The Wolves of Mercy Falls is a paranormal romance series and there are really no prizes for guessing what its subject matter is. The series was penned by Maggie Stiefvater and consists of three main novels – Shiver (2009), Linger (2010) and Forever (2011) – and one stand-alone novel, Sinner (2014). For the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at Shiver only.

When Grace was a little girl, she was viciously attacked by wolves. The creatures dragged her from her garden and would have eaten her were it not for the strange mercy of one yellow-eyed wolf. The attack did not cause Grace to fear the pack but instead caused her to grow obsessed with them, particularly her saviour who still often could be seen in the woods behind her house.

Six years later, a second wolf attack rocks her home town of Mercy Falls. This time a high school student is ripped apart by the creatures. Panic spreads through the townsfolk like wildfire and it is not long before a hunting party heads into the forest to destroy the lupine threat.

That night Grace finds the yellow-eyed wolf in her garden, wounded and having reverted back to his true form – a teenage boy named Sam. Now Grace knows the truth. All the years that she has spent watching her wolf, he has been watching her back, longing to be with her. Yet their romance must be fleeting. All werewolves eventually lose the ability to regain human forms and Sam fears that his final shift is drawing near…

You’re probably sick of hearing me say that I’m not a great lover of romantic fiction – particularly paranormal romances. Yes, I know I keep subjecting myself to the things but I very rarely seem to find much in them that appeals to me. Yet there are always those novels that causes you to view a genre in a different light, ones that touch you on such a personal level that you find it impossible not to gush with praise for them. The Miseducation of Cameron Post was one of these novels for me (seriously, have you read it yet? If not do so. Now). Shiver is another. I never thought I’d ever type these words but here I go. I have found a paranormal romance that I actually like.

Shiver is just beautifully written. Its prose is lyrical and highly descriptive, evoking the haunting aire of a faerie tale. In the opening chapter Grace relates her memory of the wolf attack in the same way that one would remember a dream, beautifully emphasising the savage grace of the creatures. Sam’s chapters are even more of a descriptive treat as his heightened senses – particularly smell and hearing – cause him to view the world in a very different way to Grace, which in turn allows the reader to drink in its beauty.

Yet, like all good faerie tales, the novel is also hauntingly sad. Grace and Sam occupy two very different worlds, ones that should not touch, and their tragedy is what makes the novel so enthralling. Stiefvater approaches the werewolf mythos in a rather unique way. Rather than having her wolves change at will or by the full moon, their transformation is triggered by the cold. Although they tend to take human form in the summer, they find it hard to maintain as the year draws on and eventually become wolves over the winter months. And these are really just ordinary wolves with no anthropomorphic traits or supernatural abilities beyond a slight increase in intelligence and durability. While some of the werewolves take pride in their lupine sides, for Sam there is just a sense of loss. Whenever he transforms, he loses his human sense of self and knows that, one day, he will be unable to shift back to regain it.

The fear of losing who we are is deep-rooted in all of us. There is nothing really that compares with the horror that someone must feel as they know that everything that makes them who they are is slipping away – their personality, their memories and their character traits. This tragedy always hovers over the page, made more terrible by the fact that Sam and Grace have only finally managed to find each other mere months before Sam shifts for the last time. The fact that they do not really lament over this point only makes it more heart breaking. Unlike Edward Cullen, Sam does not spend his entire time whining about his condition. He and Grace both know that his time is short and they need to make the most of what he has left. It is not until towards the end of the novel, when Sam is very close to transformation, that they begin the panicked search for a cure.

If I had to criticise anything at all, it would purely be my frustration that one loose end was left hanging: Shelby. Shelby was a female werewolf who served as an antagonist for the first half of the story. She was of a lower rank in the pack but had dreams of being the mate of the alpha male, who she wanted to be Sam. This meant that she needed to do away with the two things that stood in her way – the pack’s current alpha and Grace. While this plot played on in the background, it gradually petered out when the story’s focus turned to the cure. As it was left unresolved, I assume that it will come back later in the series. At least, I hope this is the case as there’s otherwise been a lot of build up for nothing.

Yet, as much as I loved the written style of this story, it was its characters that really spoke to me. I really, really like Grace. I’ve complained time and time again about how pathetic female leads are in paranormal romances but Grace was everything that I look for in a heroine. She was self-confident without being bitchy and didn’t just follow her man around like a sheep. In fact, Grace was actually the most forward in their relationship. It’s Grace that pushes for a more physical relationship, even leading the only time that she and Sam make love. This is really quite rare in a paranormal romance story.

Sam, on the other hand, was the shy and sensitive person in their relationship and therefore seemed to complement Grace wonderfully. I normally don’t buy into love at first sight stories but, for the two of them, it seemed to fit. The faerie tale atmosphere really did help in this regard, as it allowed the fact that they had been connected by the threads of fate for six years seem believable. The connection that the two of them had while Grace was a human and Sam was a wolf was obvious. It seemed quite natural for it to continue once he became her handsome prince.

The secondary cast were also fairly memorable. I grew particularly fond of Isabel as I first expected her to be the typical class bitch and was surprised when she turned out to be a far more sympathetic character than this. Beck was also a very developed character. Even though he did not appear much in the story, his presence was always felt through Sam’s stories and he did manage to undergo a full character arc (I found his final actions in the novel to be particularly moving). The only character that I wished had a bit more page time was Olivia. While she was an important character in the beginning and end of the story, she disappeared from the novel for a couple of hundred pages towards the middle and I think she really could have done with a bit more development over this time.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble so I’ll wrap it up. Shiver is a brilliant novel. It’s beautifully written, touching and hauntingly sad. If it managed to warm my frozen heart, I would certainly recommend it to all fans of paranormal romances, or anyone who is a fan of faerie stories. It is certainly going to be the stick I measure all other novels of this type against going forward.

Shiver can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. louiseg12
    Jan 20, 2015 @ 23:24:40

    Love the series!


    • Kim
      Jan 20, 2015 @ 23:29:35

      Would you say the others are as good as Shiver? I’ve heard mixed things but I adored this one


      • louiseg12
        Jan 21, 2015 @ 00:11:51

        I wasn’t disappointed, Kim. The first in any series is always extra special as you’re entering a completely new world. For some, perhaps familarity breeds contempt. Doesn’t work like that for me. This is a series you can immerse yourself in. 🙂

      • Kim
        Jan 21, 2015 @ 00:14:17

        Good to hear! I’ll look forward to reading the rest 🙂

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