“Here is a thing everyone wants:
Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.”
As you all know by now, I am a huge Maggie Stiefvater fan. She is one of my favorite authors of all time, and I think her writing is gorgeous. So you can imagine that All the Crooked Saints is my most anticipated release of the year. I knew nothing about it going in, but I knew I was going to love it. There’s something about Maggie’s writing that makes me instantly fall in love with her books. This one was no different. Let’s talk about all the great things about All the Crooked Saints, and some not so great things about it.
This is a story about the Soria family, who are Saints, and who perform miracles on the pilgrims to come to their home, located in the town of Bicho Raro, Colorado. The story focuses mostly on the Soria cousins: Beatriz, who is a extremly logical person, stuck in her thoughts, Daniel, who is the Saint of Bicho Raro, and Joaquin who is an aspiring pirate radio DJ.
No one writes quite like Maggie. She writes with ease and finesse, and ends up producing the most gorgeous sentences. Her writing is complex and lyrical, but for me personally, it never feels strained or artificial. There’s a organic ease in her writing. When you read her books, there’s a specific feeling she creates and that is the feeling of everything being exactly where it is. Every word feels carefully selected and everything feels so in sync. I read parts of this out loud to myself, and there’s a certain music to the writing, the tone feels very musical. I would love to reread this as an audiobook, because Maggie’s books sound amazing when read out loud.
This is in part because of her writing, but no one, again, creates atmosphere like Maggie. The way she writes magic is something that I love in Raven Cycle, and it’s something that I love in All the Crooked Saints. Maggie’s writing is very whimsical, so the settings she create breathe whimsy and magic. The town of Bicho Raro is full of pilgrims who have different manifestations of their darkness. There’s a priest with a coyote head, twins who are bound together by a vicious snake and a man who grows moss all over his body. It’s weird and curious, but it was really enthralling to read about. I loved the overall premise of it, of these people coming to the Soria family for miracles, but not being fully able to come to terms with their darkness, so they remain there, and Bicho Raro becomes a sort of wayward home to them. Really enjoyed that.
I am not sure this is what it was meant to be, but the darkness that all of the people have inside them feels sort of like mental health issues. And the fact that they come to life and take a physical form and sort of follow around the pilgrims, is very reminiscent of the way mental illness feels to people. It’s like a living thing that you can’t shake off. I maybe reading into it a bit, but that’s how it felt to me, and I really enjoyed that.
I really enjoyed the cast of characters in this book. There were a lot of really intriguing characters, and although there was no room for all of them to be really fully fleshed out and developed, I still enjoyed the idea of them. I will say that the only character I felt completely connected to and emotionally attached to was Beatriz. I felt very connected both to her as a character, and to her family dynamic. Beatriz’s family is something I could really understand and the dynamic between her and her parents and all of them was something that really made my enjoyment of the book a lot greater.
I will point out that some of the characters felt a tad one-dimensional, but I feel like they were done the most justice that the number of pages allowed.
The Time Period
I have to say that I think the time period was managed poorly. This is set in the 60’s but I feel like it could have been set at any time. There’s very little to convey the time period, other than the radio (which is prominent to the story) and the brief mentions of music. If you’ve read The Raven Cycle then you know that it has this ancient feel to it. It’s just how Stiefvater writes. This is true to this story as well, but there wasn’t a lot of stuff to really make you feel like you were in that time period. I just don’t think that was done really well.
Finally, there was a major controversy surrounding the release of this book. Basically, this is a book about Latin American culture and people written by a white author. A lot of people were upset about that, and the book got a lot of negative reviews before anyone even read it, which I don’t think is fair. However, I do completely see the problem people had with that. An author who is white decided to take a story that sort of isn’t hers to tell, so it’s completely understandable that people whose story that in fact is felt angry about it.
I feel like representation and diversity in books by non-diverse authors is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you want to include everyone in the book, but on the other hand, you risk writing something harmful and not great. So it’s a thing that you have to approach mindfully, carefully and respectfully.
I personally feel that Maggie didn’t write something that is blatantly stereotypical or offensive. This felt well researched to me, and it felt like she tried to make it as good as she could. She had sensitivity readers and other people who helped her before and during the writing process. So I don’t think that she put out something that is bad in terms of representation. I did, however, feel that this was written by an outsider. It didn’t feel as natural as I imagine it would be if someone who is Latinx would have written it.
As I am by no means an expert on the subject, nor should I be the judge here, I am linking you to two reviews (the only two I managed to find) by Latinx reviewers on this book. I would really like it if you read them, so you can form your opinion on the book with them in mind. You can find them HERE and HERE.
With all of the above in consideration, I personally enjoyed the book a lot. I read it in two sittings, I liked the premise and the overall plot a lot, and I was completely in love with the writing.
Final verdict: 4 stars
I would love it if you shared your thoughts on the book if you have read it. If you are a Latinx reviewer who has read and reviewed this, I would especially like to hear from you, and I would encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments (and send me links to your reviews so I can include them in my post!).
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