Hello humans. Bit of a tricky one here…not sure how to start it. I guess transparency is the issue of the day. I bought this book before I had come across any of the controversy surrounding Maggie Stiefvater and this book. I don’t want to get into that here, and people have put it far better than I ever good on their own websites so if you are interested a quick search should set you up. I was debating not reviewing this book but I’m trying to review everything I read this year so it felt like cheating not to do so. In light of that, I want to make it clear that I recognise that the cultural appropriation in this novel isn’t ok, and Stiefvater’s response (or lack of) is equally unacceptable. A book is still a book, however, and so I’m going to review this 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.
The first thing that strikes me about this book is the interesting format, it certainly stands out on a shelf. Neither a positive nor a negative but I’d be fascinated to know what made the publisher decide to publish in these dimensions?
Next up I’ll say that this book is quite…flowery. Not just the cover. If you dislike long winding metaphors and descriptions as well as some abstract moments that only make sense quite a long way down the line then don’t attempt reading this. I personally don’t mind a certain amount of purple prose but this is quite a slow building story and it does get a little frustrating at times.
This book has magic and yet is set in the real world, there are a few parts of the worldbuilding that fall a little flat. For instance, I didn’t get a sense of whether the miracles in Bicho Raro were understood by the rest of the world or whether they were somehow hidden. How aware of magic/miracles was the world? It feels a bit as though this is one idea that got fleshed out into a novel, weaving in some other strands as and when they were needed.
For instance, I loved the idea of the pirate radio station, I loved the idea of owls being attracted to miracles, I loved the idea of people having to reach the core of their problems and those problems being manifested as miracles. Those are all great ideas but they don’t necessarily make a great novel?
People have described this book as very fairytale-esque or akin to poetry and I can see why for some this will be a wonderful and thought-provoking read. For me, however, it was a bit too slow for me to really get excited about the lives of these characters and the whole thing felt a little too shallow.
My rating: 3/5 (it’s fine but not worth writing home about)
All opinions are my own
What say you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! How do you deal with reviewing books by problematic authors?