Right now we're being inundated in paranormal romances -- including quite a few about werewolves. But Maggie Stiefvater's "Shiver Trilogy" has a delicate, wintry quality that most paranormal romances lack, as well as a romance that tosses aside "Twilight"-style crushy obsessions in favor of a gentle, sweet romance threatened by nature itself as well as humanity.
In "Shiver," Grace has been visited by a yellow-eyed wolf every winter. When a teenage boy is killed by wolves, and his body is stolen from the morgue, she somehow knows that supernatural stuff is afoot.
When a bunch of illegal hunters try to kill the local wolf pack, Grace rushes in to save her wolf -- and finds "her wolf" as a wounded, naked human boy. It turns out that cold triggers his transformations, while "warm makes me me. Makes me Sam." But as the cold approaches the town again, Grace may lose Sam in more than one way -- if she isn't destroyed as well.
"Linger" picks up with Sam and Grace trying to have a semi-normal HUMAN life -- getting a job, thinking about college, and fending off a police investigation into Olivia's disappearance. But Cole is determined to lose his pain in his wolf form, until he inadvertently stumbles into Isabel's life, and she finds herself drawn to him. And Grace's happiness at having Sam back is overshadowed by a mysterious illness, which may draw her even closer to the world of the werewolves.
Finally, "Forever" has Grace returning after her first winter as a wolf, still unstable. She hides in Cole and Sam's house, and for a brief time the young lovers are blissfully happy. But someone has been killed by one of the wolves, and Isabel's father has used his influence to have the entire pack killed. And as the four teens try to save the pack, their only hope may be a cure Cole has been searching for.
This trilogy has a poetic quality that most urban fantasy lacks -- it's a delicate, hauntingly crystalline book where even the humdrum high-school stuff takes on an ethereal quality. Maggie Stiefvater really came up with a unique idea for werewolves as well, where their transformation is dependent on the temperature -- cold makes them wolves, warmth makes then human. (Why don't they move to the tropics then?)
And her prose has a shimmering, silvery beauty that envelops you in black-leafed forests, wintry skies, snow-encrusted fur and icy air ("Despite the chilly air that made ghosts of my breath..."). She writes dramatic, intense situations that really grasp your emotions (Grace almost drowning in a muddy pool), but without melodrama or excessive dialogue.
I'm also rather sick of hormonal teenagers obsessing on each other and calling it "true love." Grace and Sam's relationship is a much more moving one -- hesitant, unsure, but deeply caring and rooted in true affection. As time goes on, they become more passionate and adorable, all the more so because they have to wait for each other. We also have a much more tempestuous, unpredictable couple in the charming, erratic Cole and snarky rich girl Isabel, who are just as gripping as Sam and Grace.
Maggie Stiefvater's "Shiver Trilogy" deftly sidesteps many of the genre cliches, and leaves you in a chilly cocoon of beautiful prose. A must-read for those who want something more substantial and less creepy than "Twilight."