It was often so easy to identify the darkness from the outside. But from the inside, your darkness was indistinguishable from your other thoughts.
It could take forever to learn yourself.
– Maggie Stiefvater, All the Crooked Saints
I go through phases where all I do is read. And then rather abruptly, I don’t pick up a book for weeks (or months). I read All the Crooked Saints shortly after one of my reading droughts, and I think I was able to appreciate it more because of it.
With a relatively fresh palate, All the Crooked Saints was enjoyed without the shadow of any other read to dull it’s brightness. I transposed the imagery of the Colarado desert onto my living room, as if it were a blank canvas designed for this purpose. I felt the rustling owls as they waited anxiously for another miracle to present itself. And I savoured in the slow burn of the characters’ stories as they ambled toward redemption.
And what fantastic characters! Sweet, naive Pete with a hole in his heart. Logical and thoughtful Beatriz, inexperienced enough to believe she was able to live without emotions. Passionate and creative Joaquin, who wanted so badly to be a famous DJ. Devout and mysterious Daniel, who’s heart was full of the best of intentions. But above all others, my favourite character was the desert.
Pete’s eyes followed not the vehicle as it trundled forward but instead the varied and complicated horizon of the desert. The very last of the sun played over it and every stalk of grass dripped with honeyed light. His back ached and his arms were pebbled with goose bumps, but as he savored the view and sucked in big, juniper-scented breaths, he was still besotted.
The desert, which was not given to sympathy or sentiment, was nonetheless moved, and for the first time in a long time, it loved someone back.
One of the reasons I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is because of how easily she creates worlds that feel tangible. Like I could just reach out and touch them, or somehow find myself transported to them. All the Crooked Saints is no exception, with the expansive and immersive Colorado desert somehow being made to feel familiar. Intimate. Alive.
It was very quiet. No one else would have seen if not for the desert. But when the desert heard Pete Wyatt singing a love song, it took notice. The desert loved him, after all, and wanted him happy. So when it heard Pete singing, it rose a wind around them until the breeze sang gently like strings, and when it heard Pete singing, it provoked the air to heat and cool around every stone and plant so that each of these things sounded in harmony with his voice, and when it heard Pete singing, it roused Colorado’s grasshoppers to action and they rubbed their legs together like a soft horn section, and when it heard Pete singing, it shifted the very ground beneath Bicho Raro so that the sand and the dirt pounded a beat that matched the sound of the incomplete heart that lived in Pete Wyatt.
Taking something that would have been a mere backdrop for most other stories, and turning it into a being with whims and wishes was just…magical. It added another layer to All the Crooked Saints that I found myself looking for, even when the desert was showing it’s more menacing side.
Given the somewhat heavy prose and overly metaphorical metaphors, not everyone will enjoy All the Crooked Saints. But if you’re up for something that feels different. Something that will leave you with a little joy in your heart, I would definitely recommend giving it a shot!