Review: All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Hello! If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I’ve recently finished Maggie Stiefvater’s new book All The Crooked Saints. This book focuses on the miracle granting Saint of Bicho Raro and the Soria family, the pilgrims that they aren’t allowed to help, and the acceptance of one’s true self. I highly recommend that you pick this book up.

Three things that I loved about this novel are:
1) The ideas presented in the book
2) The symbolism of owls
3) The focus on the family dynamic

I have a habit of always talking about characters when I review books. I think they’re super important in driving the plot and in helping to keep readers engaged. But from now on, I’m going to focus on more specific aspects of novels as well. The characters in All the Crooked Saints blew me away. I have never been as hooked by a first chapter’s introduction to characters. Joaquin was an instant favourite of mine (as someone who is dehydrated far too much, I really connected with him), and Beatriz and Daniel were close seconds. I’ll get to their relationship later on, but needless to say I loved them. I also think using the “here is something they wanted/here is something they feared” tool when introducing characters was brilliant – it’s a great way to introduce characters and show us an intimate part of them without going on and on. Other than the main characters, the minor characters had a surprising amount of depth. I think they were the most human and moving part of the novel – they all had an intense desire to better themselves, but when it came time to do something about it they couldn’t figure out how to or were too caught up in themselves to see what was an obvious answer.

Furthermore, I loved the idea of this book. Maggie has a habit of writing about the strange, the mystical, and the magical. But what I love is that it’s always somewhat adjacent to what’s expected. You want a tale about miracles? You get darkness first. A horse race? It’s deadly and not normal horses. It’s folk tales and twists on mainstream ideas. In All the Crooked Saints, Maggie explores miracles. I love how she made them human, by giving the responsibility of granting them to both a human saint (in this case, Daniel Soria) and also the person requesting the miracle. While the Soria’s might be saintly, there is nothing godly about them – they are as prone to human mistakes, doubts and problems as everyone else. It’s a nice change from the normal ideal that granting miracles makes a person the pinnacle of goodness. It places all of the power and agency on normal people, and shows that anybody can change themselves for the better.

Also, since I love thinking about the symbolism of stuff, I want to talk about the presence of owls. So we know right away that owls are going to be important throughout the novel. Whenever new pilgrims arrive there is a storm of owls towards the Soria’s ranch, owls crowd the Soria’s commune. When I think about owls, my mind is instantly drawn to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom (see where I’m going with this?). Now I know that the Soria’s are in no way attached to Greek mythology, but modern society loves myths. I don’t think it’s a coincidence Maggie chose for owls to be attracted to miracles.

To me the first wave of owls is like the first wave of knowledge that hits pilgrims, but its not from themselves – the Saint gives them this wisdom and makes their darkness clear. Now that they have this piece of wisdom and the manifestation of it, they need to find their own inner wisdom. The owls stay at the commune as a constant reminder to keep searching for this inner knowledge, and as a sign that the wisdom they’re seeking is within them. This connection becomes even more apparent when Beatriz and Daniel face their own owls. They have to understand that they aren’t an adversary to overcome, but rather a part of them that needs to be recognized.

And finally, and perhaps one of my favourite aspects of this book was the exploration of family relationships. The Soria family’s history was explored in depth, in both the far and recent past, which was so interesting. It showed what a strain being Saints had on the family, and how even though they may seem to be on top of their stuff, they really really aren’t. This family had so many interpersonal issues that I was stressed. But in the end no relationship was too far gone to be salvaged, their love manifested itself in ways that weren’t always clear cut, and Maggie wrote a beautiful narrative on how grief can really effect even the closest of relationships. Relationships outside of the Soria’s were also well developed, with Marisita’s family description was heartbreaking and beautiful. When I read it all I wanted to do was hug her. Pete’s relationship with his family was also such an interesting dynamic to discover – that despite absolute love and support, that wasn’t what he needed at the time.

But perhaps for my the most endearing relationship was Beatriz’s and Daniel’s. As soon as the books talked about how they didn’t expect either to change, and how they could sit in silence and be perfectly comfortable with each other, I was sold. Hook, line, and sinker. Those are the most beautiful relationships for me, where you don’t need to force conversation to be comfortable in the moment, and you fully understand someone else.

I’m a little sad that this is a one-off book, but I can’t wait to see what Maggie writes next! Overall, a 5/5 for me.

That’s it for now loves, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
– Mon

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