Sunday, July 04, 2010

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garica & Margaret Stohl

Sometimes you wonder with a follow-up book if it can be as good as the first taste of that world. Especially when that first taste was Beautiful Creatures, which is quite honestly my favorite novel in the teen section. It is the most wonderful book, because it is full of wonder.

On one hand, I’m going to be inclined to feel biased about Beautiful Darkness. (Not only did I love Beautiful Creatures, I'm also very fond of its authors Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl.) On the other hand, the sequel has it so much worse because it has to follow that kind of an introduction. Rest assured, I promise you that Beautiful Darkness is every bit as good, if not better than Beautiful Creatures.

In Beautiful Creatures we lived and breathed Ethan Wate’s Gatlin, and got a glimpse of ‘Gatlin Below’—the Caster elements that lay beneath and beside the world we know. In Beautiful Darkness we see that the Caster World isn’t a metaphor or a secret society: it is a world of its own. And it is just as wondrous, rich, and real as Gatlin.

We also learn a lot more of the history, as this is the South and the past is only ever a step away from the present. Some questions are answered; some matters are resolved. A great deal more is brought into play, because it turns out Beautiful Creatures just scratched the surface of the Caster mythos.

All of this is shown to us through the eyes of Ethan Wate, whose story is never really content just being Boyfriend to a Caster Girl. (Although, being Boyfriend to a Caster Girl remains very essential to the story.)

Beautiful Creatures is very much a book of the Light, and Beautiful Darkness is a book of the Dark. These reversals play all through it, and they have staggering ramifications for the characters and their futures. If you recall how Beautiful Creatures ended, you know that Beautiful Darkness has to explore the aftermath of those events and the price that must continue to be paid.

What I love about the Caster Chronicles is how real the characters are. These are emotionally honest books—maybe the events are fantastical, but the way characters react and deal with the fallout is always grounded in reality. These remain examples of not just quality writing, but the truth of what fantasy can do: Hold up a mirror and show us ourselves at both our best and our worst.

Beautiful Darkness is a fine example of how we’re all a little bit Light and a little bit Dark, and it’s up to each of us to claim ourselves.*

*I love when E & L got that literal message in Beautiful Creatures. It was such a cool scene.

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