Deirdre is a high-achieving high schooler, on a path toward a conservatory and a professional career as a harpist, with an implied specialization in Irish tunes. Especially reels, she’s very partial to reels. She’s much less partial to puking before every gig, but she does it anyway. Faints, too. Thus, it is unsurprising that the afternoon of a large student competition finds her in a bathroom, puking her guts out. It should be a surprise when a startlingly handsome young man whom she has only seen before in a dream is standing there holding her hair and making sure she doesn’t faint, but Deirdre seems incapable of being surprised by anything done by this mysterious and handsome young man. His name, we learn, is Luke, and he plays a mean flute. Suddenly instead of a solo, Deirdre is signed up to play a duet in the competition (No, that’s not a euphemism. Not entirely, anyway), and with Luke she plays better than she ever has, with mad improvisation skills she hadn’t thought she possessed. Oh, and she starts being stalked by faeries and four-leaf clovers. Which do not exactly bring good luck.
Stiefvater’s faerie lore is well-crafted and believable, with both enough beauty and enough cruelty to be compelling and interesting. I would have loved to see it more fleshed-out, especially as it relates to her family; the women of the family have a very bad history with faeries, but we don’t get enough details of the past two generations to really understand the backstory. Deirdre’s coming into her own magical abilities is also well-done, with the stage of disbelief lasting long enough to be believable but ending before it can become annoying. The resolution is quite clever, with an unexpected but fitting twist.
Much of the focus is on the romance, starting with Deirdre’s immediate trust for a rather suspicious man, moving through a lightning-quick flirtation, and on to a snogging/mad love that changes everything phase that takes up most of the book. It’s all taken a bit too much for granted; of course she trusts him instantly, of course he loves her. The lack of mystery makes it less exciting than I generally expect from a book that revolves so much around the romance.
And then there’s the age gap; he’s 1,348 years old (or possibly 1,348 plus 18 or so, it’s unclear).¹ She is 16. This is perfectly clear. As John Green said, “The reason it’s wrong for old people to have sexual relationships with children is not because we old people LOOK old. It’s because we ARE old.” He’s right. What happened to the rule of (age/2)+7? The youngest Luke should be dating is 674.² Add in his far, far greater knowledge of all this faerie-stuff and Deirdre’s aforementioned placid trust in him, and the result is a lurking uneven power dynamic.
Still, the writing is strong and the book is enjoyable, peppered with surprising moments of humor and clarity. It’s clearly a first novel and Stiefvater improved with Shiver, her werewolf romance novel. Lament now has a sequel, Ballad, and Shiver‘s sequel, Linger, is upcoming; I very much hope her upward trend continues.
²I’m willing to concede that when supernatural ages are involved, this rule may cease to be valid. That said, I’m pretty sure that both people need to be supernaturally aged, or there had better be a pretty compelling explanation for why it’s okay anyway. Lament does not have such an explanation.
Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception