All the Crooked Saints
Advanced copy provided by publisher
Here is a thing everyone wants:
Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.
Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.
At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.
They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.
To be very clear, before the review proper begins, I’m about as unbiased as one can be on the topic of Maggie Stiefvater. I think she’s a genius and an amazing person and if I develop into a quarter of the woman and writer she is, my life will be a success.
But I would like to think that I retain some literary discernment even in my adulation. I’ve not actually finished any of Maggie’s series yet, but I’m a raving fan of The Scorpio Races. It’s possible that her style of writing standalones appeals more to me than her series. Jury’s still out on that.
When you think of magical realism, what do you think of? I was an English major; I think of Gabriel García Márquez. I haven’t thought of magical realism more than twice outside an English class. That is, until All the Crooked Saints, which is the masterpiece of modern YA magical realism that I never knew I needed.
To enjoy it, though, you need to have an open mind. My oh-so-practical husband put it down 50 pages in, claiming he’d encounter too many ridiculous things. (I patted him on the head and mentally congratulated myself on being a more accepting reader.) With Maggie, it’s best to let go of how you expect stories to be written. Let go of what you think will happen. Revel instead in the mystical world she’ll weave from ordinary places, things, and people we don’t look twice at.
Show, don’t tell.
Ever heard that? If you’ve spent any time at all in a writing class (or a writing book, or just Twitter), you’ve almost certainly heard this familiar writing rule. Exposition is abhorred.
But Maggie Stiefvater tells a lot. This is completely non-scientific, but I’d venture to guess that a full 90% of Crooked Saints is telling. For example: a core element of the book is list what characters want or fear.
Here was a thing Joaquin Soria wanted: to be famous. Here was a thing he feared: dying alone in the parched dust outside Bicho Raro.
(a quote from the ARC. Hopefully the publisher won’t smash me.)
I think this is a brilliant twist on another common writing trope–understanding your characters’ wants and fears. Maggie introduces her characters in uniquely (and uniquely concise) ways through “telling” us about them.
I don’t have the stamina to detail all the things I love about Crooked Saints, so here’s the nutshell version:
- family dynamics
- unique characters
- magic! mysticism!
- exploring faith
- radio plans
- sweet & stunning love stories
There’s a strong possibility that All the Crooked Saints won’t appeal to lots of readers. (I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong.) I strongly recommend that you give this book a chance. Go slowly. Let your brain adjust from the last genre you read. And enjoy Maggie Stiefvater’s thoughtful, heartwarming, magical brilliance. All the Crooked Saints is a dark, sweet, magical read.