Friday, June 17, 2011
When we last left Ethan and Lena in Beautiful Creatures, they had survived what no other couple could- Dark Casters trying to kill Ethan, and Lena making a horrible choice that resulted in her uncle Macon, the only parent she knew, being killed. Now, in Beautiful Darkness, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the lives of the supernatural and the mortal in Gatlin continue...
Lena has changed. As someone who lost his own mother, Ethan understands what that loss can do, but she won't open up to him at all. With Macon gone, she is floundering. As a Caster, she was supposed to choose light or dark with her sixteenth birthday, but that didn't happen. Lena knows her Claiming is coming up soon, but she is terrified by making the choice, because it means if she chooses Light, all the dark Casters in her family will die, and vice versa. The choice is an impossible one, and Lena is crumbling under the pressure. Who she chooses to help her through it are her Dark caster cousin Ridley (a siren) and someone named John Breed who is dangerous, but Ethan can't figure out what exactly he is- Caster, Incubus, etc.
As Lena pulls farther and farther away, Ethan tried harder and harder to find a way to bring her back. Armed with his aunts' stalker cat, Lucille Ball, his best friend, goofy Link, and the new Keeper-in-training, Liv, they enter the Caster world to help Lena. They aren't ready for the dangers that lurk there, though, and are saved by Amma, (Ethan's Caribbean housekeeper who is more warden and mother than housekeeper) and Lena's family, Dark and Light on more than one occasion. When it becomes clear Ethan's mother was tied closer to Macon than any of them had suspected, she starts speaking to him through visions. She helps lead Ethan to the redemption both he and Lena need. But will he get there in time to save the girl he loves even though he can never truly be with her? Is there more to Ethan and his destiny than anyone could have expected?
This was an excellent follow-up to the first book. My initial trouble was how long of a gap it was for me between the two books. I had trouble remembering what had happened already, and the author's don't really catch you up. While that is fine if you are reading the books back to back, it would be difficult for anyone waiting for the obligatory year before the next is published. Some information is slowly revealed, but it was too scattered and too vague to truly help. The best solution would have been for me to reread the first book, but with an ever present stack of books staring at me, I couldn't bring myself to do it.
I also struggled with Lena's character in this book. She was always conflicted, and Ethan and her together made a doomed, but perfect couple, but I had trouble with how quickly she abandoned him and started using her powers for mischief without thought to the consequences. Ethan had lost his mother, and he was always supportive of Lena. I understood the added pressure she felt, but it was tough to read this book and not dislike her by the end. The bonus, however, was the supporting characters like Ethan's Great Aunts, Amma, and Link. They really broke out in this story and made it not only enjoyable, but fun even! As Amma threatens Link and Ethan, smacks Ethan, and keeps Lena in control, you can't help but adore her. Link is so ridiculous he makes the story lively and will have you giggling. And the Aunts simply speak for themselves! I loved these characters, and truthfully, they made a very long book fly for me.
This is a very large book, about 500 pages, similar to the first book. That means, while it is an interesting and fun story, I probably wouldn't suggest it for anyone but a strong reader with a real interest in the supernatural. Otherwise, you might find a student really bogged down by the sheer length of it. The language and content is very mild, with nothing that would make it inappropriate for a student middle school and up. But again, the length would stop me from giving this to many kids. As an adult, though, I really love this story! It might be a good series to give to an adult you know to break them into the YA genre!