I was looking forward to this book so much I almost couldn’t bring myself to start it, for fear it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
But Stiefvater has managed the near impossible: created a novel even more compelling and heart-breaking than Shiver, the first in this series (released last year – my review and Stiefvater’s atmospheric trailers for both books can be found here).
(If you haven’t read Shiver and intend to, stop reading here because there are unavoidable spoilers for that book below).
Linger continues the story of Sam and Grace: “a boy who used to a wolf and a girl becoming one”. In Shiver, werewolf Sam becomes human in the middle of winter and falls in love with Grace, the girl he rescued from his pack years before. But their relationship is overshadowed by the fear Sam may not be able to hold his human form for long, and that he may have turned human for the last time. Sam must fight his nature – and the dropping temperature – to stop himself returning to the wild forever.
If Shiver was all about love, loyalty and freedom of choice, Linger is about grief, loss and escape. But despite the themes, it’s far from depressing. Rather it is beautifully and poetically melancholic, in that wonderful way only Stiefvater can deliver.
Sam is now firmly in his human skin, but it’s Grace whose future is in doubt as it seems the wolf bite from her childhood may finally be claiming her. And into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, a young man full of hurt and anger. He’s desperate to remain in the oblivion his wolf form offers, until Isabel – in her indomitable way – challenges his weakness.
Each character faces intensively personal battles: For Sam, it’s dealing with the loss of his “family”, most of whom he’ll never see in human form again, as well as his fear of losing Grace. For Grace, it’s the fear of what she’s becoming and the real possibility she may die. For Cole it’s finding the courage to stop running away from the carnage he’s wrought in his life and others; and for Isabel, it’s allowing herself to connect to others.
Sam and Grace’s story is still the heart and soul of Linger, but Cole and Isabel’s antagonistic attraction – two incredibly selfish people desperate to keep the upper hand – is a compelling counterweight.
And as Cole’s background unfolds, it’s obvious he’s been a prize tool as a young rock prodigy caught in the world of sex and drugs, which makes his small steps towards the redemption at the end of Linger so rewarding.
Music again plays a strong part in this story, even though we can’t hear it. And the poetry of Stiefvater’s writing – and her gift for unsentimental poignancy – continues to set her writing apart.
Hers are stories to savour, not devour, and – like Shiver – Linger is a wonderfully tactile reading experience.
This second instalment ends on a note of hope, leaving much to be resolved in the third (and final) novel, Forever, due out next year. It’s going to be a long wait…