Stiefvater’s latest novel was something I had been waiting for since it was announced. I have not been over the Raven Cycle series, of course, and a standalone book about miracles and owls written in her style was exciting. The story is pretty simplistic in that there is a town in New Mexico where a family of saints perform miracles for you to be able to see your darkness, but they cannot help you vanquish it directly. Beatriz’s generation of the Sorias have been seeing an influx of these pilgrims but many of them haven’t performed their second miracle (the one in which they banish their darkness) and left, making the three cousins wonder if this is the right way to go about their family business.
The start of the book involves the introduction of two new characters to the town – Tony,a radio show host as a pilgrim, and Pete, a young man who is about a truck. The story is told in an omniscient third person narrative, so in the audiobook you get Thom Rivera narrating the story of the Sorias in a lightly amused tone, and which often feels like he is telling you to come by and listen to a bedtime story. Honestly, the best part of the book may have been the narration, because it brings out the whimsy of a modern fairytale, which is what the story is more like, rather than an urban fantasy. The characters are described as fallible humans, who, over the course of the book, undergo self-introspection and realize truths about themselves and the world. It is light-hearted, though, for the most part, with humor injected into most chapters.
The story, overall, feels very simplistic, however. I don’t know if it is because it was a standalone, or because most of the book goes into the characters, or because I expected more, but the story feels very rudimentary, in a way. It feels like a slice of a larger story. The writing is more atmospheric than any of her books earlier, and she often uses her style of repeating phrases to create emotion or significance in the text. It is a nice story to hear, but probably not as much fun as only reading, if you get my meaning. Eventually, I was hovering at a 3.5 stars by the end of the book, but I couldn’t make myself round it up to 4 stars for Goodreads, so here is where we are. A well-written book, but if you have read The Scorpio Races or the Raven Cycle, it feels lacking.
It behooves me to inform readers that this book has been controversial for the author’s misappropriation of Mexican culture as well as magical realism. Since I am neither Mexican or Latinx, I will not comment on whether I found the rep to be respectful, but I do acknowledge that multiple people have spoken about it and that their concerns are valid. That being said, I have mostly read this as a work created by a white author in a genre that is inherently not hers, a white author writing about POC and so I would advise you to read it in that vein, rather than an exploration of Mexican culture.