Wayward individuals find their way to the little town of Bicho Raro in search of a miracle that will change their lives, but the manifestations of these miracles are often not what they expect. Forbidden from interfering, the Sorias house these pilgrims until they can work through the curse of their darkness.
Needless to say, I had very high expectations for this novel. I am a big fan of Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle series and The The Scorpio Races. Conceptually, this book caught my attention immediately. Upon finishing, I must say I'm a bit disappointed.
I liked the book, but it wasn't amazing.
First, I want to address the controversy about cultural appropriation & insensitivity. Personally, I didn't see anything particularly offensive going on in this novel, but I realize I may not have the appropriate knowledge to recognize instances of incorrect representation.
One thing that I didn't love was that one of the characters adopted the name "Diablo Diablo" for his radio personality. This seems to me like a white person's interpretation of something a Latinx person may find "badass."
Say, for example, I was writing about Japanese characters & one of them called herself "Kawaii Kawaii." Would an actual Japanese person find this sensible? I'm not sure, but something about this naming just didn't feel incredibly authentic.
Otherwise, my best advice would be to listen to Latinx reviewers who have actually read this book & see what they have to say about the controversy surrounding this novel. No, not folks who just listened to the interview Stiefvater gave. I'm talking about people who actually read the book.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the book!
The divine writing we've come to expect from Stiefvater absolutely shines through here. I always love how atmospheric her stories tend to be, as that makes easy for me to sink in & get lost in her world building.
While reading, I got the distinct feeling that Stiefvater wanted this novel to be similar to The Raven Cycle in ways that don't necessarily work outside of The Raven Cycle. Even though the plot directions are not comparable, All the Crooked Saints doesn't get its own unique weirdness the way her previous novels have.
There are a ton of lovely ideas floating around all throughout this story; giants & sentient deserts that fall in love & dresses with fluttering butterflies - there's no end to Stiefvater's imagination. But I feel as though the narrative tries too hard to be quirky & philosophical, and thus ends up reading like a beautiful mess without much substance.
Certain aspects of the novel ended up feeling like unnecessary decoration instead of vital inclusions, which in turn causes the novel to lose a bit of its staying power with me.
As pointed out by my friend Melanie, the first 100 pages of this novel are a lot more interesting than the last 200. The pace slows dramatically as it edges toward the conclusion, & while I felt engaged when I was in the book, I had to convince myself I wanted to pick it back up again.
There was a lot of potential for this cast of characters to be highly individual, but unfortunately they end up feeling like distant cousins of characters we have already seen Stiefvater use in her stories. Pete read like a filler Gansey, Beatriz like a more stoic Blue.
The climax was lovely & fascinating, but very narrow in its scope. Complicated consequences for what I (and I think many readers will) consider uncomplicated solutions. Perhaps they would be considered more complicated in the 1960's, but I don't think any of the central conflicts or their resolutions really went there.
Overall, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It has a solid premise, and some beautiful moments here & there, but it doesn't pack the punch of the past favorites I've read from Stiefvater.
Publication Date: October 10th, 2017