BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, BY KAMI GARCIA AND MARGARET STOHL
(Sequel to Beautiful Creatures and Book Two of The Caster Chronicles)
Genre: YA fantasy- contemporary
Pages: 503 (Hardcover)
Released: October 2010 by Little, Brown Books
Synopsis (from book jacket): Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.
Together they 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.
Beautiful Darkness is one of those rare sequels which manages to live up to its compelling and mind-blowing debut. Star-crossed lovers Ethan and Lena are back and they won my heart the second time around as completely as they did the first. It was great to get back to Gatlin, the quaint and yet charmingly backwards Southern town where the novels are set. Gatlin is a sort of literary sister-city to the small town outside of Charlotte, North Carolina where I live, and I always find myself laughing and nodding (hopefully not aloud in public) as I read Los Angeles- based author team Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's descriptions of age-old Southern traditions and social protocol that I know only too well. (I swear Ethan's aunts the Sisters are exact carbon-copies of my grandmother.)
Several new characters are introduced in Beautiful Darkness, though I don't intend to give away any major spoilers: Liv, a teenage Caster librarian from England who may just create a little competition for Lena in the possession of Ethan's heart; and John Breed, a mysterious Caster boy on a Harley who Lena seems to be spending a lot of time with... But it was getting to know the characters from the first book that I enjoyed the most. Ethan, Lena, and Ethan's housekeeper/ mystic Seer and tarot card reader were back, of course, though we didn't see quite as much of Lena as I would've liked. And Ridley-- well, nobody seriously thought we were getting rid of Lollipop Girl anytime soon, did they? Ridley's my favorite character by far-- I LOVE her bad-girl-ness, her seductive, sexy Siren powers, and her nicknames for Ethan and Link (Short Straw and Shirky-Dirk :) ) We got to see a lot more of Link, another one of my favorites, in Beautiful Darkness-- he sort of gets sucked into Ethan's mission by his desire to save Ridley from her own predestined destiny as a Dark Caster.
More of Macon's past is revealed in this second installment-- we discover several eerie secrets about him and his Incubus brethren. There is a huge revelation about three-fourths of the way through the story that I DID NOT see coming and which will have readers turning through the pages all the more quickly. Beautiful Darkness is an elegantly written, beautifully crafted sequel which very nearly surpasses the series' debut (and that's quite a feat!) If you haven't yet read Beautiful Creatures, you can now purchase it in paperback, and you will more likely than not find yourself running back to the bookstore to grab Beautiful Darkness a few glorious hours later.