I was a little apprehensive when I first read the jacket copy for Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. But the book came highly recommended by a bookish friend, so I plunged ahead.
Initially I was concerned my suspicions were true — it felt a little cheesy, a little too Twilight-esque. I did enjoy Twilight while I was reading it, but I didn’t want another repeat (like so many jumping on the paranormal bandwagon). Fortunately, after a few chapters, all my apprehension was laid to rest.
Some loves are meant to be…
others are cursed.
There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
At least, that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was a curse. There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
Once the book began to take off (between 50-100 pages in) I was sucked into the story. All the paranormal and magical elements weren’t clique. In fact, it reminded me of how I felt reading Harry Potter for the first time — this feeling of new, excitement, je-ne-sais-quoi.
It immediately felt like Beautiful Creatures had the potential to go far and wide, wherever they wanted to. The way magic and paranormal elements were set up was unique, creative and that made the book interesting and exciting.
I got hooked.
Beautiful Creatures, the first book of six in the Caster Series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl tells the story of an impossible connection and unexpected romance between two teens, Lena Duchannes and Ethan Wate.
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
For the first time in a while I began dreaming about the book, day dreaming about the characters, and (worst of all) getting these feelings of unidentifiable anxiety during the day. This happens to me often when something is unresolved or sitting over my head. Well, I know from experience that reading a good book can actually give me anxious feelings such as this. The good and bad of a great story, eh?
MINOR SPOILER ALERT
Once Ethan and Lena connected, I really liked how the magic wasn’t all flourishes and sparkles. It seemed plausible and grounded, even their telepathic abilities. It was also really refreshing to be in the guy’s mind— the book is narrated by Ethan. So often young adult fiction is narrated by the female when there is a love story. It was just really great to have it narrated by a teenage boy. Ethan is sort of an outcast but tries to fit in without being sucked in.
I really liked how they were a team too. There was no “damsel in distress” moment or “guy being the hero”. It was a very mutually respectful and mutally advantageous relationship.
I loved how a whole section of their county’s history was hidden in plain sight. Casters — called that for their ability to ‘cast’ a spell—were an integral part of Gatlin’s history, as well as Ethan and Lena’s family history. The Wates and the Duchannes had been entwined for decades.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD
After Lena discovers her personal history and who Sarafine really is, Ethan begins to think about ‘anchors’ as Lena gets lost in her emotions and thoughts. One passage immediately reminded me of LOST, the TV show.
Ethan is musing how his mother had anchored him— to his Aunt Marian, Amma, his best friend, the Library, and even his home town. Lena doesn’t have an ‘anchor’ as Ethan calls it, she’s never had a permanent home, her parents were “dead” and she recently lost her best friend to the Dark. It made me think of LOST and how Desmond needed to find his constant so he didn’t get lost in the Island’s time travelling.
I think it’s an interesting principle, both in storytelling and life. In storytelling, you define a character and their actions/inactions by their history. For Lena, the only history is the one she’s been told, and she is discovering that it may not be the whole truth.
Ethan seems oddly sure of himself for a 16-year-old boy, and I think the credit is that groundwork in his family. Even though we meet Ethan after his mother’s death, she still plays an integral role in his life and the man Ethan will become. Ethan even credits Amma for not letting him become a hermit like his dad after his mom died.
Another note I took down to discuss was the magical powers and abilities of each Caster. In Harry Potter, I think JK Rowling dealt with this in a great way because they’re all at school anyway. Hermione immediately knows more because she’s a bookworm, but then Harry has to apply himself and learn more defense against the Dark Arts.
In Beautiful Creatures, Lena is constantly saying she doesn’t know what her powers are, and that her Uncle and family think she is a “Natural”. Basically she hasn’t been taught how to use her powers because on their 16th birthday, Casters decide if they want to be Light or Dark, and if she goes Dark, she could be dangerous if she knows how to use her powers.
It made me think of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series—Richard, the main character, doesn’t learn to use his powers. His grandfather Zedd considers trying to teach him how to be a wizard, but it soon becomes clear that part of his ‘power’ comes from not even knowing the restrictions. So just because Zedd knows you can’t do something, Richard isn’t bound by those limitation. It will be certainly interesting to see Lena come into her ‘Natural’ powers.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. I cannot wait to read the next one, Beautiful Darkness, which came out October 2010. The third and fourth books are scheduled for Fall 2011 and 2012 respectively. Why do they do this to us? This is going to be a Hunger Games situation all over again, I can tell!