Ballad is a sequel to Maggie Stiefvater's Lament and it is my favorite of the two. The story focuses on James rather than Dierdre and he is a much stronger and more likable character. In Ballad, Dee and James are attending the musical boarding school Thornton-Ash. Faeries are being drawn to the school because of Dee and her ability to see them. As usual, they are causing problems for all around them. However, one faerie is different from the rest.
Nuala, a faerie muse who feeds on the creative energy of artists and musicians, is drawn to James and his exceptional skill as a piper. He recognizes her for what she is and refuses her offer to improve his musical genius. His refusal intrigues her and increases her interest in him and his abilities, but soon they find they are all caught in a battle against the Death King.
Ballad could be categorized as paranormal romance, but I feel it is better than a lot of the more trendy books (see About page, item #3). The romance is there, but it is clean and not obsessive. James is a smart mouth, but he isn't overly rebellious and the characters don't spend their time lying to parents and other authority figures. For older teens who enjoy those trendy reads, Ballad is a much better choice.