Since I found out about Ballad, it’s been on my most-anxiously-awaited sequels list for the year. I was surprised at how much I liked its predecessor Lament, since it was a stretch outside of my reading box. I wasn’t sure if the under-the-hill, dark fairy fantasy was for me, but it turned out to be the beginning of a love for all books fairy. Ballad, too, was not quite what I expected, but it was a pleasure to have my at times limited imagination outstretched again.
In Lament, Deirdre (Dee) Monaghan and her childhood buddy James Morgan discovered the hard way that the teachers at the elite musical school Thornking-Ash wouldn’t be the only ones listening in. At the outset of Ballad, a new school year has arrived, and it’s no different: They are still after them. One singular kind of soul-sucking faerie named Nuala in particular, and it’s James she’s after. For he’s gifted, and she will survive only as the muse to his music. But James is prepared this time, and knows to keep his distance from any of Nuala’s kind. Besides, he has other worries. James is still lovesick over Dee, and he has to find a way to pass his classes and learn how to play the piano, since there’s no bagpiper teacher at the school that can match him. But with Dee never around, little by little James lets Nuala in, and he’s surprised by what he finds, and what he must do.
When I first found out that Ballad was about James and thus more of a companion book rather than a sequel, I have to admit my excitement for it waned just a bit. I was so looking forward to more Luke, and there really wasn’t enough of James in Lament for me to like him. He was no more than Dee’s joke-cracking, lighthearted best friend (with potential). Little did any of us know he would be so fierce and have so much more emotional depth. Fittingly, James became the best part of this book. He has so much going for him in the way of cool and interesting I couldn’t help but root for him. I mean, who’s instrument of choice is the bagpipes these days, let alone a funny, self-deprecating teenager? I wanted to hate Nuala at first, but I eventually warmed up to her as well. Her strength and tough, take-nothing attitude made for some smart exchanges with James. Dee, though in the background, also took me aback with some of her decisions. Apparently there are more books planned, and I can’t wait for more James, Dee, and (hopefully) Luke.