All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Digital Audiobook narrated by Thom Rivera
Published by Scholastic Press on October 10, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Length: 320 pages or 9 hours, 9 minutes
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Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: What it takes to get one.
Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.
At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.
They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.
All the Crooked Saints was such a rollercoaster ride for me. Going into it, I really wanted that same atmospheric magic I found in The Raven Boys but I was a bit hesitant because I’ve read quite a few “I was disappointed” reviews. After I got a little while in – maybe 20% – I decided I wasn’t crazy about the narrator.
Then, the Sorias swallowed me whole.
This novel is so utterly unique in that it is in many ways a familiar story, but embracing a sort of magic in the world that makes it feel completely fresh. It doesn’t have the gang of misfits and gushing love story many of Maggie’s fans have probably come to expect of her, but it’s complex and thrilling. All the Crooked Saints has the feel of perfect legends and folklore and so help me, I really liked it.
The Soria family does not really perform miracles – they help you perform your own miracle. Sometimes, these aren’t what we would expect. After all, they aren’t genies granting three wishes. The things that change our lives often start as something unwelcome that we twist and turn into some revealing and inspirational. In their own way, each of the Soria cousins do this. It’s easy to love Daniel, Beatriz, and Joaquin. Each one of them brings their own twist to the story’s challenge.
I think where All the Crooked Saints shines the brightest is in Maggie’s incredible world building. Bicho Raro is dusty and beautiful all at once. The desert comes to life under Maggie’s pen, and that’s what I really love about her writing. Her atmospheres and aesthetics feels so alive – they are characters of themselves. This is a YA novel set in Colorado in the 1960s, which is ambitious with the modern YA audience. As a result, a lot of people may have difficulty delving into the story because it can feel so far detached from ourselves.
I think my only gripe with this novel – other than the narrator, who I still didn’t love – was the pacing. The story has a very slow start, then it wraps up all at once. The beginning has such a slow, thrumming pace that there were moments before I fell in love with the oddities and the desert landscape that I thought about DNF-ing it. That pacing was ultimately not a killer for me, as once we got to know the pilgrims a little better, it was easier to fall into the aspects of their stories as well.
All the Crooked Saints turned out to be an incredible book filled with questions and colorful characters and a unique setting. Even though I was unsure at first, I ended up loving this book and it’s one I will definitely be adding my shelves.
Do you think you could face your own darkness manifest? So many of the miracles in this book are terrifying – I found the pilgrims especially brave. Tell me your thoughts in the comments!