“I was looking for a miracle, but I got a story instead, and sometimes those are the same thing.”
That quote is so on point because I opened this novel praying for a miracle that I would somehow like it, and found an amazing story instead.
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.
Trust me when I say no one was more stunned than me when I enjoyed All the Crooked Saints.
My love for this eerie, peculiar novel caught me by complete surprise: since I first heard of the book, I had taken to saying that this was Maggie Stiefvater’s last chance to impress me. After the disaster that was The Raven King, my trust in Stiefvater’s books – particularly her writing – dwindled, and I would have given up her future works if All the Crooked Saints disappointed. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case (because I’m dying to read her Ronan trilogy).
THINGS I LIKED
All the Crooked Saints is very different from Stiefvater’s usual work. The storyline was so fascinating; the blurb is quite vague and doesn’t explain much, but that is most definitely a positive for the book.
The novel is set in a Colorado desert where the Soria family runs a ranch, but their main business is performing miracles on people (pilgrims) who are stuck or depressed with life or who are trying to run away from their lives. The only problem is that once the miracle is performed, it exposes your inner darkness into corporeal form, and the only way for the darkness to disappear is for you to understand the darkness – once that happens, the second miracle takes place and you are healed.
It’s a magical realism novel, so the magic is intertwined with reality which casts a creepy tone throughout the entire book.
“You barter with sadness or you fight with grief or you eat arrogance every morning with your coffee. There are saints in this valley who can heal you. You and every other pilgrim can canter to Bicho Raro to receive a miracle. A miracle, you say? A miracle. This miracle makes the darkness inside you visible in amazing and peculiar ways. Now that you see what has been haunting you, you overthrow it, and then you leave this place easy and free.”
It’s got awesome characters
The characters were the stars of the novel. From the entire Soria family, to the pilgrims, to Pete (who is the best guy ever and deserves to be protected) … everyone was fantastic. Stiefvater has always had great skill with characterisation, but she really outdid herself with All the Crooked Saints.
While there are a lot of POV characters – as the narrator is omnipresent – the four main characters are Beatriz, Daniel, Joaquin, and Pete. Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin are cousins – Beatriz is the girl with no emotions, Daniel is the Saint, and Joaquin is an amateur DJ, while Pete is just in Bicho Raro looking for a truck. Their stories all intertwine in clever ways, and I loved reading them interact and watching their stories evolve.
All the Crooked Saints has a large cast of characters and each of them were different and unique. Stiefvater also took the time to delve into all of the characters’ background stories, making them an integral part of the story.
THINGS I ONLY SORTA LIKED
I don’t think it’s a secret that I have a love/hate relationship with Stiefvater’s writing. I found it very original in the first few Raven Cycle books, but by the time the last book came along, I was exasperated.
In All the Crooked Saints, much of the prose was lyrical and quite beautiful. But it was also peppered with a few lines and metaphors that irked me a little. It was half rambling, half alluring.
Stiefvater is definitely an author whose writing you either love or hate, but I admit that she’s slowly growing on me.
I am not Latinx so I cannot speak to the representation in this novel, but I do know it sparked a divide in the book community. I won’t go into it much because I’m sure we all have a vague understanding of what went down, but for those who don’t know or who were unaware, many people of colour do not trust Stiefvater to write about people of colour or their experiences, and so were wary of this book.
Below is a list of Latinx reviewers writing about their thoughts on the novel, both good and bad.
Here’s also a thread by Maf about the lack of research into Latinx cultures and languages:
I was pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of this novel. While there were bits and pieces that felt awkward and like Stiefvater was trying too hard, for the most part I really liked this book. However, I also think my enjoyment of this book is because I went in with very, very low expectations – like the lowest of the low.
But, All the Crooked Saints has honestly rekindled my love of Stiefvater’s books. I’m really looking forward to her expansion into The Raven Cycle through a trilogy about Ronan, and I can’t wait to read #girlnovel and #foolishnovel.