Monday, June 24, 2013

Beautiful Darkness

To read my review of Beautiful Creatures, the first book in the Caster Chronicles, please go here.
Warning: this review will likely contain spoilers for those who have not already read the first book.

While this is being posted at the end of June, I read this at the beginning of April. My book reviews, generally, are pushed a month or two ahead of when I originally write them so that I can work in any moments where I may fall behind on my reading. With that, let's envision the beginning of spring. Easter just passed: a cold, snowy period of time, and we in the DC area just received our first hints of spring. One moment is was chilly, enough to wear a winter hat and gloves, and the next it was glorious and in the 70's. Despite that pollen was high and destroying my nose and throat, all the windows were open and I could only be found in one of two places: meandering outside in the sunshine or laying in my bed (also in the sunshine) like a content cat while reading this book.

I was so sick of winter by this point and overjoyed that it was warmer that I wanted to read something that also reminded me of summer. It's times like these that I turn to "southern fiction" and by that I mean any book that happens to take place in the south. For whatever reason, most books that take place in the southern US always seem to take place during the summer which is exactly what I was looking for. In addition to this, I really enjoyed Beautiful Creatures and I had been itching to move on to the next book since December. Having just finished reading a number of books for publishers I felt it was time I picked a book of my own choosing.

To my pleasure, the book doesn't take long to jump into the thick of things. Starting where Beautiful Creatures left off, I would say it is best to read the second book quickly following the first so that everything that happened is still fresh in your mind. Even still, with waiting four months before reading the second book, there were enough facts to remind you who was who so that you weren't lost (in case you forgot) but not so much detail that it's overwhelming and you're spending the first half of the book playing catch up.

I really appreciate how the authors handle the experience of loss in these two books. Death is something we all have to face but for teenagers it can be particularly jarring. Teenagers, often enough, think themselves invincible and that death is very far from them and when it comes too close it can be shocking. Both Lena and Ethan are in mourning for different people. This can either bring people together or, at times, rip them apart and it seems to be doing just that. Almost right away Lena seems different in the book and for the first half of the book, maybe more, I kind of wanted to smack her and shake her by the shoulders demanding her to snap out of it. 

After using the Book of Moons in the previous book and claiming herself she is now facing the fact that she still may go dark or light. She has to make the choice, ultimately, and with large consequences. But it seems that right away Lena is leaning more towards being dark than anything light. 

She is confused, sad, and feels very alone -- a feeling not unfamiliar to teenagers -- but she is so all over the place with her emotions that it began to grate on my nerves. It got to a point where I was reading as quickly as I could simply because I wanted to find out how they could fix Lena and get her back to normal. Simply put: she is acting nothing like herself. 

Characters from the first book return to this installment and we get to see a little bit more of their formerly hidden lives which I really enjoyed. From Ethan's housekeeper to the town librarian, their own gifts seem to be more visible since Ethan has fully entered the Caster world. You also get to know a little bit more about Ethan's mother who died before the start of the first book. 

With that, there were portions of this book that really reminded me of Harry Potter. The two boys and a girl going off to fight the big bad guy who has a bunch of devoted followers. They end up in a different world where there are dark shadow-like beings that can suck the life out of you and a number of characters who you think you can't trust but then you realize you can. But, I loved that about Harry Potter and while it made me sort of frown to see that type of story show up in another piece of work I realize that there are so many stories and books in the world that they'll all, surely, have similarities from one to the next and these books certainly are more different than Harry Potter than similar. 

Another qualm I had with this book was that there needed to be some additional fine-tuned editing. It wasn't horrible like some other books I've read (cough-Mortal Instruments-cough) but there were little bits of inaccuracy  For instance, at one point a cat is picked up but within the next paragraph it's rolling on the floor and playing with another cat. Ethan at another point doesn't know something particular about how blood Incubi work but shortly after he knows clearly how it works... yet there is no bridge to how he found out that knowledge. I'm sure if you are reading this book strictly for pleasure and/or flying through it and not looking for things to pick apart these little holes will be easily avoided but I was not that reader. I loved this book, I read it during the course of our warm weekend, but I still have an eye out for these things. Sometimes I miss them, other times I don't, and with many of these small mistakes I ended up going back and rereading the passage because I wasn't completely sure if I had read it right.

But, I can say with absolute certainty that upon finishing this book I quickly went to Goodreads and added the third installment to my TBR list and hopefully, if you read this book, you will too. 

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