Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
First published: August 1st 2009, Scholastic Press
Edition: ebook, 301 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Age group: Young Adult
Rating: ★ ★ ★
11-year old Grace is snatched from her tire swing by a pack of wolves. Hungry due to the cold winter with nowhere to find food, they almost tear her apart. Only one wolf with bright yellow eyes stays aside and watches how the girl doesn’t make any attempts to save herself.
17-year old Grace is strangely obsessed with wolves. She likes the smell of their fur, and the woods drag her in with their tall trees. golden leaves and the sense of freedom. She can tell any member of the pack from the other by now, but the wolf with yellow eyes is the one Grace is most attached to. The wolf watches her from the woods every winter, rarely coming closer and letting Grace touch his fur and memorize his smell. Then he would mysteriously disappear when spring comes till the next cold season.
The people of Mercy Falls, though, are not that impressed with the wolves. In fact, they are set to get rid of them once and for all, when a boy from Grace’s school is supposedly killed by one of them. Desperate to save from being shot that one wolf she cares so much for, Grace runs into the woods only to later find him in front of her house. His yellow eyes and the smell are the only indications of who he is, as now he’s no longer a wolf, but 18-year old boy Sam.
The wolves in this town are not regular wolves, as all of them are actually people, who after being bitten keep shifting from their human forms to wolves for several years until one last shift would take them out of the world of people forever. For Sam and some other members of the pack this is the last year.
Having watched each other from afar for 6 years, Sam and Grace are very comfortable together, and their relationship quickly grows into love. But the constant threat of Sam turning into a wolf forever doesn’t go away. The only way to prolong Sam’s staying as a human is to keep him warm, but winter is quickly approaching, cold being the defining and initiative factor for the transformation. There’s only one person who never changed after having been bitten, and it’s Grace. Will she be able to find the reason behind this and keep Sam with her?
I read a lot of bad reviews about Shiver on the Internet, and while it does remind of Twilight in some way, on the whole the story is not that disappointing. It gives a pretty solid and well thought-through plot, and while it doesn’t contain much action scenes, it’s not boring. Slightly predictable, yes, but not to the point where I would abandon the book.
The wolves of Mercy Falls are very interesting and more believable species by description than those of Twilight or even it’s vampires. The reason is in the simplicity. There’s no author’s over thinking about the wolves’ nature. The facts are as straight and simple as can be – when it’s cold the bitten ones change into wolves and in summer they are back as humans again. The way the wolves communicate is similar to that of Twilight’s wolves, yet is described better. They just pass pictures in their minds, nothing specific. They are animals after all, they can’t have serious talks with each other, because when they shift their minds shift too, become those characteristic of animals.
As the time of the year is vital to the lupine population, the story’s primal accent is on the temperature, which is indicated at the beginning of every chapter. It’s mostly cold throughout the story, so no wonder about the title. I did shivered when reading it, the atmosphere of cold winter, snow and wind, seemed to seep from the pages. And maybe because I was reading this book during cold winter evenings, just like Sam trying to keep warm myself, the atmosphere felt very real yet cozy to me.
Of course, some points of the story seemed off for me. Like Grace’s obsession with the wolf in the beginning. At that stage of the story, where I didn’t know the reason behind it, this fact seemed really creepy and nearly turned me off the book. Than, speaking of most Young Adult fantasy novels, why is it whenever the girl’s boyfriend is some mysterious creature, her parents are always either oblivious to them or just don’t care? Grace’s parents were practically non-existent, sometimes I would just forget she had them at all, when Sam would spend nights in her house without being noticed. I wonder what would turn out of such stories if the parental units actually took parts in their kids’ lives.
I can’t say I loved Shiver, yet it’s an OK story with just enough mixture of love story, fantasy and adventure. And while it doesn’t give anything new to the genre, it’s a quick and easy read you can cover in just one day or read before bed as it’s calm and cozy. I would probably read the other books in the series just to have a closure on the story and make sure that Sam would stay human and with Grace. It’s predictable, but still…