The biggest issue in sequels and series, more often than not, is that later titles are never as good as the first. Of course, there have been titles and series where this is obviously not true, as well. I was pretty delighted to find that Beautiful Darkness, the sequel to Kami Garci and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, is IMHO better than its predecessor. I’d been really excited to read both books in this series since I got an ARC of the second at ALA. If you read my review on Beautiful Creatures, you’ll know that I thought the authors did a beautiful job creating the mythology of the magic in that novel. This second novel is abundant in magic, which makes this girl REALLY HAPPY. Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that I have always been a little obsessed with magic of all sorts. I love love LOVE princesses and fairy tales. I spent quite a bit of my childhood determined that I was a FABULOUS magician. Boxes of memorabilia in my parents’ attic can attest to an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter. The recent surge in urban fantasy and paranormal romance has been like heaven to me. There is this little glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, magic is real.
If any of the previous has left you thinking “Man, this girl is nuts!”, Beautiful Darkness might not be the book for you. Creatures presented us with a very typical Southern small town, with the magical aspects very slowly appearing throughout the novel and presented as a very small and hidden underworld of the town. In Darkness, that underworld takes center-stage and the reader realizes this is much, much bigger than just a few magical people living in a normal town. So basically, although this continues the story from the first book, I kind of felt like this was a totally different kind of book. Although, this kind of makes sense. Ethan is getting farther and farther into the magic, so the book has to become more and more focused on the magic. But still, this makes it a different kind of book. The first book is so much about teenage relationships and learning to trust another person, with the magical aspects being important but merely a detail in this larger romantic story. On the other hand, this book is about the relationship between Ethan and Lena, but much more so about Ethan understanding the magical world and avoiding an epic magical war. I think this difference is important because I felt as though I was making progress and getting deeper into the story, whereas if we just had more magic girl in normal world drama, this book might have felt stale.
At this point, you’re probably like “Come on, Sarah, give us the dirty details.” Well okay then!
- Amma is awesome!!!! If you’ve read Creatures, you know this. In this book, she gets even more A.W.E.S.O.M.E., with capital letters.
- Lena is a crazy person. You’re probably gonna hate her this time around.
- Ridley actually has depth. I knew it!
- Link is smarter than you think. I just wanna give him a big hug.
- Magic exists where you least expect. This is a reoccurring theme.
- It wouldn’t be magic if there wasn’t an ancient war going on. Duh!
- And…best of all…Link’s mom watches Cat Week. It’s like Shark Week with cats. Strangely funny that Ellen just did Cat Week on her show last week.
I know, I know. These details aren’t very dirty. I just really don’t want to spoil this one for you. It’s too good. I will admit that quite a few of the plot twists were obvious before they happened. However, I also had quite a few moments where I was like, “WOAH! You got me!” I do think that part of the fun of a book is trying to figure things out and I think that this book provided a good balance of foreshadowing and complete surprise.
If I have anything to negative to say about this book, it’s only that after the intense ending of the first book, the beginning of this book is kind of calm. Therefore, at first, it took me a little bit to get into it. I think this was because I was ready to get right into more intrigue, whereas the beginning of this book is heavy on basic exposition to get people the back story if they haven’t read Creatures or if they have forgotten some of the detail. However, once this book gets into its central plot arc, it really moves.
I urge you to check this series out, especially if you are into any of the paranormal romance/urban fantasy stuff that’s really big lately. This second novel in the series, Beautiful Darkness, hits stores Tuesday, October 12. (That’s next week, so you should be pretty excited!)
So, I went on a little bender….a v-bender that is. To be more specific, I dropped out of the realm of the living to read all the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris. I will admit that they got to me. I am definitely hooked. I will also admit that I am one of those foul people who watched True Blood long before she ever picked up one of the books that it’s based on. Better late than never though, right? Anyways, I won’t get into them too much here because they aren’t a YA series, which is mostly what I write this blog about. Don’t get me wrong….everyone who knows me can tell you that I will not stand for any kind of censoring of any sort. Truthfully, I very well could have read these books in high school, but I grew up in a pretty liberal household. I just want it to be clear, for those young adults who prefer literature of a higher moral code, that these books were not written for a YA audience. As such, objectionable language and sexual content abound. But, for those of you who don’t mind such things or who relish this kind of literature, I say DIG IN!
So, if I’m not gonna write about the SoVampMysteries, what am I gonna write about? Something that is NOT, I repeat NOT about vampires.
I just want to make sure we’re clear about this, the following book is NOT about vampires.
Why am being so adamant about this, you may ask? Let me explain.
Earlier this year, I heard a lot of talk about Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Everytime I heard someone talk about this book, it was in the context of a discussion about vampire books. Add that to someone telling me that this is like Twilight, but the girl is the vampire–and I built up this whole notion of what I thought this book was. Finally, this weekend I sat down and read it. Guess what? It’s not about vampires, at all! What were all those people smoking?
What is it about, then? Well, I don’t want to tell you because it’ll ruin the fun of discovering it for yourself. I will concede that is about something supernatural…but not vampires. LOL
Ethan Wate grew up in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, just like his father before him and all the Wates before him. They live in the same house, surrounded by the same people, living the same life. Nothing ever changed, until now. After Ethan’s mom dies in an accident, Ethan’s dad locks himself away in his office writing and Ethan succumbs to terrible nightmares. Every night he dreams the same thing. A girl is falling, leaving him, and he can’t save her. When his dream girl shows up in Gatlin, Ethan thinks that maybe his life is gonna turn around. But when unexplainable things start to happen and Ethan’s housekeeper Amma, the one person he feels like he can always trust, tells Ethan to stay away from the new Lena, Ethan knows that change might not always be good. Still, Ethan knows that he has to look deeper, that everything must be happening for a reason. Can Ethan and Lena learn to trust each other so that they can figure why they are so powerfully connected? Will change mean a new future or no future?
Watching Ethan and Lena learn to trust each other and fall for each other is breathtakingly beautiful. The connection between them, with its supernatural appearance, also seems to resemble the nature of true love–powerful beyond all things, even when it might mean danger or heartbreak. At times, it was slightly frustrating watching Lena continue to distrust Ethan and push him away. But, while this is painful, it lends a nice touch of a real relationship.
While many powerful and heartbreaking things ensue, this book also provides its share of lightness and humor. I think it’s mostly due to the badass female quotient. Amma, the Wates’ housekeeper, is tough as nails. It is amusing to watch her as she lays into Ethan with the tenacity only true caring and love can create. You know in an instant that no one crosses Amma because she does what she does for your own good. Ethan’s three eldery aunts, the Sisters, are just as endearing. At times slightly off-kilter and at other times just plain stupid, the reader knows the Sisters’ way and word are law–even it means there are only 11 true states (the Confederate ones) and itching is spelled ichin’. There’s just something you have to love about women who think that being buried with your recipes so as not to share them is a sin of the highest order.
There’s also a badass supernatural quotient in this book. I told you before, I’m not gonna give too many details here. Let’s suffice it to say that Garcia and Stohl have built a pretty enchanting world here. You are gonna love unraveling it. Wrap up all that supernatural goodness and put it in a nice package with a southern drawl and you are gonna be instantly charmed.
I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Beautiful Darkness. I’ve got an advance reading copy from ALA sitting right next to me. I think I’m gonna take a night off and enjoy a chick flick though. I could do with a little light to balance out the dark.
As always, happy reading! And if you’ve read Beautiful Creatures already, I wanna hear from you. Did I miss something? Did you think it was about vampires? Cause, I’m still mulling that one over. 🙂