Last year when Beautiful Creatures came out I’d been coming off a long streak of really bad books. Then as if by a miracle here was this book that was everything I was craving and didn’t even know. It was full of the small town Southern atmosphere as thick as the heat and humidity in Gatlin. The characters were charming and endearing and Ethan might possibly be one of my favorite male protagonists- he was real in a world full of the seemingly unreal. So to say that I was excited for its sequel Beautiful Darkness was an understatement.
After the jarring end of Beautiful Creatures in which Rhett Butler, er Macon gave us quite the surprise, I had no idea what would be coming next. And now after having the book in my hands, I’m still surprised. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, facing the potential slump of a sequel after the meteoric success of the first book, took a risk I still have mixed feelings over. While reading the first half of the novel I can’t say that I could agree with where they were taking it- it was too much of a reversal of the first novel. Yet once the inevitable occurred at around page 250 the tightness eased up and I felt compelled to keep moving forward- the worst was over. I could accept the plot line they were going with and begin to understand why they went the route they did. This is only the second novel of at least four and it feels like that. I won’t say that it’s filler, but it is a necessary plot line to transition into the future. In a number of ways it reminded me how we wouldn’t have Eclipse without the agony of New Moon (big hint with that analogy) nor would we have the Harry Potter who defeated Voldermort without going through his angsty stage in the Order of the Phonenix. Recognizing the necessity of this book allowed me to like it, even though I doubt it will ever be my favorite in the series. That said, I do like it, I do recommend it, and I will continue to read this series.
Now to get to the parts that I loved (and less than loved), I’m going to cut here because I don’t want to spoil the book for those who haven’t read it. So remember, SPOILERS!
Good. So the biggest issue I had with this book was that I wanted to kill Lena. In her attempt to recover from the death of Macon, she spirals into a deep depression, becoming more and more of a dark caster with a chip on her shoulder every day. She pushes Ethan away, locks him out of her mind, and leaves him wondering if he still even has a girlfriend while she runs off with Riley and this creeper hybrid incubus-caster John who’s clearly got the hots for her. To say the least, it is not Lena’s finest moment and while you knew she still loved Ethan and she was pushing him away out of grief, you still want to just hit her. Therefore it’s no surprise that it wasn’t until she was more or less out of the picture that I could begin to enjoy the book.
Ethan was lost without her, but he’s a good Southern boy who knows that just because it feels like your life is over, you’ve still got responsibilities. He also knew that goodbye doesn’t mean “I don’t love you anymore.” If possible I love Ethan even more for this- he kept going, no matter how confused and frustrated he was, even when his faith in Lena was at its lowest he kept trying to save her because he loves her. The lack of Lena also allowed us to see Ethan’s greater purpose in the world. He has a destiny as much as she does and it doesn’t revolve solely around her. It turns out he’s a Wayward, which Link jokingly compares to being about as awesome as Aquaman’s ability to talk to fish. It may not be shifting worlds around, but it does make sense- all through Beautiful Creatures Ethan helped Lena stay true to herself, and in Beautiful Darkness it’s up to him to bring her back.
I also loved how we got to learn the back stories of other characters, particularly the fact that Macon and Ethan’s mom Lila used to get busy. Ok, so I’m exaggerating things, but still, they sat in a tree at Duke k-i-s-s-i-n-g, and I kind of love it. She didn’t cheat on Ethan’s dad, but her love for Macon led her to Gatlin, to being a Keeper, and for the search for how casters and humans could be together- it’s easy to see how she could’ve produced a Wayward for a son.
As for other Keepers, Olivia, the British librarian ingenue Keeper-in-training, with her homemade gadgets and inability to play by the rules, won me over in spades. At times when Lena was particularly annoying me I wanted Liv and Ethan to get together. Well not truly because I hate love triangles more than words, and I loved that it was a possibility but both Liv and Ethan were smart enough to not truly go there. She’s quick witted and brave with a great sense of humor and innate dorkiness that makes me adore her. She’s the brains to Link’s brawn and Ethan’s courage, and with Lena back in the picture at the end of the book, I’m loathe to see her break up the gang.
While Lena was off running away with Riley and John to the Great Barrier so that she could no longer hurt anyone, Ethan, Liv and Link were trying to bring her back. Their journey, a little bit A Wrinkle in Time and a little/a lot A Wizard of Oz took them deeper into the caster world than ever before, led by a glowing green ball and sassy cat named Lucile Ball. This part was what I enjoyed most about the book, as Liv and Ethan grew closer he saw the possibility of normal and no matter how great she was, he still chose Lena. Link’s one-liners were as ridiculous as ever, but by having him come along for the ride we got to see his greater purpose in the mix as well- he’s not just the comic relief. And once they reached the Great Barrier, Macon’s return was both predictable and fantastic, I can’t imagine these books without him.
I found the end to be a bit rushed but I like that Lena paved her own path, neither good nor evil like all the rest of us. While I personally think she has a lot of groveling left to do, I couldn’t be happier that she and Ethan worked things out and have proved they’re stronger than ever. I think by them separating in Beautiful Darkness we’re not going to have to worry about that for the rest of the series, come hell or high water, they’re going to be together, but they had to live through it to know for sure. For that reason I can say I liked it, I can understand why it went in the direction it did, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting to read it until right before the third comes out. But regardless of when you read it, make sure you do, because I guarantee the twists and turns in this series are only going to get better and better.
So what did you all think? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? Did Lucille Ball steal the show for you too?Let’s hear your thoughts on Beautiful Darkness!