I’ve now read quite a few of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, and I feel like I have a decent concept now of where I stand with this author. Going into this book I realized this was a big moment for me where I would either continue trying out her books, or just stop. Before heading into the review, I do want to say that this is my opinion, but I also want to point out that it is now founded over an entire series, two standalones, and now this book, so it isn’t just a one book and done opinion. With that said, I’m still going to be as fair as I can be with this review, and outline what worked for me, and what didn’t.
Shiver is the first book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater, bringing a new take on the concept of werewolves who shift as winter approaches, and it gets cold. In this series we follow two characters, Grace, who was once attacked by wolves when she was little, and Sam, who has been a part of the pack that attacked her since he was a child. Ever since the attack, and his saving of her Grace has always had “her” wolf watching her from the edge of the woods at her house. One day though, a local teen is supposedly killed by the very wolves she’s loved, setting off a wolf hunt. In the hopes of saving them, Grace rushes into the fray only to find a boy who has been shot, but has the same eyes of her wolf.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
I didn’t not like this, in fact there were parts where I was genuinely interested going through the book. For one thing, the whole changing of the concept of how werewolves work had me really intrigued, since most stories tend to stick with the idea of them changing with the cycles of the moon, not the weather cycles. This fact made for some of the more interesting points in the book as we witness Sam’s struggles to remain human in a landscape that is more known for the cold. Sam in particular is probably why I was able to read the book, since his struggles with maintaining his humanity were a big point of interest as we find out that at one point the werewolves do lose the ability to turn back to human. As far as setups go, that made the idea of being a werewolf a lot more terrifying than the versions we see in books like Twilight, or even the Cassandra Clare books since at least they still have a future they can build or look forward to. I wouldn’t say this was the most perfectly executed version of werewolves, or that it all made perfect sense but it was an interesting change to a paranormal creature.
My struggles began though in the pacing, which is also one of the things I would say is distinctly Stiefvater. What I’ve noticed in her books is that she follows a very similar pace. Her stories aren’t the kind where you immediately feel the tension or pick up an overwhelming sense of danger, or even where the action is going to blow your mind. Scorpio Races may end up being the one book of hers I read, and was completely immersed, not once feeling like the pace was too slow or the tension not high enough. Shiver though, feels like one of her earlier novels as it has things going on, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of weight to the events. Yes, it is a book where the character still actively goes to school, and leads a relatively normal life, but there aren’t really any showdowns, or big moments of tension until maybe the 2/3 mark of the book, so it was a little hard to be like yes this completely has my attention. My attention span with this one in fact was a little on the shorter side as we go through chapters of Sam shuffling between the warm car and the warm indoors, scared to be in the cold, and Grace going to school and missing Sam. That felt like the main series of events in this story and it made it hard to get into.
Another point that had me confused, or just questioning the choice was in Grace’s parents. I think this book was written in that period of the 2000’s where it was really popular to have “absent” parents, but these parents were a weird mix of present and absent. Her mother is one of the types where they would rather be your friend than the adult, and the father is more parent-like, but constantly forgetful or just not there, so when he does choose to pay attention or get worried it’s just for the plot. Otherwise they are completely unaware that their daughter’s “boyfriend” sleeps in her room every night, and it’s not because the two teenagers are the best at hiding this. Grace even gets mad at her parents on the occasion that they try to be parent-like, which was just odd all around for me. Just really strange. This was just one more piece of the character situation that I just couldn’t understand or connect with. Most of the characters in general were hard to connect with, besides Isabelle who I’d say reacted normally to finding out your brother was killed by wolves then suddenly seeing him again in the flesh. It was mostly a grouping of characters that didn’t really talk like they should, which started most of the situations they faced.
I think the big take on this book for me was that both style and plot wise Stiefvater just tends to not be my thing. Scorpio Races was a nice exception to the rule, but most of these books tend to be on the slower side with little that I can connect with. I’m happy for all the fans I’ve heard rave about this and her other popular stories, but this one was a true struggle to finish in time before the new year, and while I’m somewhat curious what will happen in the next book it isn’t enough to make me continue with this series. I’ll just finally stop trying to read Stiefvater books. What were your thoughts on Shiver? Is there an author you’ve kept trying to get into? Let me know in the comments below.