Saturday, 20 August 2016

Why You Should Be Reading Wolves of Mercy Falls

Three weeks ago I met Maggie Stiefvater.


She came to Glasgow on The Raven King book tour and spoke for about an hour. She was not, in fact, speaking about TRK, but rather giving us a whimsical and hilarious batch of stories from her life. I mean, she was really doing stand-up. Needless to say, it was brilliant.

Afterwards there was a signing, and CHECK THIS OUT:



AND I SPOKE TO HER! I thanked her for TRC, and told her she'd inspired me as a writer, and told her I had just started my second novel (it was Day 2 of SITC when I saw her). And she told me that writing books gets faster! I was like

SHE WAS SO WISE.
Anyway. Whilst I could just fangirl incoherently about Maggie until kingdom come, I am going to give my fangirling a shape: a list! I know it was the TRK book tour, and I could talk about TRC until I were blue in the face, but a) I've done that a lot already and b) we all already love TRC. So instead I'm going to talk about her other, less famous four-book series, the one we may slightly have forgotten amidst our cries of “GANSEY! GANSEY!" I just finished these books recently, and now I shall inform you Why You Should Be Reading Wolves of Mercy Falls.

1. The Characters
Seriously, though. Increasingly I feel that YA has about two male characters and one female and they just get recycled with different names and stupid eye colours. (You know. Turquoise and gold. Pine green. Onyx. Not that I'm looking at anyone in particular on the eye colour thing COUGH THRONE OF GLASS COUGH COUGH.) Not so Wolves! Stiefvater's characters are all completely individual, pulsing on the page.

Sam is completely adorable, and I love the contrast between him and Grace.

“Sensitive," I tried.
“Squishy," Sam translated.
“Creative."
“Dangerously emo."
“Thoughtful."
“Feng shui."
I laughed so hard I snorted.
“How did you get feng shui out of thoughtful?"
“You know, because in feng shui, you arrange funiture and plants and stuff in thoughtful ways.”
// Shiver

He is an artist, she a scientist; both have struggled with their parents in different ways, which has led them to be the people they are. Grace wants to have her own flat with a red kettle. Trust me, THEY'RE THE BEST.

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Then we have Cole and Isabel. In many ways, they are very similar to each other. Isabel's sass is second to none -- she is an inspiration:

“Here, when I say panini, people say bless you." // Shiver

but oh how much wreckage she also carries with her:

The others slithered and crawled ... unaware that in order to really get my look, you had to accessorise with death in the family and generalised heartbreak. // Sinner

Teresa. Nearly.:
[source]
Cole is the same; the confident rock star, beloved of millions, and a train wreck underneath.

He had the best smile in the world, and lots of people had told him about it. His awareness of the smile's charms should have diminished its power, but that casual arrogance was part of its glory. // Sinner

Neither Cole nor Isabel are, perhaps, as easy to like straight off as Sam and Grace, but they are both so incredibly real. They work their way into your heart, unstoppably.

30 Amazing Neon Light Typography Designs:
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Then we have the minor characters, my favourite being Leon.

His eyelids were half-hearted tents pitched over his red eyes. He was a dismal inhabitant of a suit unhappy to house him. // Sinner

Stiefvater's minor characters are not just placeholders, they're not just names, they're not just one sentence descriptions or family members she shoves in there for some sham facsimile of reality. Every single one is unique and excellent. I love Leon so much, seriously. He only has about three scenes.

2. The Setting

The first three books take place in Mercy Falls, Minnesota, the fourth in Los Angeles, and every setting in every place feels completely, immersively, tangibly real.

Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver:
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THIS IS IT, THIS IS THE DISTINCTIVE DESCRIPTION OF SMALL BOOKSHOPS. DONE.
AND THIS IS IT, LOS ANGELES BY NIGHT, CONCLUSIVELY. This is the first page in the art journal I've been promising to start for about three years.
Anyway, setting is one of my favourite things about Wolves of Mercy Falls. Stiefvater's writing is transportative. 

3. The Romance

 :
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You're like a song I heard when I was a little kid, but forgot I knew until I heard it again." // Shiver

The two romances are totally different from each other; I cannot work out which one I love more.

Maggie Stiefvater - "He'd only been gone two seconds, but the room got brighter…:
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Sam and Grace are a really refreshing couple, because their love is sweet and beautiful and not the angst-ridden torment that seems to be YA standard. And then you have Isabel and Cole, whom I can best describe as asdglkjgadg///.

by Jane W. Sheldon:
[source] // Jane W Sheldon // I properly love this illustration

hardtshapedbox:
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4. The Magic

Shiver gets marketed as “for fans of Twilight", and when I say werewolf you may well think Jacob Black. But this could not be further from the truth. Wolves of Mercy Falls is not about hot boys who keep ripping their clothes off to reveal their abs, and also sometimes turn into wolves. The wolf aspect is very interesting, because it's really about humanity; what does it mean to be human? What is love? Is love inherently human? If part of you is a monster, are you still human? What is the essence of your humanity? It's so well done.

5. The Music
 
Both Sam and Cole are songwriters. Which is, you know, awesome.

Sam Roth. SHIVER. My all time favourite chapter.:
[source] // Sam's lyrics in Shiver

Fire on Ice:
[source] // this picture makes me think of Cole
Lovers and lawyers
Lips and teeth
Tally that memory
Give it a price
Is that your dream?
// Cole's lyrics in Sinner

6. The Poetry

As if he weren't a babe enough, Sam loves poetry and quotes it often.

And leaving you (there aren't words to untangle it)
Your life, fearful and immense and blossoming,
so that, sometimes frustrated, and sometimes
understanding,
Your life is sometimes a stone in you, and then,
a star.
// Rainer Maria Rilke, as quoted in Shiver

by pedroyarbide:
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Wolves of Mercy Falls is a very important series, and whether you want beautiful writing, beautiful characters, beautiful romance, beautiful setting, it's all there. I am convinced that Maggie Stiefvater is the best YA writer around. It's not just hype. I promise.

~***~

Remember that time when I didn't blog or read blogs for three weeks? As in ... I haven't blogged or read blogs for three weeks. This is not what I meant to happen, but I've been working full weeks (I have a new job) and also led on an SU camp. I am absolutely Chinese lacquered (my fave expression), but tomorrow I'm going to Skye for two weeks -- bliss! -- so hopefully I'll be showing my face around the internet again. General updates from my life: work is meh, SITC is powering ahead and I've read some great books. Thank you and goodnight.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing a little bit about Maggie! sounds interesting. I am glad about your new job and I hope you enjoy it my friend!
    Blessing

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    1. Thanks, Delvalina! Hope you're doing well <3

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  2. I'm so jealous! That's really cool that you got to see her, let alone talk to her and have her sign your book. She is easily one of the best YA writers working now.

    I'm in the middle of The Raven King right now... and somehow I haven't read the final book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I need to get to that as soon as possible. Also have you heard the two official recordings of "Summer Girl"? One is featured in the Forever book trailer and is performed by Jonas and Plunkett (you can also hear the full version here). The other version is by Sulaiman Azimi. I like both of them, but personally I'm convinced that the ultimate would be the guitar work from Azimi's with the vocals from Jonas and Plunkett. :)

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    1. It was a delight to meet her! I actually have Ashley to thank, she mentioned in an email that she'd seen Maggie was coming to Glasgow and was I going? And I hadn't even heard about it but I shrieked and found the website and bought tickets in a flash!

      AARHHH! Are you enjoying it?! I'm still processing it, tbh. Can't wait to reread TRC. Ugh, but Sinner is so good -- for me, WoMF got better with each book! I have not heard those, but thanks for the links! I'm going to listen tomorrow -- having a mare with my headphones and my fam are asleep. I'm excited, though!

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  3. What luck!

    So far I am loving it, it's so good to be back!

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    1. I listened to the songs, I think I definitely prefer Azimi's, though to me the song is a lot more wistful and less upbeat than either of those. They were both nice. Thanks for the heads up!

      I'm so glad! You'll have to keep me updated ...

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  4. Hmm, this book does sound interesting. I hope work becomes less "meh" for you.

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    1. THEY'RE SO GOOD. I promise. Thanks, Patrick! :)

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  5. *SHRIEKS FOR 10000 BILLION YEARS* YOU MET MAGGIE STIEFVATER!! THAT IS MY DREAM!! YOU LUCKY BEAN YOU!! FAJDSAKFLD Okay so I will talk and flail and rabidly howl about Stiefvater books until I'm blue in the face too. We absolutely have this in common. *nods* And I love Shiver. I don't understand why it's not as loved as The Raven Boys??? Like Cole/Isabel are one of my top OTPs in existence. And Sam is so adorable and sensitive and squishy and I want to squish him and fajdsklad the wolf aspect kind of broke my heart. AND ALSO SAM'S TRAGIC CHILDHOOD MAKES ME SO SAD I JUST WANT TO SQUISH HIM WAIT DID I SAY THAT ALREADY.
    I REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVE THIS SERIES. <3
    THIS POST IS PEREFECTION

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    1. I KNOW RIGHT?! I think I love TRC the most because it was my first Stiefvater love and Cabeswater is my favourite thing EVER, but the characters in Wolves are just the absolute BEST and OTPs forever and ever and ever! I LOVE SAM SO MUCH I CAN'T BEAR IT. IT'S SUCH A GOOD SERIES. GAH.

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  6. *internal screaming* YOU GOT TO SEE MAGGIE S.!! GREAT EXCITEMENT ALL AROUND!!

    Ahem, so you can talk about TRC until you're blue in the face? Em, I certainly do not want you have a blue face. That could have fatal implications. Buuuut do I spy a pun? Because I really wanted to laugh at that and then wondered if I was actually supposed.

