Friday, 8 April 2011

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Book 1 of 3
 ‘Shiver’.  And I certainly did.  Shiver that is!  I read this book in one sitting with my heart sitting firmly in my mouth!  What a find.

Maggie Stiefvater’s ‘Shiver’ follows the story of Grace.  Attacked as a child in her own garden by wolves, Grace is saved by a member of the pack; a strange yellow-eyed wolf.  Despite the attack, Grace remains fascinated by the wolves in the woods at the back of her house.  She is strangely drawn to one wolf in particular and winter after winter she sits on her porch and watches her yellow-eyed wolf.  In return, he watches her.  However, things become dangerous when a local boy is killed and suspicion falls on the wolves.  In her attempts to save the wolves, Grace stumbles across a boy, a boy with brilliant yellow eyes, lying naked on her porch with a shotgun wound.

Stiefvater’s take on werewolves is fascinating and unique.  Those that are bitten spend every winter, as the season becomes colder, as a wolf.  As the world thaws and summer returns, they return to human form.  While in wolf form the memories and desires of their human life fade and the nature of the wolf dominates.  As the years pass their time as a human becomes shorter and shorter until eventually only the wolf remains.  For the first time I really felt that an author portrayed the “curse of the werewolf” as exactly that!  This wasn’t some fun adventure where once a month you got to run around and howl at the moon.  Stiefvater brings to harrowing life the crushing sense of loss and a life left unfulfilled through the character of Sam, Grace’s werewolf, who wants nothing more than to be human and to be with Grace.

The narrative voice is equally divided between the two main characters: Grace and Sam.  I thought this worked well as both characters are fully realised and their two perspectives complement each other beautifully. In Grace, Maggie Stiefvater has created a protagonist who is determined and knows her own mind.  She has had little choice in this as, while she shares a house with her parents, she doesn’t share their lives and has had to raise herself.  When Sam’s narrative voice takes over I could barely keep from crying.  Time is running out for Sam.  Each year he spends less and less time as a human and Sam suspects this will be his last human year.  His grief is palpable and a bittersweet melancholy threads through his narrative as he deals with finding Grace and the knowledge that he will lose her all too soon.

Maggie Stiefvater perfectly captures the seemingly doomed love between Grace and Sam.  Their quiet desperation, as time passes and winter encroaches further into their lives, is heartbreaking.  Steifvater writing style is quite lyrical and beautifully descriptive, as she slowly details the growing relationship between the two lovers. The constant danger posed by the cold made winter itself almost a living presence within the novel and I found myself actually viewing the cold as a character – one I definitely wasn’t rooting for!

While the story of Grace and Sam takes centre stage there are a number of secondary characters who add breadth to the plot.  My favourite has to be Isabel: sharp, sassy and with a fabulous line in sarcasm that left me smiling but also glad she wasn’t aiming that sharp tongue at me!  There are many interesting revelations throughout the novel, all of which add interest and depth to the main plot.

For me, this is a book for my ‘keeper’ shelf!

1 comment:

  1. As I mentioned the other day I was much less keen on this than you were but really enjoyed reading your review!