If I’m being honest, I’ve never fully understood why people love Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve never hated her books, but I’ve never been super blown away by them either. So imagine my surprise when I read All the Crooked Saints…and kind of loved it? It was intelligent, evocative, engrossing, atmospheric, and the writing! Maggie Stiefvater was made to write magical realism. The one aspect I felt could have been strengthened was some of the relationships between the characters, especially the romance between Beatriz and Pete.
Excuse me while I make incoherent noises about the writing. Because… URRRGHAAAAAHURGGGGEEE. That was amazing. How can I describe it? It was lyrical. Decadent. Poetic. Have you ever been caught alone in a sunset on a silent evening and the entire world just seems to be turning to gold in the stillness? Because reading the writing in this book is like that.
There’s this symbiotic relationship between the writing and the magical realism that gives everything a heightened quality. When a herd of sheds stampede and a field of cows burn, you wonder if perhaps that’s how it actually happened. Miracles begin to seem quite straightforward in a world where deserts fall in love.
I can understand why someone might think that the plot was weak or lacking, but the world and the words were enough to completely draw me in. I’ve read on the bus for years, but this is the first time that I have been completely unaware that we’re at my stop because, in my defence, I wasn’t at my stop, I was in Bicho Raro, Colorado. This book would have felt strange with a fast-moving plot. Its otherworldly meandering worked perfectly, and everything does have a point at the end – just enjoy the journey getting there.
The idea for this book is really interesting as well. Pilgrims to Bicho Raro have to resolve their inner darkness themselves once it is miraculously made manifest, which feels very accurate. At the end of the day, this book is about the fact that everyone – saint and sinner – has darkness inside them, and that to help others face that darkness, we must face ours ourselves, which is really quite philosophical when you think about it.
But I really do wish the romance between Pete and Beatriz had been more… romantic. We’re told at the beginning it’s going to be important and epic and while, plot-wise, it is important, I felt like most of the book was spent telling us it was going to happen and when it finally happened, it was ridiculously sudden. And I know Maggie Stiefvater can build up a good romance over time because it took her four books for the main pairing to get together in the Raven Cycle and it worked really well. I really don’t know why she fell short here because she’s obviously perfectly capable of doing it. Still, it’s hardly enough to take down a book as beautiful as this.
All the Crooked Saints is worth reading for the writing alone, but, luckily, it has far more going for it. The romantic subplot felt rushed, but it is one small fault in a very, very good book. It has an intelligent premise and a plot that, while slow-moving, never left me bored and tied the many different elements of the story together at the end. And, really, the writing is amazing. (Have I said that yet? I feel like I said that at some point.)