Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness

Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

rating: 8.5 out of 10 "books"

This town owned us, that was the good and the bad of it. It knew every inch of us, every sin, every secret, every scab. Which was why most people never bothered to leave, and why the ones who did never came back. But while other folks were busy cutting back their rosebushes, Light and Dark Casters with unique and powerful gifts were locked in an eternal struggle—a supernatural civil war without any hope of a white flag waving. Lena’s Gatlin was home to Demons and danger and a curse that had marked her family for more than a hundred years. A few months ago, I believed nothing would ever change in this town. Now I knew better, and I only wished it was true” -- Beautiful Darkness pg.2 &3

For those of you sick of the Vampire craze but looking for something to fill the void as the Harry Potter franchise draws towards a dramatic close, I’d recommend the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Although the storyline is much different than that of “the boy who lived”, many of the aspects of Beautiful Creatures and its sequel, Beautiful Darkness, are similar.

Living in a small South Carolina town where everyone knows each other’s business and no one really ever leaves after High School, Ethan Wate was counting down the days until he could finally get out of the town of Gatlin. But then Ethan began having very real nightmares involving a girl, dreams he’d wake up from physically hurt and covered in mud. When Lena, the girl from these dreams, turns out to be real, Ethan finds his life changed in ways he could never imagine. Everything he thought he knew about Gatlin has changed; because as it turns out, Lena is a Caster, a sort of witch capable of some pretty heavy stuff and everyone he thought he knew; his own recently deceased mother, her best friend and town librarian, Marian, even his caretaker, Amma, are involved. Sort of like Harry Potter is to magic, except in different terminology, Lena can perform some serious magic; like controlling the weather and making things happen that no one else could even imagine.

Lena lives in her uncle’s mansion on the outskirts of town. The Ravenwood Mansion is the town ghost story, it being the only mansion to withstand the burning of the town during the Civil War. Like Muggles in J.K. Rowling’s world, the people of Gatlin, perhaps sensing the power surrounding it, stay away from the mansion and the supposed hermit who resides in its walls. Lena’s uncle, Macon (said hermit), is even comparable to Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black. However, in the Caster world, there are much different creatures abound with much different powers. But whether it’s sirens, incubuses, seers, thaumaturgies, or palimpsests, each Caster must choose whether to be Light or Dark, much like the wizards and witches of Hogwarts.

The trouble in the first book comes into play when on her sixteenth moon, Lena will be claimed as a Dark or Light Caster. Cursed by the “Book of Moons,” the Ravenwood family has no choice as to whether they become Dark or Light like other Casters. Lena’s own cousin Ridley, practically her sister, turned Dark and was banished from the family. Lena’s situation is a little different however, because Lena is a special type of Caster and her claiming could mean the end of either the Dark Casters, or the Light, the outcome of which means losing some of the ones she loves either way. All the action of the story plays up to the moment of the sixteenth moon, with the balance of The Order of Things at stake, but in the meantime, Lena and Ethan must figure out the connection behind the dreams that they both share before it’s too late.

The first book ends on a sort of cliffhanger, but at the same time I was surprised when I discovered the sequel, Beautiful Darkness. I don’t want to give too much away as far as either book goes, for those who have not read Beautiful Creatures, but for those who were fans of the first story, you will not be disappointed by Beautiful Darkness. The stories are a little long, so they’re not for those looking for a super quick read, however, I found the books took me no time at all to finish just because they were so hard to put down!

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