Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous book, Shiver. There’s simply no good way to discuss Linger without them.
You could stop with Shiver. You really could. It ends on a tentative note of happiness, and it’s easy to imagine that everything worked out OK after that. Sure, there are a few loose ends: Isabel’s dad is still itching to shoot some wolves, the lycanthropy cure is incredibly dangerous and might have unintended consequences, and Grace and Sam have developed a relationship that they’re still considered too young to have. But you could turn the last page of Shiver and be satisfied, and hopeful for Grace and Sam’s future.
In Linger, Maggie Stiefvater takes all those loose ends and unravels them further. This is a darker book, and a messier one. By that, I don’t mean the writing is messy. I mean the characters’ lives are messy, and in ways that won’t be easily resolved. As I finished reading Linger, I found myself wondering how Stiefvater will write her way out of the situation she has set up — and there’s always the possibility that she won’t, and that it will end tragically for our protagonists.
The story picks up a few months after Shiver ends. Stiefvater, as usual, does a stellar job of immersing us in the season. Shiver is a winter book; the faerie novel Ballad is an autumn book, and Linger is set in the first, muddy days of spring. Nature is almost a character in its own right in Stiefvater’s books, and the reader can never forget what time of year the events are taking place.
Grace and Sam have settled into a comfortable relationship, but Sam is still trying to wrap his mind around the idea of being cured, of actually having a future as a human being. Meanwhile, Grace is experiencing strange symptoms of illness, and Isabel has found a dead wolf at the edge of her family’s property, cause of death unknown. Into this mix comes a new character, Cole, who in his late teens is already a washed-up rock star. He rose to fame rapidly, then crashed and burned just as spectacularly, and would have died of an overdose if he hadn’t been bitten and turned into a werewolf.
Stiefvater’s plots tend to be of the slow-burn variety, and this is no exception. There’s a lot of talking and a lot of introspection, but this is how Stiefvater builds up her characters so that the reader is fully invested in them by the time all hell breaks loose. It took me a little while to warm to Cole; he’s been an arrogant, self-pitying SOB for years and doesn’t change overnight. He does become more palatable once he meets Isabel. She has just the right type of personality to stand up to him, and by the end, he becomes a character worth rooting for.
It does get a little frustrating watching the characters make mistake after mistake. There were times I wanted to shout through the pages at the characters. Even Isabel, who’s usually the sensible one in this bunch, is still feeding wolves on her family’s land even though she knows her dad wants some more heads for his trophy room. Yet the characters’ mistakes are understandable, even when the reader can see what the consequences will likely be.
The plot gathers steam slowly but inexorably, finally building to a moment when an impossible choice must be made. Stiefvater is so good at these moments! I’ll admit, though, I liked Shiver a little bit better. Part of that is that, well, I’m a sap. I liked the ending of that book. If Shiver is a fairy tale of sorts, Linger has more of the untidiness of real life (despite the fantasy elements). I also liked that Shiver, unlike Linger, could be read as a stand-alone. Linger is clearly setting up at least one more sequel and possibly more. I hope Olivia comes back for the next one!