Tag Archives: Maggie Stiefvater

Common Werewolf Names, From Shiver to Twilight to True Blood

In the past year, I’ve read/watched more vampire/werewolf stories than ever before. And I’ve noticed that the werewolf stories share something common beyond the whole sloughing off your human skin thing. When I read Shiver it hit me for certain: werewolves are often named Sam.

From my own limited experience (I can’t pretend to have read THAT many werewolf books), I know there’s a Sam in the Twilight pack of wolves. That suspiciously shaggy looking guy who owns the bar in True Blood was named Sam, and, sure enough, he shapeshifted into a dog. (For my scientific purposes here, shapeshifting into a dog still counts.) Shiver’s main character is the endearingly poetic werewolf Sam. So that makes three werewolf Sams. Coincidence?

I hit up the Google for some explanation, and I found an interview with Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater where she acknowledges the problem. Apparently her publishers noticed the werewolf Sam in Twilight too, and asked her to change the Shiver main character’s name. But she liked the name Sam, and other names just didn’t fit. Then she had a bright idea. Instead of arguing that the Twilight name overlap was a fluke, she made a list of ALL the werewolves named Sam in literature, making a case that the werewolf Sam thing is so common that one more Sam in Shiver doesn’t matter. So apparently there are more Sams out there that I haven’t discovered. Sam is like the John or Michael of werewolves–no one can accuse you of copying.

No promises if you name your werewolf Colton or Skyler.

Anyway, Stiefvater’s editors bought her argument, and werewolf Sam remained in Shiver. I agree with Stiefvater’s decision to defend the name. Maybe I’ve been subconsciously brainwashed to view all Sams as shaggy, vulnerable, and prone to shapeshifting, but the name works, especially for the main character in Shiver.

Oddly enough, a few days after reading Shiver, I spotted this story in Fantasy magazine. No werewolf Sam, but… wait for it… there’s a Grace in the story! Grace being the human girl love interest in Shiver. The trend continues.

EDIT: I am all surprised and thrilled that Maggie Stiefvater, the author of Shiver, saw this post and tweeted it! Thanks to everyone who stopped by via her page, and thank you Maggie for the shout-out.

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Filed under Thoughts, Writing, Young Adult Fiction

Book Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver takes a new twist on werewolf mythology, and it works. Really well. Much better than sparkly vampires.

In Stiefvater’s world, humans become wolves in the Wisconsin winter, in response to the cooler temperatures. The transformed wolves aren’t slathering monsters with ripped-shirt biceps–they’re simply, literally wolves. The one distinguishing characteristic of these wolves is their eyes, which remain exactly the same as their human eyes once were.

Sam, the wolf guy in the story, has pure yellow eyes. Grace, a pragmatic girl who mysteriously survived a wolf bite unscathed, notices these eyes on “her” wolf, the one who saved her from becoming wolf-chow in a childhood attack. She spends years mooning over “her” wolf from the window of her house.

When Sam is unexpectedly shot, he morphs into human form right before the start of the winter, meets Grace, and promptly falls in love. Unfortunately, Sam realizes this will be his last year to take human form at all. As wolves age, they turn human later and later in the summer, eventually living out their (shortened) lives as wolves, with wolf intellect and no real knowledge of their humanity.

The plot revolves around keeping Sam warm and human, while also determining the whereabouts of dangerous new wolf. Each chapter begins with the temperature noted, which helps to build tension. Grace and Sam narrate alternate, first-person chapters, and Stiefvater pulls off this unconventional narrative device perfectly. As a reader, I often find that books with split narrators have a “good” narrator and a boring one. I’m usually tempted to skim right over the boring narrator sections in such books, but Shiver captivated me the whole way through.

The characters of Shiver held my interest too. Sam and Grace are well-developed and likeable. The chemistry between them absolutely sizzles, and the book succeeds at wringing an emotional response from the reader. Grace kicks butt and proves that strong female narrators can still carry swoon-worthy stories. The secondary characters are fleshed-out too, with no real cardboard sidekick types in this book.

Another plus to Shiver :the writing, the prose that Stiefvater composes, is a lyrical treat. I found myself reading passages again just because they’re enjoyable and vivid.

I think Stiefvater’s twist on werewolves is even more chilling, perhaps, than the original conception of half-human monsters tied to the moon’s cycles. At least a conventional werewolf only remains a wolf for a brief, predictable period, spending most of his time as human. I suppose the horror comes from the savagery the wolf unleashes, the loss of humanity in an angry rage.

Stiefvater’s wolves cut out most of the savagery part, other than the normal danger of normal wolves. But I think Shiver better captures the unnerving, and scary sense, of gradually losing one’s humanity. These wolves spend half the year as wolves, and they can’t pinpoint the moment they’ll change as precisely as the moon’s patterns. And, to up the tension, they lose time as humans every year until they eventually their humanity slips away forever.

Regular werewolves evoke the visceral fear of losing control in anger, but Stiefvater’s wolves touch a much deeper horror. I liken the process to someone getting Alzheimers, losing a little of oneself at a time, until only the eyes are recognizable and humanity is lost forever. It’s not as bloody an end, but I think the chill is universal.

At any rate, I highly recommend Shiver to anyone who likes a good love story with an original werewolf twist, fully realized characters, and kick-ass writing.

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Filed under Book Review, Young Adult Fiction