Series or Stand Alone: Book 2 in the Caster Chronicles
Summary: 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.
The second book in the Caster Chronicles opens with a grieving Lena and a distraught Ethan. Lena ends up running away with her bad girl cousin Ridley and a mysterious stranger named John, sending Ethan and his best friend Link on a wild goose chase to find her. With the help of newcomer British librarian-in-training Liv, Ethan and Link track down Lena and Ridley and prevent them from going over the deep end.
I liked this one so much more than I did the first. The characters were more likable, the story was far more organized. In the first one it felt a little all over the place, like events occurred but weren't connected. The story followed a solid quest-kinda plot. And I found out how Lena gets less annoying: she disappears! YES!
The addition of Liv was a welcome one; she was a far less annoying character than Lena and less stereotyped than bad girl Ridley. She was well developed--she was a librarian in training, Marian the Librarian's protege. She missed home and wanted Ethan to introduce her to some points of American culture. Frankly, she had more chemistry with Ethan when they first met than Lena did in the entire first book. The entire time I wanted Ethan to ditch his thing with Lena ("thing," "love," whatever you want to call it) and just be happy with Liv, because they were so much better together.
Even though there's still no love lost between me and Lena's character, I enjoyed her characterization. Her acting out had a purpose and a source. She wasn't being shrew-like, she was grieving a didn't know what to do other than run away. Lena's grief made her far more sympathetic and understandable.
I liked Beautiful Darkness much more than I liked Beautiful Creatures. The characters were more developed and the plot was more complete than it was in the first one. The quest part (Ethan's search for Lena/Link's search for Ridley) had a bunch of action and conflicting emotions. I much preferred that to the exposition packed first book. I know that more exposition is necessary in a book with supernatural elements, but I felt like the exposition ended up taking precedence over the plot.
Rating: 3.75 - fair leaning towards good.