Veni, Vidi, Read it. As promised last week, here is my review for Beautiful Creatures’ next chapter, Beautiful Darkness by the talented duo, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The southern city of Gatlin is still hot and sleepy, but nothing is what it seems on the surface. Ethan and Lena are going through a rough patch after uncle Macom’s death. Ethan is completely unaware that Lena used the Book of Moons to bring him back from the dead and in the process Macom lost his life. Lena gradually slips into a morose state, and shuts Ethan off. While he still has vivid dreams, and visions, he can’t communicate with Lena anymore since she has stopped using Kelting, the mental communication they share against all odds. While Ethan gets separated from Lena, he gets closer to Macom through his visions, and he discovers, much to his surprise, that Lena’s uncle had been desperately in love with his mother, and that she loved him back. Despite Ethan has tried everything in his power to win back Lena, she has already decided that she is going Dark and starts hanging around with her Siren cousin Ridley, and a new guy, John Breed. John is an incubus with green eyes, a singular anomaly since being a Dark creature his eyes should be gold, and he also has the ability of walking in plain daylight when he should be night bound. With Lena disappearing, Ethan is left to mend his broken heart with the help of the loyal Amma, and the ever present and equally loyal Link, who hasn’t gotten over Ridley. Joining the helpers’ rank is also Liv, a British teenager come to assist Mariam, Gatlin’s own Librarian for both Caster and human world. A multitude of minor characters spanning from Lucille, a siamese cat, to old aunts, and last but not least his mother’s presence, and Macom’s visions, all help Ethan along the road. As in the precedent post I’ll proceed now to reveal few key elements in the plot. So a SPOILER ALERT is on effect after the period. In this second novel Ethan gets intimately acquainted with Gatlin’ secret underground Caster tunnels while following Lena. The Caster tunnels defy every mundane rule about time and space and allow to travel miles in the span of mere minutes. Lena has left both Ethan and her family and accompanied by John and Ridley she uses the tunnels searching for the Great Barrier, a mythical Caster utopia where she will be free to be whoever she chooses to be without having to pay the consequences. Ethan sees through vivid out of body experiences how Lena and John are getting closer, how they are planning to escape from everybody and everything to create a life for themselves. The realization that Lena doesn’t want him in her life anymore drives Ethan to consider Liv, who although is training under Mariam to become a Keeper, a neutral figure standing between worlds, is less complicated than Lena. Meanwhile Sarafine, Lena’s Dark Caster mother, helped by the most powerful Blood Incubus who ever lived, Abraham Ravenwood, summons Lena’s seventeenth Moon earlier to bind her to the Dark side once and for all. Ethan embraces his role of Wayward, the one who knows the way, and overcome obstacle after obstacle to bring back the Lena he still loves. At the end Lena claim herself as neither good or evil, Dark or Light. She emerges from her ordeal with one green eye and one gold eye. She is Light and Dark at the same time. Lena, helped by Ethan, has defied the odds again, but another Moon is waiting for her around the corner. What I liked the most about this southern dark gothic is the absolute purity of the love story between two teenagers who are asked to decide about life and death, good and evil. Ethan and Lena are romantically involved without having the freedom of simply loving each other. The simple act of kissing gives Ethan a heart attack, anything else is going to kill him; and in fact it is exactly such an episode that pushes Lena over the edge convincing her that Ethan is better without her. I particularly enjoyed the growth in the secondary characters as well. Ridley is a complex figure who goes from being a Dark Siren, who can force everybody to do her bids by simply licking on a lollipop, to be a mortal stripped by all her power. Link shows some backbone and fights Ridley back. Liv accepts to get involved in the fight between Dark and Light, humans and Casters, even if she knows that it is going to cost her chance to be a Keeper. Ethan’s mom, Lila, and Macom, tell their haunted love story through visions and apparitions, and although I already knew how it ended, I still hoped for something more between them. Amma and her ancestors also have a huge role in Beautiful Darkness, and she comes out lovely and scary at the same time. Ethan’s dad is finally recovering from a mourning that almost killed him. The city of Gatlin, with its bigot citizens, sweet teas sipped under porches, and southern cuisine and folklore, is the final character that ties everybody else together, and I ended loving it despite all its flaws. I am now left waiting for Lena’s eighteenth birthday. Who knows what it will happen?
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.