Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

December 1, 2009; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything. (courtesy of Goodreads)

Review

I read Beautiful Creatures a year and a half ago and adored it. In anticipation of the release of Beautiful Chaos, the third book in the Caster Chronicles series, I'm re-reading the first two books. Beautiful Creatures was not only as good the second time around, but I loved it even more. The story has everything that I consider essential in a good book: a likable narrator, heart-stopping romance, well-developed secondary characters, strong villains, a complex yet understandable paranormal element, and a good balance between character development and plotting. It is a mixture southern traditions: charm, history, and Gothic storytelling.

A highlight of the series is Ethan, our narrator and main character. It is always refreshing to have a male narrator and Ethan is particularly pleasant. He is smart, sensitive, and thoughtful. While he is extremely passionate about those he cares about, he manages to hold to his beliefs during times of turmoil without the inner angst of a typical female narrator.

Lena is Ethan's opposite in many ways. Angst to the extreme. And who wouldn't be if they thought they were cursed? Lena is a Caster - a witch. In her family, Casters turn light or dark at the age of 16. They have no choice in the matter. Lena is terrified that she will turn dark and is counting the days down to her sixteenth birthday like a prisoner ticking off days leading to his execution. Lena is an eternal pessimist. She is an emo poet. On the surface, she seems insufferably sullen. But the reader can't help but empathize with her fears and love Lena for her underlying kindness and intelligence. I loved that she had an edge - whether dark or light - she had the gall to get some revenge on those who wrong her.

My favorite part of Beautiful Creatures is the strongly developed parental figures. Both Ethan and Lena are your stereotypical orphans. Lena's parents died when she was young. Ethan's mother died last year and his father is so distraught that he might as well be dead. Ethan is essentially raised by his housekeeper Amma and Lena is raised by her uncle Macon. Both Amma and Macon play crucial roles in the story. I adored Amma's fierce love for "her boy," her crossword hobby, her cooking talent, and her role as intercessor between the Spirits, the Casters, and Mortals . I became extremely attached to Macon as I came to understand his particular mixture of elegance, arrogance, strength, and love for Lena. Amma and Macon serve as foils for Ethan and Lena as they strive to keep them apart and hinder their attempts to learn more about the Caster curse. Their actions are frustrating but the reader can tell they are done out of love.

Beautiful Creatures is a long book - 563 pages. I thought the plot flowed smoothly and rarely dragged. However, some reviews disagree. The book admittedly covers a lot of material. Here are the various major plot points of the novel: Ethan and Lena's romance, Ethan's family problems, Lena's family dynamics, the Civil War element of the Duchannes Caster curse, the "witch-hunt" Lena faces from the cruel, ignorant students and townspeople, Lena's struggle between dark and light, Ethan's friendship with Link, the explanation of what a Caster is, and more. Clearly, this is not a simple book. The story was a little easier to comprehend the second time around, but I remember being nearly as captivated on the first read.

I highly recommend Beautiful Creatures. It's one of the best paranormal romance series I've read. Ethan and Lena are two of the most endearing YA characters, the side characters are very strongly written, and the world of the Casters is absolutely fascinating. While the story is long and not overly speedy, if you're willing to be patient and take the time to absorb the myriad of things going on in Beautiful Creatures, it is a rich and satisfying book.

Rating: 5 / 5

17 comments:

  1. Great review! I've had this one on my shelf for awhile but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I'll definitely have to get to it soon :)

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  2. I think it is the size that puts me off at the moment. I really do want to read this series at some point though.

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  3. I LOVED beautiful Creatures! I think I have read it at least three times!! Great review :)

    http://sarahcatchingbooks.blogspot.com

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  4. Beautiful review Alison! I really enjoyed this one as well though I've still yet to read Beautiful Darkness. I need to do that! While I don't think this book dragged, I think it was just one of those slower stories that give you time to savor and think about them before moving on to the next event:)

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  5. i'm reading this right now! only about 100ish pages in though! glad you like it! :)
    <3

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  6. Love this series! Can't wait for the next installment!!

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  7. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with this review. I loved BC. I loved the careful character development the authors put into everyone in this book. It was like a slow simmering to a perfect meal. I should try re-reading too. I might pick up on a lot I missed out the first time.

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  8. I totally agree with you! I love the book and the sequel!

    Awesome review!

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  9. I really want to read this one! Your review is awesome. Thanks!

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  10. Agreed!! I loved these characters so much too. I know some people found the characters too angsty and the plot too slow but, like you, I found no fault with it. I haven't read Beautiful Darkness yet but I plan on it soon!

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  11. I have BC on my shelf. The length of the book is what worries me and I have put it on the back burner. Since there's already 2 books out of the series, I think I'll wait for the third book to come out so I can read them back to back. The only complaint about the book that I've heard is Ethan's voice. Does he sound like a grown woman? Does he sound like a teen boy?

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  12. I need to read this one soon because it sounds like you really enjoyed it. I like how you describe Ethan! I hope I am like you and don't get bored reading like some others did because of the length.

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  13. Ooh, another witch book! Bring 'em on! I'm adding them to my shelf list. Thank for the splendid review! :)

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

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  14. What a beautiful review! You make me want to pick up Beautiful Creatures and read it all over again. I've forgotten what all the magic was about. Now I remember the necklace of found things Lena has and the dreams Ethan has and the South! God I should have read this when I was missing the South so much up North. It is just dripping in heat and humidity that only South Carolina can have. I loved Beautiful Creatures!
    Thanks for reminding me of why!

    Heather

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  15. I've got this one on my shelf (well in Dutch) but i've been putting it off because of the number of pages. But I think I'm going to pick it up soon now.

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  16. I'd like to re-read this one eventually, too. I truly enjoyed this story! It's one of my favorites. I wasn't as crazy about the second book. However, the characters are terrific and the story is magical. I like that it's different. I hope we learn more about their ancestors in the next book and how it connects to Ethan and Lena. I agree on the parental figures! Looking forward to Beautiful Chaos!

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  17. Wonderful review! I was so worried about the length of the book, but with all those different things going on, I don't think I'll be bored. I'm especially curious about the lore behind the witches and that curse.

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