Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 592
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 in the Caster Chronicles
SummaryLena 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've wanted to read this book since it came out, but ended up putting it down because at the time I had just read Rosemary Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls and didn't want to read two four hundred-plus page paranormal Southern gothic novels that close together. When I saw that the third installment, Beautiful Chaos, came out this past fall, I (mistakenly) assumed that the series was complete and went to work on the first book in the Caster Chronicles.
Beautiful Creatures tells the story of Ethan Wate, a small town Virginia boy whose life is thrown into disarray with the arrival of outcast Lena. Ethan goes against the entire town in order to find out about Lena's mysterious life and help her adjust to their extremely unwelcoming high school. What Ethan doesn't know is that getting close to Lena could be hazardous to his health--in more ways than one.
Dun dun duuunnn.
I really liked the setting in this book. The whole modern Southern gothic thing really appeal to me (see: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore) so having the creepy magic casters and incubi reside there really worked. The small town mentality may have been exaggerated at points, but it worked for all of the supernatural activity going on.
The greatest aspect of this story was that the usual paranormal romance elements got reversed. This time, the boy is inexplicably drawn (ready? I've decided the new drinking game is that whenever someone is "inexplicably drawn" to someone else, you drink. Drink!) to a supernatural girl. He is the one who has to figure out what is afoot and ends up in danger because of it.
However, I wasn't over the moon for this book. The reason is that I did not like Lena. I understood that she was supposed to be less than friendly from being judged for her weirdness all the time, but instead of making her sympathetic and snarky, it made her seem like a shrew that magicked first and thought second. Often when she used magic it was like she was throwing a tantrum. I liked Ethan way better. There were times, specifically when he was talking about Lena, where it was very obvious that a female was writing his voice (unlike Cassel Sharpe from Holly Black's Curseworkers series). Even so, he was a well-developed, likable character. Often I felt like he was a friend that was dating a girl I couldn't stand but wasn't able to say anything to him about it.
Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy Beautiful Creatures as much as I wanted to. Still, the book had a great supernatural premise and was a welcome change from a lot of the usual paranormal books. I'm continuing the series with the hope that Lena gets less annoying.

Rating: 2.5 - okay.

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