Lately I have been blessed with a never ending list of pleasant discoveries in the literature field. While reading Cassandra Clare’s blog I stomped across Beautiful Creatures, debut novel for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. When I read the back cover the adjectives that jumped out were southern gothic and dark fantasy. I admit that they had me at that. I have come to truly appreciate southern settings spiced up with some dark element by the side. I was also intrigued from the start by the cooperation of two authors. Writing is such a personal endeavor that it always surprises me when I found successful examples of co-authoring. It must be wonderful to find another person so attuned to one’s style and genre to make it possible to commit to a four hands project. Beautiful Creatures is a sparkling example that such literary unicorns exist. I was drawn inside the story from the beginning, when Ethan Wate, a sixteen year old high school student, explains his love for reading as a means to escape a stagnant reality. Ethan lives in a sleepy and seemingly uninteresting city, Gatlin, in South Carolina, where, according to his father, only the stupid and the stuck remains. Ethan is neither one. After his mother sudden death, and his father progressive detachment from reality, he feels that there is nothing left in Gatlin for him. He feels different from the rest of his classmates, who will go on in their lives happily reenacting, year after year, battlefields from the Civil war known in Gatlin as the War of Northern Aggression. Ethan, who marks in a map on the wall all the places he wants to go according to the book he is reading at the moment, is different and he has to hide it. If it weren’t for Amma, a Seer who is the closest thing to a mother for him, and Link, his loyal friend, Ethan would be completely alone. Everything changes when he meets Lena Duchannes, the new girl in town, who not only is the niece of Macom Ravenwood, the local scary pariah, but she is also the girl of his dreams. Literally. Ethan has been having vivid nightmares about failed attempted rescues of Lena. And he can hear her in his mind. Soon enough Ethan must come to terms that Lena is no regular girl. Lena comes from a line of ancient Casters, beings with powers beyond human understanding. She will be claimed on her sixteenth birthday, and either go Light or Dark. There are no shades of gray in the Caster world; Lena will become either good, like her aunt Del, or evil , like her cousin Ridley, without having the right to decide her fate. Ethan and Lena, united by being different from the other teenagers in Gatlin, start falling in love while trying to understand how their connection goes deeper than simple attraction. Sharing visions they find that two of their ancestors, Ethan Carter Wate, a deserter whose name has been erased from the family tree, and Genevieve Duchannes, a young Caster woman ready to do the unthinkable to save the man she loves, have changed the future of their families with their actions. Ethan is prepared to fight an impossible battle to give Lena the right to decide who she wants to become. But an important figure from Lena’s past, her own mother, the Dark Caster Sarafine, tries to stop Ethan’s plan to rescue her. And that is when the plot thickens and I am going to announce a SPOILER ALLERT. Continue reading at your own risk and peril. The final part of Beautiful Creatures is what separated this exceptional novel from the merely good ones. It would have been just great if Ethan and Lena had to struggle to find a balance in their complicated love story. Their characters are strong enough to withstand plot platitude. The fact that a human and a Caster can’t have a physical relationship, Ethan almost dies of heart attack when kissing Lena, is harsh enough to keep the story going. But the authors come out with an interesting surprise at the very end. Lena, who is a Natural, being the daughter of another Natural who went Dark, can claim herself on her sixteenth birthday. She is the first Duchannes who has the power to decide who she wants to be. There is a catch though, of course. If she goes Light, all the Dark side of her family will die, including her beloved uncle Macom and her cousin Ridley. If she goes Dark, all the Light side of her family will die, including her grandmother, uncle, aunt, and cousins. To make things even more complicated Sarafine kills Ethan, forcing Lena to use the Book of Moons, which contains powerful and dangerous Dark Magic, to bring him back to life. The price Lena unknowingly pays for using the Book of Moons is to exchange one life for another. Ethan is alive, but Macom lies in his stead. Lena hasn’t claimed herself after all. Will Ethan’s and Lena’s love for each other be strong enough to overcome such tragedy? Off to go reading Beautiful Darkness to have the answer to this burning question. See you later.