Saturday 13 August 2011


Ballad by Audrey Stiefvater (Scholastic UK)
PB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781862918672
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Once again, Stiefvater charms me with her misty half-world where reality and faerie mingle seamlessly. Nuala is a hunter, taking on several different human forms in succession, each lasting sixteen years. She must hunt to live, giving the gift of creative genius to her victims in exchange for their lives. The music inside James draws her to him as her next target. James is still recovering from a bad experience with faerie. In the first book, Lament, his best friend Dee fell in love with a faerie and was lost. James has left home and come here to Thornking-Ash School of Music to start a new life but is confronted with the strange and sexy Nuala, who is dangerously, hypnotically invading his thoughts and dreams. Can he extricate himself from her? Will she succumb to the urge to bind him forever or will she resist?

James has an otherworldly talent for playing ‘the pipes’. As he spends more and more time with Nuala, music is taking over his body, appearing on his arms in strange writing. His dreams are infused with it. He is falling into something he can’t control. Thornking-Ash is the centre of faerie activity and the faerie queen is hungry for a new human lover. Only James’ unusual teacher, Sullivan, knows what’s really going on and Nuala, in her stunningly gorgeous human form, is working her way into James’ affections. Even though he knows it could kill him. And then Dee returns and James is faced with that familiar longing that eats away at him.

I do enjoy Stiefvater’s feisty pseudo-evil character, Nuala very much. Not having read Lament I can’t compare her with Dee, but Nuala does, in her own abrupt and concise way:

          One, her eyes were too big. She looked like an alien… Three, she used James to make herself feel better. It was the sort of attribute I only liked for me to have.

James is a little wimpy and gets tossed along the shoreline with the flotsam for a good portion of the book. He understands what’s at stake, but he rarely does anything. Samhain is looming and Nuala’s sixteen years are up. The fey have found a way to become more powerful, to invade the human world of the present. James is being pulled by the king of the dead’s nightly song. Dee is a cloverhand, attracting more and more faeries to the area. Sulllivan is desperately trying to save James and all the other talented students, like James’ room mate, Paul, who hears the lyrics of the King of the Dead’s song – a list of people who are to die. To be free of her curse of immortality, Nuala must stand in a fire and be burned alive. Only in the ashes can she return to James. It’s a risk she is willing to take, but will it work?

I wanted to read this book in one sitting, but alas, life is a bit too busy for that. Its magical little fingers worked their way into my daily routines, snippets and ideas following my thoughts. Stiefvater is a master of infiltrating our world with her intriguing creations.

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and is a May Gibbs Fellow 2011. You can follow her exploits at  

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