Author: Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl
Series: Caster Chronicles #1
Date: February 2010
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. WhenLena 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.
I’ll admit I’m a late adopter. I picked up Beautiful Creatures because of all the hype about the film and numerous references to it on my Twitter feed. It seemed like not having read it was a big minus to my YA street cred, so I rectified that immediately. That and I hate watching movies before I’ve read the book.
Broadly, I enjoyed it. For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, the story is told from the point of view of Ethan Wade, who has lived in Gatlin, a small town in Southern USA (where everybody knows your name), his entire life. His life gets a shake-up, however, when new girl Lena Duchannes moves into town. She is instantly a pariah because she lives with her uncle Macon Ravenwood, the town recluse, in the creepy Ravenwood manor.
It comes to light after some bizarre dreams, strange telepathy and a shattered classroom window that Lena isn’t a normal girl from a normal family. She’s a Caster, a member of a family who have varying supernatural abilities. Unfortunately in her family, when a Caster turns 16 they get allocated to either the ‘Light’ or the ‘Dark’. So she and Ethan spend the months leading up to her 16th birthday trying to uncover the reasons behind this and what can be done to prevent Lena going to the ‘Dark’ side (insert obvious Star Wars joke here).
I actually liked the way the authors classified the different Casters and found the powers varied and interesting. My favourite part of the book though, was the underlying historical mystery. An enigmatic locket with initials, flashbacks and a sordid American Civil war romance doomed to repeat itself centuries later—I was officially hooked.
As far as the characters go, while I enjoyed Ethan’s point of view as a narrator (a refreshing twist on the standard paranormal formula), I wasn’t wholly invested in Ethan and Lena individually and in their relationship. I felt sympathetic towards them, but at the same time I didn’t really care too much if they managed to stay together or not. I found a lot of the other characters, particularly Ridley’s blend of evil nature and good intentions and Amma’s fierce authority more interesting.
I was also somewhat disappointed by the ending. It was very big in scale, but lost a lot of the heart of the book, the individual struggles each character has as they get caught between the Light and Dark. It also felt a bit like a cop-out, a way to prolong the story of Lena being in between for another year (and another book). In short, it was interesting an enjoyable first book, but I’m not racing to read the next instalment. I will probably go see the film though.