Book Review - Beautiful Darkness

Authors: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers (October 12, 2010)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Personal Copy

Description from GoodReads:
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.

**** Please note, though this is spoiler free for Beautiful Darkness, there may be some very 
small spoilers for Beautiful Creatures. ****** 
Back in July, I had an opportunity to read an Advanced Reader's Copy of Beautiful Darkness.    However, at that time I wanted to wait to post a review.  Of course, closer to the release date work became insane and reviewing had to wait.  So now that things are settling down, I am going back and trying to catch up on reviews. Here goes..

In Beautiful Creatures, Garcia & Stohl introduce readers to the Caster World, to the South and to some amazing characters.  I fell in love with Ethan & Lena, Macon & Alma, Link & Ridley, Marian, the 3 aunts, and others.  You could feel the humidity, smell the lemons and rosemary, and taste the pie.  It was paranormal goodness at it's best.  At the end, there was a battle, and loss, and decisions that still had to be made and consequences for those that were made.  There were questions and suspense.  And I had to wait months until I could read the next book.

Just like Ethan, the reader is now aware of the Caster World which lies behind the life that most of Gatlins' residents are familiar with.  And just like anyone who is introduced to a new world, or culture, or experience, you can never go back to the state of being unaware.  In the second book of the Caster Chronicles, there are some answers, there are some new characters, and there is an emotional roller coaster.  More than once I wanted to throw the book.  Not because I disliked the book but because it is so hard to see beloved characters go through tough experiences.  

After reading it and as reviews started popping up for Beautiful Darkness, I was surprised by the feelings of animosity towards Lena.  I was puzzled.  What did people really think was going to happen after the first book?  At the end of Beautiful Creatures, Lena had made some big choices and also avoided making an even bigger decision.  The second book picks up shortly after the first one, and we see the consequences and the impact of those choices.  And Lena wasn't the only one that had consequences to face.  All of the key characters were essentially changed.  However, before a resolution can occur there must be a period of confusion, darkness, and despair.  Basically, without essentially a crisis of faith, characters can not grow or change.

Yet, this is why I often dislike second books in a series.  Just like I would want to protect my friends and family from unpleasant stuff, I want to protect beloved characters from having to walk/live/survive the darkness.  What I get even more annoyed with book 2's is that often they are completely substance-less - just a filler for a series until you get to the 3rd or 4th book in the series and have your resolution and possible happier times for your characters.  I was pleased though that the second installment of the Caster Chronicles, is not just filler. I felt that the steps and journey that Ethan and Lena were on - no matter how separate it may have appeared - were important and moved the story forward.  

It is in this book that we learn more about Ethan's mother, are introduced to some new characters, discover more of the complexity of the Caster World, and begin to see how the puzzle pieces fit together.  And yet, as the book progress and some questions are answered, other questions arise.  

Of course, it will be interesting to see what will happen in Book 3. Ridley still has mischief written all over her.  I expect that we will see more of John (bad boy extraordinaire) and knowing that there will be at least 4 books in this series...Ethan, Lena, Link have even more consequences for their actions that they must deal with.  

After finishing Beautiful Darkness, I still want more of Gatlin, Alma's cooking, Caster magic, quirky & eccentric characters, and to hang with Ethan, Lena, Link, Ridley, and the others as the roller coaster continues.  

To spread some Beautiful Darkness love, I have a small Swag contest tied into this review.  For more details, read the directions below.  

If you haven't seen this Beautiful Darkness book trailer made by the very talented Vania (VLC Productions) take a minute to check it out.

Beautiful Darkness Swag Contest Includes the following items:

1 signed Beautiful Darkness Poster
1 Beautiful Darkness Bracelet
1 Beautiful Darkness Keychain
1 Beautiful Darkness Dogtag
1 Beautiful Darkness Pin
1 Beautiful Darkness/Beautiful Creatures Postcard (bookmarks)

Here are the rules:
1. You must complete the form below.  (Comments are appreciated by will not enter you into the contest.)
2. You must be 13 years or older.
3. You do not need to follow this blog but being a follower will earn you additional points.
4. All entries must be submitted by November 28, 2010 at 11:59 PST.
4. International participants are welcome.