Overall Impression: Fantastical, suspect. Wonderful, exasperating. A whole lot of contradictory adjectives are running through my head right now.
(To read my review of the first book from the Caster Chronicles, Beautiful Creatures click here.)
I couldn’t wait to dive into Beautiful Darkness, which may seem strange when I gave the first book only three stars. It had so many rough edges and character issues, yet it is the read that has stuck with me most this year. My mind has often wondered back to the hidden Caster world embedded in the quiet southern town of Gatlin, even when I have been reading other books. So I figured it was about time I picked up the second one!
Beautiful Darkness was an improvement in many ways, and yet I am giving it the same rating as Beautiful Creatures. Why you ask? Well stick with me and find out. 🙂
Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous book Beautiful Creatures this review may contain spoilers about previous plots and characters from that book. However, this review will not contain any major spoilers about the book Beautiful Darkness.
One night in the rain, Ethan Wate opened his eyes and fell in love with Lena Duchannes. His life would never be the same.
Lena is a Caster and her family is locked in a supernatural civil war. On her sixteenth birthday Lena made a terrifying choice, which now haunts her day and night.
And, as her seventeenth birthday approaches, Lena and Ethan face even greater danger.
A Caster and a mortal can never truly be together.
Every kiss is a curse.
Ethan’s next heartbeat could be his last.
It is their curse now…
After the events of Lena Duchannes sixteenth birthday – her mysterious claiming where she became neither a dark or light Caster, the death of her uncle and the appearance of her mother one of the most dangerous Casters ever known, all Ethan Wate wants is for life to go back to normal. But his girlfriend Lena isn’t acting herself and life is about to get ten times crazier than Ethan could ever imagine.
An unknown dark Incubus who can walk in the daylight is circling Lena, Ethan is plagued my mysterious flashbacks that he can’t piece together and people are lying, hiding secrets from him wherever he turns. With the help of his lovable best friend Link, a British Keeper librarian in training and some unexpected allies, Ethan stumbles further into the chaos of the Caster world with no idea of the consequences.
Ohh where to begin, just like with Beautiful Creatures I have so many thoughts on this book I feel like I could write an essay, it’s hard to organize them!
First off the writing, I don’t understand how it can be so impressive in some places, yet terrible in other sections. It was much better than Beautiful Creatures, but still patchy. The world of Gatlin is so vivid and it comes to life because of the carefully chosen prose. The writers are insanely gifted at creating beautiful descriptions that flow in a rhythmic way. For instance:
‘The sun was beginning to burn its way up through the clouds and over the horizon, scattering odd splinters of light and life across the uneven rows of headstones’ – Pg15.
I love their choice of words here and the way they’ve matched similar sounding ones, ‘scattering’ and ‘splinters’, ‘light’ and ‘life’, it gives it a great feel when you read it and the words ricochet around your head. Their descriptions rely strongly on gothic imagery, old graveyards, ancient books and decorative gates and this was once again my favourite aspect of the book.
Unfortunately, along with all these wonderful descriptions we have horrors like this one:
‘I loved her, atom by atom, one burning cell at a time.’ – Pg32.
Barf, cringe, seriously?! DID THEY ACTUALLY WRITE THAT? There are loads of silly phrases like this in the book (including one where a girl gets compared to chicken pox because you can only catch her once) but the atom one was by far the worst. It is silly, because it doesn’t work and the authors have just used it because it sounds nice and they think it’s all dramatic and romantic. Lena is a teenage girl with more atoms in her body than you can write out. How is it possible that Ethan Wate can love every single one of them? He doesn’t know where one starts and another ends, he doesn’t have the comprehension to know that and well, you get the picture. These phrases feel forced too, they don’t flow naturally with the rest of the writing and each time I came across one it made the narrator seem less trustworthy. Garcia and Stohl, please, please stop doing this to me, you have a great concept so stop making me have to roll my eyes.
The plot of Beautiful Darkness is a lot darker than the first book (hmm, clue’s probably in the name, huh?) and amps the story up a notch. There’s action and mystery to reel you in from the beginning and because of this I zoomed though the first half of the book thoroughly enjoying it. The world building is impressive and a lot of thought has gone into it. I loved finding out more about the Caster world, the time characters spent in the hidden tunnels were an absolute blast along with all the mysteries that hid within them.
Unfortunately, something happened when I reached the half way point, I lost interest. I kept looking at the book because I felt like reading but didn’t want to pick it up. This is because the biggest problem with Beautiful Darkness was pacing. There was far too much foreshadowing, when I got to the halfway point and the story still hadn’t progressed past the Why? How? What does it meannnnn? stage I just felt the novel was going round in circles with no end. You can only drag a reader along following bread crumbs for so long before they give up trying to find the loaf and walk on home! The characters would run around finding something they thought would give them the answers, they would get nowhere and be back to square one. Equally in the second half of the book they kept running into dramatic circumstances I thought would be the big finale, but it wasn’t, and then there was another, and another etc, it just felt too drawn out for my taste but that’s probably just me. That being said, when I did finally reach the finale it was well worth the wait! Although I felt a bit cheated for reasons I can’t mention because of spoilers.
The characters like the rest of the book were a mixed bag. My biggest complaint about the first novel was that the male protagonist Ethan Wate’s voice sounded like a teenage girl. Well, I am happy to say I found him ten times more believable in this book, and because of that I warmed up to him a lot more! Link, Ethan’s best friend is quickly becoming one of my favourites in this series, he always follows his friend loyally into all sorts of dangerous situations without a moments thought and asks for nothing in return, never even moaning. He always has something funny to say and provides some light relief in between all the teenage angst and peril. My dislike of Lena kind of worked in my favour as she acted like a totally @&?$# for most of the novel so I was supposed to hate her. Whooopie! Ok, she’s not THAT bad, but she is really annoying. Sorry Lena lovers. I also enjoyed the further background information we were given on Ethan’s mum and Lena’s uncle.
However, I do have one verrrrrrrrrrry big dinosaur bone to pick. They introduced a new ‘British’ character named Olivia and I can’t help being very nitpicky. Not only is she used for constant info dumps but her awesomeness was heavily impacted for me by how terribly the authors failed at making her British! Bless them, they did try, focusing on a few obvious things like chips vs fries and tea vs ice tea, but it is just so difficult to convey the way different countries speak and she ends up being one very annoying stereotype. For instance using the word prat, British teenagers my age don’t say prat, that’s just what the American movies want you to think. 😛 There are a whole bunch of other things Emily mentions in her review in more detail if you are interested.
There was one conversation that irritated me though, it said:
‘Liv looked dizzy. She obviously wasn’t used to following the banter of the three hundered-year old women with thick Upcountry accents and fractured grammar.’
And all I could think was dude, I’m English sitting here reading it just fine, English people aren’t thick ok? It was a bit insulting, not on purpose of course but just because the authors hadn’t actually thought through what they were writing, I mean, somebody from the deep south can follow someone British having a conversation right? Except for a few phrases but that’s it, and the conversation they were referring to wasn’t difficult to read at all. I applaud their efforts to include a British character, it’s a hard thing to do, but you get an F for this one guys, I’m sorry.
I would recommend this book to females 12+ that are fans of paranormal romance and willing to look over some big flaws in favour of a cool concept. As my book buddy Cindy says, this series is not without flaws but you can’t help getting reeled in for the ride. For all its issues the authors are doing something right, because I’m curious about the next book. 😛
Writing Style: 3/5
Entertainment: 4/5 (Just)
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes. 🙂
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11201534-beautiful-darkness