Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Green Eyes or Gold Eyes?: My Review of "Beautiful Darkness" by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

“How does it end?”
“Like this.” She bent over and kissed me, and her hair fell around my face like rain. I pulled up the covers, and she climbed beneath them, folding into my arms. As we kissed, I felt the heat of her touch. We tumbled in the bed. I was on top of her, then she was on top of me. The heat intensified to the point where I couldn’t breathe. I thought my skin was on fire, and when I broke away from her kiss, it was.

Beautiful Darkness, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl


Together Ethan and Lena 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.

                After finishing this book, I had to pause for a bit, and think. While reading I had many thoughts that I wouldn’t have associated with a Young Adult paranormal fiction book. And having pondered it, I still think it’s worth discussing.

                However, let’s talk about the plot for a moment: this book opens up when the first closes – and for those who read the first, you’ll remember the traumatic ending. So Lena is devastated to say the least, Ethan is more submerged in Caster World then he likely ought to be, Amma is preparing for the worst and taking her wooden spoon out for any disobedience, and the town of Gatlin hangs suspended in a strange new light.

                The plot of the second novel is quicker than the first – there is no pause to build up a strange world, we already know one exists and how it exists. The pauses in this novel are barely noticed since they are explanations that move the pot forward. Case in point: the tunnels. The Authors take time to build up the maze of underground tunnels bit by bit – when Ethan & Co. follow Lena down to the club; When Ethan’s Auntie gives him the collar; when Amma and the Greats barrel in to save the day, etc. But all of these instances where the world of the tunnels is created and further explained, are instances where the plot continues to move – necessary information for the action to continue. I happen to like this piecemeal way of building a world – I remember it easier, and see the significance of certain things faster than I would should the authors have just dumped a huge world in my lap and then asked me to recall the details at later times throughout the novel. I find the latter technique tends to make me feel confused and disjointed from the book, so I was happy to see the fashion of tunnel-world-building in Beautiful Darkness.

                The first book rested predominantly in Amma’s kitchen, the high school and Greenbriar, with a few instances of Ravenwood – which served very much to confuse and amaze, especially nearing the end where Lena begins to exert control over Ravenwood like her uncle usually does. This book is more of an underground and expanding version – it goes deep into the tunnels under the Carolinas and Georgia, as mentioned above; and it also expands Gatlin – to the “beach”, more of the water tower, and other areas that wouldn’t necessarily have been needed in the first book. This is another instance of piecemeal and it works with the story – since through Ethan’s P.O.V. we get all the history and all the craziness of descriptions, without having to be bogged down with details that are unnecessary to the story.

                The plot does have its frustrating moments – at the end, with the introduction of what the nerd I am can only describe as the “Boss” character – I felt sort of disjointed from the story: here we have, a scene of gorey fighting and kick ass, and then suddenly everything stops, no one fights and instead, there is a verbal sparring match between the Boss and the good guys – with a token “We will meet again ..” line ender. That frustrated me.

                However, the actual ending – the one that ended the audiobook for me – that was awesome! And that is what I can’t wait for, in the last book (note to self: have to get the 2.5 book – Dream Dark off Amazon …).

                Now onto that thing that struck me:

                Though told from Ethan’s P.O.V., the book is decidedly female. Like, almost all of the surrounding characters of any great influence – dramatic to the story, or to Ethan himself – are women. Lena – the love interest, though she is, is also the powerful Natural and a character in her own right - with her own thoughts, dreams and idiosyncrasies. Then Amma – yes, she seems like the typical nanny-esque hard ass with the heart of golf, and living on a former plantation only serves to further this, but she has a strength and keenness that surpasses the trope and makes her a fully realized character. Miriam, the aunt like character, who also has her own secrets and ambitions, responsibilities and hopes – though she doesn’t get enough screen time this time around, she is still very much a presence of the book. Ridley – though a bad ass in the first book, and nothing more, is suddenly a lot deeper and a lot more confusing this time around, the changes of herself a reflection of the changes in the fight  between good and evil that is theme of these books.

                The second book introduced a few other female characters: Keeper Apprentice, the English Liv – she’s an ambitious and intelligent girl who adjusts and adapts as things come her way and as she reconciles the world around her with what she wants. And the least developed character who I hope comes back with a vengeance in book three – Leah Ravenwood – Macon’s sister and general ass kicker, who does what she wants – including breaking across lines, to help those she wants.

                Though the high school tanned blondes trope and the evil mother trope are caricatures that are barely developed, the overwhelming presence of female characters with importance is critical to me in building a believable world. Especially one with magic. And so, for this, I congratulate the authors in being able to draw out strong female characters and have them actually make a difference in the book – even the bad ones.

                So, the third book, Beautiful Chaos, is coming out … October 18, according to Goodreads

                Cannot wait

Beautiful Darkness Website: http://beautifulcreaturesauthors.com/

Up next for Review: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winter

Read if you Liked:

  • The Forbidden Game Trilogy by L.J. Smith
  • Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare


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