Lyrical and evocative, this period magical-realism novel follows a Mexican-American family of saints and the pilgrims they transform with miracles. Like author Maggie Stiefvater's previous settings of Mercy Falls, Thisby, and Henrietta, Bicho Raro and its surrounding desert come alive in the story. As with all of her locales, there's a deep, rich history to the Soria family's home, and through Pete, readers will feel the deep connection to the supernatural surroundings, the cousins, and the various pilgrims waiting for their second miracles. Each of the main characters in All the Crooked Saints has his or her own story arc and point of view, but it's really Pete and the trio of young Sorias -- Beatriz, Joaquin, and Daniel -- who drive the action and provide the most insight on the journey of saints and pilgrims.
There's a lot for readers to unpack as the historical fiction blends several themes with the reality of rock 'n' roll's early days, back when the radio DJ was king. The Soria cousins' illegal radio broadcasts are alternately funny and touching, with mentions of songs and artists teens may never have heard of (with the exception of Elvis Presley), but that's part of the appeal. This isn't a quick read. The language and story take time to savor and understand. For example, some of the pilgrims' darkness is easy to interpret -- a priest with a coyote head is obviously dealing with a predatory, ugly side to himself; while twins bound by a two-headed snake must learn to be truthful and work together. Other pilgrims (and the saints too) aren't as easy to figure out, and the romance is beautifully understated, like Puck and Sean's in The Scorpio Races. This is a book that demands a close reading, and it's refreshingly different from the author's previous paranormal series.