    But to actually say something relevant to the topic. A long time ago, I DNFed Shiver. Now don't gasp too much. I loved the writing (how can someone not like Maggie S.'s writing? It's gold!). And the characters were superb! It was the sex scene. I'm not really into sex scenes. Usually, I just skip or skim over them, but I think at that time I had recently read a bunch of books with sex scenes consecutively and I was just sick of it after awhile. I've considered revisiting the series though. Because Maggie S.! The writing is just glorious and the characters are so real. I also enjoyed the werewolves because, like you said, the werewolves weren't meant for some mindless sensual appeal. It was about what it means to be human. And Sam is definitely adorable. I love that quote wherein Grace is defining him and he is redefining her definitions. (But of course, I liked ALL the quotations.) And he likes books and works in a bookstore! The ultimate book dragon dream: get paid to be around books.

    I also want to read The Scorpio Races. It sounds good. Have you read it?

    Excellent post! I hope everything goes well with you and all the business of life. :)

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    1. I KNOW! Aand it was you who put me onto her being in Glasgow so THANKS FRIEND, YOU'RE A TRUE MATE. <3

      THAT WAS AN UNINTENTIONAL PUN BUT YES OH MY GOSH THAT'S BRILLIANT. I'm dying laughing, thank you for bringing that one into my life. (Also, fun fact from Maggie's talk, which is that her favourite painter is John Singer Sargent. So who do we think Blue is named after??!)

      Yes, I remember you telling me that once. I was considering discussing it in this post but decided against. So. I was disappointed, when reading Shiver, to find the sex scene. I think that within the canon of YA Stiefvater's messages are more positive than most: Sam and Grace fall in love first, sleep together after, and there's a bit where Cole and Isabel nearly sleep together when they don't really know each other, but then they don't, and I was cheering for that. Of course, that doesn't justify it, but I think she is holding onto some sense of morality, at least more than many other authors. Ultimately my view on sex in books is this: if the author isn't a Christian, I'm not going into the book expecting them to share my worldview, and I don't want to view sex scenes as being worse than, say, murder, or lying, or one character refusing to forgive another, or whatever else is going on. Because they're not worse, they're just a different kind of sin. I think it would be naive of me to expect Stiefvater or any other non-Christian writer to treat sex in the same way I do. But I would still, of course, rather the scenes weren't there. That's the thing (one of the things) I like about TRC -- because of the no-kissing rule, we know that there aren't going to be sex scenes, and I was very happy in that knowledge as I read through the series!

      I guess the bottom line is: be discerning. Is the book changing your mindset? Are you able to evaluate the book critically? Is the enjoyment and literary merit of the book outweighing the sin therein -- that is, can you detach your feelings about the sex scene from your other enjoyment of the book -- or is reading the book just going to be unhelpful for you? And that differs from person to person, I think. We each need to know ourselves be careful.

      I LOVE THE REDEFINING THE DEFINITIONS. They're the best :3

      I have not but I do have it and am excited to read it!

      Thank you. And you <3

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    2. Puns are the best. The onlyest thing I love about working in the writing lab is that most of my co-workers are pun lovers too. (Really? That's so awesome! Of course, Blue would be named after an artist.)

      I actually agree with EVERYTHING you said. Sometimes I just reading a lot of. . . I don't want to say immoral books? But you know what I mean. After awhile it wears me out and exhausts me and I just need to take a step back and breathe some fresh air? If that makes sense. But I do agree. It's pointless to expect others to uphold my own values in their writing; that doesn't even make sense to think something like that. XD

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    3. Other pun lovers?? Sounds delightful! (I wish I could think of a pun, but ... I can't. Ah well.)

      Fresh air is good, yes! And if you've been exposed to a lot of something for a while it can become wearying.

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  7. Your so lucky that you got to meet her, I still haven`t read this series yet. I plan to.

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  8. So cool that she signed your book(s)! *dreams of having an awesome signature like that for future book signings*

    I laughed at the stupid eye colors thing. YES.

    I like the sound of the varied characters and the songs/poetry and the different take on werewolves! I'm not usually into werewolves/vampires/Twilight/that kind of thing, but if this series deals with it more as the "what it means to be human" aspect, I could enjoy that.

    First gotta finish The Raven Cycle, though!

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    1. I know! Haha, same XD

      I KNOW RIGHT?!

      Me neither, but she does it soooo well. But yes, TRC first!

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  9. OK FINE YOU'VE CONVICED ME. Although I have to get ahold of The Raven King first, otherwise I'll explode because I can't find the darn book anywhere.

    BUT YOU *MET* MAGGIE STIEFVATER????? *screams* (And I laughed out load with that Dr Strange pic, btw.)

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    1. HA YOU'RE WELCOME. Wait whaaat you've not read it?? JUST BUY IT, MAN, IT'LL BE WORTH IT I PROMISE.

      YEAH I DID. Hmm ok this is a case of me using gifs without knowing their sources ... ~shuffles feet in embarrassed fashion~

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Thanks for commenting! :)