Title: All the Crooked Saints
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Children’s Books
Release Date: October 10th 2017
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.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
Bicho Raro is home to the Soria family and people have travelled there from all over the world for miracles. However the miracles are never what people expect them to be, and once the pilgrims receive the first miracle they are trapped with their darkness, unable to perform the second miracle that will free them; and because of the curse of their own terrible darkness the Soria’s are unable to help them any further.
All the Crooked Saints follows the story of all the Soria’s and all of the pilgrims at Bicho Raro, but it mainly focuses on the cousins Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin. There are a few mixed reviews for this book, I read a few myself before picking up All the Crooked Saints, so I went into this book with lowered expectations but while the beginning was a little bit of a struggle to get into I ended up loving this book.
It’s the Soria’s one rule; they cannot help the pilgrims that live among them, they can’t even interact with them, for fear of drawing our their own darkness. However when one of their own breaks that rule and walks into the desert to face their darkness the rest of the family are left to face the rules they’ve lived with for so long.
The plot of All the Crooked Saints isn’t one I can easily sum up, like all magical realism books I’ve read to date it’s complicated but there’s so much magic in the writing that it’s created a beautiful story. There is an omniscient narrator, which I know for others has been an aspect of the story they’ve struggled to get into, but in my opinion it added a new depth to the character and story development. With only a short time to build up both I thought one element would be lacking slightly, but neither the characters or the plot were because the omniscient narrator allowed a new level of detail.
The Soria cousins, Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin, are all close. They are looking for different things but with the help of the pirate radio station they run out in the desert in a rundown truck they are all closer to finding them by the end of the book. Beatriz is more silent than not, she is logical and examines her feelings before acting upon them which gives others the impression that she doesn’t have any feelings. Daniel is the Saint of Bicho Raro, and for years he has performed miracles for the pilgrims that come to his home, unable to help them battle the second part of their darkness. Like Beatriz Daniel is quiet but his is a more peaceful silence than logical.
Joaquin is the loud outspoken one in comparison to his cousins, and while Beatriz and Daniel are closer it is still the three of them that make up the heart of this story. Joaquin is the DJ of their renegade radio station, performing under the name Diablo Diablo. He is still working out who he is but he knows who he wants to be and it doesn’t involve staying in Bicho Raro or being forgotten by the world.
The Soria’s are a close family, but there is a tension between them that years of dealing with the pilgrims and a history of facing their own terrible darkness has built up. While All the Crooked Saints is largely about the pilgrims finding their own second miracles and the three Soria cousins it is also about the rest of the family and how Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin’s actions reflect and change them throughout this book.
Pete travels to Bicho Raro not for a miracle but for a truck. Like everyone else who travels to Bicho Raro he is looking for something and also like everyone else who travels to Bicho Raro he doesn’t find what he expects to. Pete was probably my favourite character in this story, he falls in love with the desert and falls in love with Beatriz, and despite his unassuming nature he is almost a source of strength in this book, outside of the darkness and miracles but still affected by them.
While I enjoyed the story it was the characters I loved the most; reading their individual stories made deeper by the omniscient narrator, reading their journeys in this book alone and seeing how they change and develop from beginning to end.
Like all magical realism books there isn’t much in the way of world building. We are simply introduced to a world where miracles are real and there is a family in the heart of the desert who can perform them for you. Still the way the desert and the small home of Bicho Raro was written I fell in love with both, because while we didn’t get much explanation we got plenty of detail which made them feel so real. When it comes down to it I thought this story was a perfect fit for the magical realism genre, because miracles are about faith and shouldn’t really have a scientific explanation behind them, they should be about belief which the magical realism genre allows room for.
I did struggle to get into All the Crooked Saints, but I’ve noticed that’s a trend I’ve experienced with plenty of magical realism books including one of my favourite reads of this year, Wild Beauty. In the end I’m glad I stuck with this book because it was a truly beautiful story that I quickly fell in love with. If you’re a fan of the magical realism genre then this is a book you can’t miss out on.
What did you think of All the Crooked Saints? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.