by Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia
” ‘Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.’ “
Casters. Light or Dark. Good or Evil. Only one thing in common — no choice.
Lena Duchannes has always known she would be claimed by one side or the other. Her blood does not run pure. The daughter of the most powerful Dark Caster known to the history of magic, but raised by an empathetic and nurturing Incubus, Lena has no idea which side of the coin her fate will fall to. She can feel the love and the hate battling inside of her as each hand attempts to tip her to their favor, and the heat of it causes despair and dangerous introspection to course through her veins like poison. It’s not as if she doesn’t already have enough to deal with; battling teenage hormones is an adventure unto itself. And watching her cousin Ridley fall over the precipice of all things good into the pit of hell and come back up with a smile and the glowing eyes of Dark has been hard. Living in the small town of Gatlin, a blip in the mosquito-filled Southern countryside with humidity hanging as heavy in the air as the burdensome beehives that trickle forgotten honey, Lena is despondent and lonely. And she’s terrified.
But there is this boy. This boy who claims to have dreamt of her. And he’s not smooth or suave. He’s heartbreakingly normal, with an acerbic wit and a to-die-for smile. Ethan could be her savior from the dark side of life; he could be the one to save Lena from herself. He could be the one to push the light over the finish line and help Lena claim herself. Despite the fact that her uncle doesn’t agree with the match. Or that Ridley keeps sticking her nose (and her lollypop) in where it doesn’t belong.
When Ethan and Lena unite to try and find a solution to the ever-growing Caster problem, they uncover secrets and lies, manipulations and deceits. A family curse riddled with unrequited love and the ties that bind, will move them to gather information and push back the veil of what truly lies beneath her family’s tangled heritage. A library full of ancient books and passed-down knowledge will guide them, but the dark and twisting magic of the less than desirable creatures of the world will band together to push Lena ever closer to embracing that side of her that is ruthless and selfish. And in the end, Lena will have to choose — Light or Dark?
Beautiful Creatures is the first book in the Caster Chronicles; a series which spans four books, a spin-off that features two novels and a handful of novellas, a graphic novel, and a film. A collaborative effort by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, the novels follow the lives of two teenagers and their immediate family and friends, pulling from all sides of the magical world and the underbelly of life’s nefarious demon-counterparts.
The series is often pushed into the world of literary controversy, being linked to works such as the critically despised but commercially beloved Twilight and being dubbed as “over-hyped.” The characters are accused of behaving too much like adults while being put into unrealistic situations and not behaving predictably. But what I personally enjoyed so much about Beautiful Creatures was how it would poke fun at the young-adult-soaked-in-magic world over here but on the next page, would provide deep and thoughtful dialogue. The teenage characters in the novels are not dumbed down or forced into a box of how they should behave. The adults in their lives trust them and their judgement (most of the time). And of course, when they find themselves in a jam, the first place they go to is — the library (which I love).
Taking Beautiful Creatures for what it is, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars — and I do recommend it for young readers (ages 13+) who are looking to dip their toes into the murky world of hormonal teen romance and the ever-growing waters of the magical community. There are some new things here — not just your typical witches and wizards and vampires who glow in the sunlight. Perfect reading for the upcoming chilly fall and winter nights, pre-teens will enjoy getting to know Lena and Ethan, and might even have a giggle at Ridley and Link’s exploits.