All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is more of a 2.5 for me.
I wanted to love this, but I really struggled. It could have been me, as I listened on audio and perhaps was a poor listener. However, I rewound and rewound and rewound and rewound. This would just not keep my attention, and about 70% of the time, I had no clue who anyone was or what was happening.
Typically, I love Stiefvater. I think I could read Scorpio Races and the Raven Cycle a thousand times and never tire of them. They are so unique, and I tend to love her unusual approaches and unexpected worlds.
Unfortunately, it took me almost 15 chapters to really get into the story at all. I had to just force myself forward (through the pangs of despair and haze of denial), and it wasn’t until that point that I really started remember who anyone was. There’s also not any real plot that I’m aware of up until about 3/5 of the way into the story, and it’s a pretty weak plot at that. Or perhaps the plot is there but I was so overwhelmed by the style that I couldn’t even recognize or follow it.
The writing is extremely stylized, which typically I find interesting. Unfortunately, it’s stylized telling, instead of stylized showing. So be prepared to be told, told, told, told, told, told, told, and told again who everyone is. You’ll be told what they think. You’ll be told what they want. You’ll be told what they fear. You’ll be told who they are, in the prettiest and most unique sorts of ways. You’ll be told what their struggles are, but you’ll rarely be shown any of this, particularly in the first half off the book, which means it may not stick very well. None of it really stuck for me.
Every scene in the beginning feels basically like a new list of facts about yet another character, and I wasn’t interested in memorizing any of it. Some of the sentences sound beautiful in the moment, but they lack impact, since I now can’t match any of those sentences to any characters. And since I don’t want to memorize a list of beautiful sounding facts about way too many different characters that don’t really seem to be helping the story along, it’s hard to make connections and keep any of the details straight.
Yep. This was a major struggle, when I just wanted to be captivated.
The reason this still gets 3 stars is because the last half of the book is significantly better and more interesting than the first half. There were some really fascinating characters, once I could finally figure out who people were and why they mattered. But at the same time, I’m still pretty confused by the world and world building. It could be a delightful, imaginative world, but instead, it’s more of a tedious and confusing world. I think depth was sacrificed to pretty sounding and stylized sentences in this case.
HOWEVER, I typically love Stiefvater, and there’s something here that was interesting to me, at least in terms of the concept and a few of the characters. In case this is just me being inattentive, or failing to get what is great about this, I may go back and listen to this again on a better day and see if that changes my perspective. If it does, I’ll be sure to update this review.
Now, I’m going to go hug my pillow and wallow, because I absolutely hate it when I can’t love a book.
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