of the book which 1. Shows that is always worth reading the acknowledgements 2. Makes me so envious of Maggie Sitefvater’s mind, like, this is just her writing in her own voice about her own stuff and it is just, so, beautiful!)
So there we have it, my slightly muddled thoughts on All the Crooked Saints. I hope now you can see a little clearer why I am a little conflicted about this novel. I think it mainly boils down to the fact that, for me, the characters are normally the most important aspect of a novel and the novels I enjoy best are the ones where I have fallen in love and connected with the characters. This novel, then, is different for me in that I loved most things aside from the characters (who I should point out, I didn’t dislike, I just didn’t particularly connect with them). That, along with the stunning dreamlike writing, I think explains why I found reading this book to be such unique experience.
Have you read this novel? How did you find it?
As always, happy reading!
*Just in case anyone doesn’t want to read a longer passage from the novel I thought I might stick it down here!
But when the desert notices Pete Wyatt singing a love song, it took notice. The desert loved him, after all, and wanted him happy. So when it heard Pete singing, it rose a wind around them until the breeze sang gently like strings and when it heard Pete singing, it provoked the air to heat the and cool around every stone and plant so that each of these things sounded in harmony with his voice, and when it heard Pete singing, it roused Colorado’s grasshoppers to action and they rubbed their legs together like a soft horn section, and when it heard Pete singing, it shifted the very ground beneath Bicho Raro so that the sand and the dirt pounded a beat that matched with the sound of the incomplete heart that lived in Pete Wyatt.