Beautiful Creatures – Novel
It used to be that I would only read one book at a time. For a while I would read the book of the day obsessively; starting the novel of interest and doing next to nothing else until I had finished the story. Then I grew older and now I find myself (for the most part) better able to put books aside when things need doing (unless it is near the end of the story). I am also reading multiple books at once. Until I finished Beautiful Creatures, I was reading four books. Two of them were re-reads – which I have been discovering are actually terribly written stories for different reasons. The third book is a recommendation that will likely evolve into its own post so I will say nothing more about it yet.
This brings me to Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It seems to be one of the more popular teen fantasy novels and yet another of that genre to be turned into a film (I have not seen the movie). The book’s story is not earth-shattering in its concept, progression or telling. It is however, a perfectly good coming-of-age, teenage fantasy romance novel. The writing is solid. There was nothing in the style or structure to cause offense. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to find the story told by the boy (Ethan) rather than the super-powered girl (Lena).
I also enjoyed the Deep Southern US small town setting with its neatly described ‘characters’. The main characters were part of large and complicated families – which is an excellent and realistic way to write about people. It is much better than the hero being an orphan – which I find cliched. The plot had all the usual drama associated with 15/16 year-olds: there was bullying at school (the super popular cheerleaders looked down their noses at the new girl to town), first and passionate romance (the kind that is destined and involves linked dreams and telepathy), the skepticism that adults actually know what they are doing (I personally love when the adults tell the teens they are being overly melodramatic), and the realization that the world did not work the way you thought it did (magic exists, parents lie to themselves and their children, and some people are just mean).
Beautiful Creatures examines at fate/destiny and good vs evil in the form of Casters (magic users) being claimed by either the Dark or the Light on the individual’s 16th Birthday. It touches on the role family history has in shaping our current world and the consequences of decisions or actions one makes. I feel there was an interesting opportunity to play more with the curse of the Duchannes family, the parallels between the past and the present and how interconnected everyone in a small town really is. And in fairness the authors may spend more time fleshing out some of their ideas. This is only book one in a series. Thought I currently have no plans to read the rest of the series.
The ending is not particularly surprising. It is not the strongest element of the book either – which likely is a reflection of this being the first novel in a series. Again, I feel there was a missed opportunity to tie the fragmented scenes of the past to the present. I was disappointed that the main character had even less to do with the final conflict than was teased throughout the story. It is set up that Ethan will somehow be in a position to save or at least try to save Lena. He doesn’t. And while Lena is supposed to save Ethan (not a bad concept) it was not sharply handled.
Over all the story is a well-crafted, predictable tale about two people falling in love for the first time and facing the uncertainties of life. I enjoyed the blend of realistic small town America and the fantasy of magic users in a fight between the light and the dark. It was good, solid and very nicely suited to its teenaged target audience.