Published by Scholastic Press on October 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from a Blog Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
All the Crooked Saints was my first time reading a Maggie Stiefvater novel so I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. I’ve read tons of rave reviews about The Scorpio Races and The Raven Cycle though so I expected it to be a fantastic read. All the Crooked Saints was actually one of my most anticipated fall reads because the synopsis just sounded so unique and intriguing. With all of that said, it’s safe to say I really wanted to love this book. While I definitely liked All the Crooked Saints, I unfortunately can’t say that I loved it. It was a good, solid read with a focus on family that I really liked, but overall it just didn’t blow me away like I hoped it would.
All the Crooked Saints takes place in Bicho Raro, Colorado, which is shrouded in an atmosphere of dark saints, forbidden love, and so much more. The novel follows the Soria family, a family where each of the members has the special ability to act as Saints and perform unusual miracles. These miracles have become well known enough that pilgrims travel from all around in hopes of securing a miracle of their own from the Sorias to rid themselves of the darkness in their lives. What they don’t know is that the miracles are two-fold, the Saint performs the first part of their miracle, which reveals their inner darkness, but then it’s up to the one receiving the miracle to somehow perform a second miracle, which actually rids them of that darkness once and for all. What has started to happen over the years, however, is that people are having a harder and harder time figuring out the second miracle so the Soria household has started to accumulate an assortment of pilgrims that are caught in limbo between the first and second miracles.
Why can’t they just return to their lives and wait for the second miracle? Well, because the darkness that is revealed by the first miracle sometimes manifests itself in strange ways. For example, there is a young woman named Marisita who is wandering around with basically a rain cloud over her head. It just rains on her all the time – when she sleeps, when she cooks, whatever. There’s also a man walking around that has the head of an animal and the body of a human. Needless to say, these pilgrims would prefer to hide out until their second miracle has been sorted.
So, why can’t the Sorias help them? Well, that’s the catch. If the Sorias interfere with any of the pilgrims, they unleash darkness on themselves and end up in exactly the same predicament as the pilgrims, if not worse. Apparently the Soria darkness can be pretty dangerous and unpredictable when unleashed.
Although the pilgrims and their miracles are definitely a focus of the story, the heart of All the Crooked Saints truly centers around three Soria cousins — Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin — and the journey they are all forced to take when Daniel accidentally unleashes his own darkness and flees Bicho Raro to protect his family from it. As determined as he is to keep them safe from him, they are equally determined to help him by figuring out a way around the rule that says they cannot help to get rid of the darkness. Will they succeed or will Daniel be lost to them forever?
Even though this was only an okay read for me, there were still several things about the book that I really did enjoy. I really enjoyed Stiefvater’s three main characters, the Soria cousins. The relationship between the three cousins was probably my favorite part. Beatriz believes that she has no feelings and therefore throws herself into science, technology, and examining her own thoughts. She’s the brains of their operation and has helped Joaquin, who I’d call the Dreamer of the group, try to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a disc jockey. She has built him an illegal radio station that they run out of the back of a box truck in the desert, and he spins records at night and calls himself Diablo Diablo. Daniel is the designated saint of the group and so his focus is to grant miracles to all of the pilgrims who come to Bicho Raro. I just loved each of their personalities. They were all so complex, unique, and just really likable. I especially enjoyed reading about how loyal they were to each other and how they were willing to risk everything to try to save Daniel. Even though they were just cousins, the bond they shared felt like they were truly siblings.
I also enjoyed the overall plot of the story. Sometimes magical realism is hit and miss for me but I liked how she incorporated it into this story and the way the various miracles manifested themselves with each of the pilgrims. I liked the direction the story took when we move from showing how the Sorias create these miracles to what happens when they break one of their own rules and bring the darkness down onto themselves.
Lastly, I also thought Stiefvater’s writing was gorgeous, very lyrical and filled with vivid imagery. Even though this story was just a ‘like’ for me instead of a ‘love,’ I wouldn’t hesitate to try one of her other series.
Slow pacing was an issue for me while reading All the Crooked Saints. The story thankfully picked up a bit once Daniel got into trouble, but for the most part, it was just a slow read for me.
I also had some trouble keeping track of all of the characters. Between the various pilgrims, the three cousins, and all of the other assorted Soria family members, there were just a lot of people to keep straight. With so many characters, it also made it harder for me to really connect with any of them as much as I would have liked to. As I said above, I really liked Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel, but I still didn’t feel especially close to them because so many other characters were competing for my attention.
All the Crooked Saints is a book about love, family, miracles, darkness, and how to overcome that darkness. Even though I had some issues with the story, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys magical realism or who just enjoys books that focus on family and the trials they go through together. I would also, of course, recommend it to Stiefvater fans.
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.
Maggie Stiefvater has been called “a master storyteller” by USA Today and “wildly imaginative” by Entertainment Weekly. Now, with All the Crooked Saints, she gives us the extraordinary story of an extraordinary family, a masterful tale of love, fear, darkness, and redemption.