The second book in the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is Beautiful Darkness, which I read back in April of this year (oops). It’s a great second novel (published in 2010); a compelling young adult fantasy series about magic, history, and human connection. The first title is Beautiful Creatures, which I read upon Andrew‘s recommendation last year. The synopsis for the second book doesn’t really have any spoilers:
Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena’s family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen. Sometimes life-ending.
Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan’s eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there’s no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town’s tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.
From the publisher, Little, Brown & Co., distributed in Canada by Hachette Book Group
The novel is certainly a book two: it builds on the first book and sets things up for the third. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t feel that same urgency and draw I felt with Beautiful Creatures.
I was almost happy (or perhaps relieved) that Ethan and Lena weren’t ‘as strong as ever’ in this book. So often with romances in YA novels, the young couple are completely devoted and overcome all the odds together. But it felt much more realistic that they should drift apart a bit, and it almost felt natural that the sense of friendship and caring was there, despite the romance being cut short. The plot and action was a bit predictable, especially with the addition of Olivia “Liv” working at the library with Ethan, thereby creating a love triangle.
Lena is the epitome of teen angst in the book, which many young readers would be able to identify with. However, I ended up getting frustrated by her pushing Ethan away and not giving an explanation. Perhaps this was a shortcoming of the first-person narrative (through Ethan), but I disliked not knowing her side of things. I much prefer third-person omniscient POV. Although I did like the fact that Lena’s actions in the first novel had consequences, and I think this was a realistic rebellion on Lena’s part.
As before, I enjoyed learning about the Caster world. I loved Amma, Ethan’s housekeeper/nanny/grandma-ish figure. I also liked learning more about Ethan’s mother and her past. Knowing that she wasn’t as dumbstruck as we were made to believe, and that Ethan was more than just a ‘mere mortal’, creates a little twist in the storyline.