Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie BWB Top Reviewer - by Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write

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Here is her review:

James Morgan has an almost unearthly gift for music. And it has attracted Nuala, a soul-snatching faerie muse who fosters and then feeds on the creative energies of exceptional humans until they die. James has plenty of reasons to fear the faeries, but as he and Nuala collaborate on an achingly beautiful musical composition, James finds his feelings towards Nuala deepening. But the rest of the fairies are not as harmless. As Halloween—the day of the dead—draws near, James will have to battle the Faerie Queen and the horned king of the dead to save Nuala's life and his soul.

To kick off my reading of
Ballad, I first read Lament which focuses more on Deidre -- her problems, her relationships. One problem I had with Lament was that there was not enough of James and his amazing-ness.

Luckily, Ballad highlights my favorite James traits: loyalty and cheeky/cocky attitude. Nuala is just as spunky and forward which makes for a perfect match for my fave musical smart aleck.

The chapters switch from first person James to first person Nuala. My brothers always knew when James came back into the story because they could hear me chuckling or see me smiling.

I read Ballad in one day, just a few hours, because, unfortunately, I started skimming...a lot. In general, I prefer plot/action driven novels rather than predominately character driven ones so the fact that I finished
Ballad is a testament to how wonderfully fun and snappy James is written.

I would have loved this book a lot more if I hadn't read the book jacket which had me waiting for things to progress to the
James battling the Faerie Queen and the horned king of the dead to save Nala's life and his soul part. That doesn't happen until about the last 100 pages.

I thought the faerie plot was lacking. I understood that James couldn't do too much detective work because, you know, he's human. He can't see faeries unless they want him to (and they typically never do), and you can't find clues or skillfully interrogate things you can't see or hear. But since we flip to Nuala's perspective about every other chapter, I assumed we'd make discoveries along with her. But, you know what happens when you assume...

The faeries work hard to keep Nuala out of their business and what little we learn of the faerie plot doesn't allow you to make a guess at what will happen. That's part of the fun - trying to solve the mystery, but you really can't until the very end when everything is laid out for you.

Ah, the love triangle. Deidre...Dee is annoyingly Bella-like in her helplessness and treatment of Jacob, uh, I mean James. It was irritating to have to read her whiny unsent text messages. It does tie in towards the end, but that doesn't take the edge off the vexation. Deidre actually makes you love Nuala more, especially when the soul-snatching faerie echos your own thoughts of Deidre.

James. Let me just say...Yum. James is fantastic. Nuala is on the same playing field. The romance is simultaneously hot and sweet. It's a solid read for those desiring paranormal character driven romance but the romance is the plot and I prefer more action. But even accepting that it is a straight romance, I didn't feel any major conflict with the lovers until over halfway through the book and I felt the conflict should happen earlier to give the plot more meat.

Perhaps reading Lament and Ballad back-to-back wasn't the smartest move because I kept comparing the two... and Ballad came up short. On it's own, Ballad is a solid paranormal romance that has interesting characters who will stick with you and leave you wondering about the rest of their story.

1. James is a flawed and heart broken character, do you find his mental peculiarities charming or annoying? Please do explain.

I found his mental peculiarities oh so charming. I loved James. He perceives the world in a unique way. He's smart, uber smart, so the world and those in it bore him. It makes him arrogant and he has to work hard to cope with his boredom. It's his individuality that makes him so likable and his flaws that make him relatable.

2. What did you think of James and Dee's kiss? This being a pivotal moment for their relationship, how do you think it changed James?
I thought it was hot. I so got my hopes up and Dee's words crushed me like I really was James before I flipped into a protective Nuala-like mode and instantly deemed Dee as unworthy. I think the kiss allowed James to let Dee go in the end.

3. Whom do you prefer Dee or Nuala?
Nuala! Nuala! Nuala! She's saucy. She's confident. She keeps you on your toes. Dee is a wimp. Yes she has a hard life, but so does Nuala and the faerie rises to the challenge with sass.

4. What's your verdict on the best way to read Ballad? Is it a stand alone book or do you need to read Lament first? If you read Lament, what did it add/not add to Ballad? If you haven't read Lament, do you think it would have added to your reading of Ballad?
Do NOT read Lament first. Ugh. I so wished I hadn't. Yes, Lament sets up James' and Dee's relationship, how close they were and how it fell apart. But in Lament, Dee is strong and smart. Her character pulls a one-eighty in Ballad, morphing into a wishy-washy whiner with no backbone.
You don't have to have read Lament to be able to understand everything that goes on in Ballad. Ballad focuses on James and Nuala's budding love. Lament focuses on Dee and the different kinds of faeries bothering her. By reading Lament I understood a bit more about the faerie politics going on, but I don't think I would have had trouble following Ballad if I hadn't read Lament.

I suggest reading Ballad first and Lament second. Both love stories, both wonderful.

5. We've been reading a lot of stories with fairies as the central paranormal creatures. What are your thoughts on the "Fair Folk". Do you believe in faires?
I don't so much believe in faeries, but I do like them as villains. In fact, they're my favorite paranormal villains. They're coy, clever, cruel and have no shame.


Jessy said...

I am almost finished reading this. I have about two chapters left so I don't want to spoil anything by reading this. But so far I really like it. Actually I like it better than Lament.

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

Congrats on being top reviewer Alyssa! I agree, this definitely was a great review! I'm planning on reading both Lament and Ballad over Christmas break because I bought copies of them a while back. Hmmm...maybe I'll try your suggestion and read Ballad first? I'm interested to see how that would work out. Thanks for the review!

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

Wow guys! I'm so happy to win! Thanks for the support and kudos. I'm looking forward to the next book review. I love being part of this group review and reading everyone's opinions. Thanks for setting it up!