Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles #2) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Release Date: October 10, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Source: Personal Copy
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound
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.
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.
I want to start off by saying that Ethan and Lena from Beautiful Creatures, book one of the Caster Chronicles, are one of my all-time favorite couples in YA. Lena is strong and independent and she is often the one saving Ethan rather than being a damsel in distress. Ethan is kind, generous, and smart to boot. He doesn’t try to control Lena (something even Lena has a hard time doing) and he accepts her as she is.
If only Lena could accept herself as well as Ethan. As we know from the last book, Lena’s sixteenth birthday has come and gone, and Lena has yet to be Claimed. Instead, Lena’s mother, Serafine, kills Ethan and Lena is forced to use The Book of Moons to revive him. Everything has its price, however, and Lena’s beloved uncle, Macon Ravenwood, is killed as payment for Ethan’s life. This has understandably sent Lena’s already chaotic life into a tailspin.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
Now that I’ve gotten that all out of the way, I want to tell you how much I disliked Lena in this book. I have never been happier to be reading a book from a male’s point of view. If I had to read this from Lena’s POV, I would have set the book on fire a long time ago. Lena’s been through a lot, it’s true–the death of her father, the abuse she takes at school from the cheerleaders, the uncertainty of her future, her homicidal maniac of a mother, etc–but she treats Ethan horribly in this book. She’s hot and cold, happy one minute and sad the next, and entirely uncommunicative. Ethan tries to get her to open up and tell him what’s bothering her, but her old standby returns: “You wouldn’t understand.” And maybe he doesn’t, since he’s a Mortal not a Caster, but he was there for Lena’s birthday and faced Serafine, so it would be nice if Lena trusted him a little.
After awhile, Lena pulls away from Ethan entirely, cutting off her voice in his mind and continually running away from him. Ridley returns, and Lena insists that Ridley is the only one who can help. Ethan is, to his credit, dubious. An incident at the fair involving Lena, Ridley, and a half-incubus named John Breed, which had me in such a rage I could barely type complete sentences, is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Amma shines as the Seer that she is, and I loved her more in those scenes than I did in the whole first book. One of Ethan’s great-great-great aunts passes out in the chaos, and Ethan confronts Lena. He admits in his narrative that he no longer trusts her, and while he doesn’t say this out loud, Lena makes it clear (to the reader at least) that she doesn’t want Ethan around anymore.
This doesn’t stop him, of course, so he takes Link to the Lunae Libri to see if Ethan can find Lena. While in the LL, Ethan learns many things that turn his world upside down, and discovers the message behind his returning visions. Along with Link and the new Keeper-in-training, Liv, Ethan takes on the Caster tunnels, traveling to places that exists outside of Mortal time and space on a search for Lena.
This book is tough on the relationship front. Lena and Ethan break up about halfway through the book and both of them find others who understand their situations better. It’s really rough to read, because Ethan spends almost three-quarters of the book agonizing about Lena and the state of their relationship. At the same time, Ethan and Liv get closer and closer and eventually kiss, which causes Ethan pain and Liv embarrassment. Lena is obviously with John Breed, as Ethan has visions of them holding hands and lying together. She basically admits to it later. So it’s hard to ship any couple during this book, as the OTP (Lena and Ethan, of course!) have broken up and don’t speak for a large majority of the book.
The climax of the book is pretty intense. Not only are John Breed and Ridley involved, there are incubuses everywhere and Dark creatures too. Ethan, Link, Liv, and Ridley have help getting into the fray and have help in the form of Amma and her Greats in getting out of it. At this point in the book (about 85-90% through), I had completely forgiven Lena for her awful behavior. It’s been revealed to us why Lena has been acting the way she has, and in the end, Lena and Ethan are together.
Ridley and Link are amazing in this book. Ridley’s powers are taken away by Serafine, so it will be interesting to see what antics she gets up to in book three, especially given the cliffhanger ending we got in this one. Link, having been bitten by John Breed the half-incubus, is experiencing some newfound powers and gets fleshed out a bit more than in BC.
So, in all, I gave this book four stars because even while I was raging, this book kept me intrigued and focused, the writing remains beautiful, and the story loses none of it’s magic or horror in this sequel. This is a series I will continue to follow during the end and I cannot wait until October and Beautiful Chaos!