The second book in the Caster Chronicles, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is another YA novel that I have been reading about on various book blogs. I read the first book in the series, Beautiful Creatures, sometime last year. I was not crazy about the first book. I felt it was slow, that it rambled and that it was unnecessarily complicated. I didn't love it, but I knew I would probably read the next one anyway because I would have to know what happened. Since so much time had passed since I read the first one, and due to the complexity of the story, I searched online for a plot summary. After much searching and turning up mostly what people had copied from the book jacket, I came across a blog that had hosted a weekly discussion of the book chapter by chapter. This allowed me to catch up with the plot and also remember who each of the many characters were.
Beginning Beautiful Darkness with the previous story in mind made this one much easier to understand. I do believe the writing improved (although I was annoyed to no end when they began using the term "incubuses"- the plural is incubi which seems obvious to me and is easily verified on dictionary.com) and it seemed as if all the details in the first novel were finally useful. There is a lot of talk about how this book is so unique because it is told from a teenage male perspective and because the boy is the mortal and the girl is the one with supernatural powers. I suppose it is different to hear a male voice in YA fiction, but I can't say that I am all that impressed by the transfer of power to the opposite gender, at least as it relates to most other YA novels with a supernatural story line.
One of the characters I love in this book is Marian, the super awesome librarian who is far from the grey-haired bun wearing, old spinster stereotype. She is young, beautiful and relevant. She is also a genuine book lover: "Marian...pulled a stack of new books out of a cardboard box, sniffing deeply." Those of you who know me already know that I really want to be a librarian someday and this sounds exactly like something I would do. The first library I can remember visiting was a little bitty two room space next door to the fire station in the little bitty town we lived in. I can still vividly remember the smell of that tiny space and feel those old books. In every library I've ever visited I've noted the lovely book smell.
This book is full of magic and mythical characters. It is also full of the South. Touted as a Southern Gothic novel, obvious Southern references occupy every nook and cranny, but fortunately so do the less obvious ones. Having grown up in the South (Texas), but not the Deep South, some of these were personally familiar and others only through other books and pop culture. The location is almost more of a character than simply a setting.
This book captured my attention and I was unable to do much else before I finished reading it. I should have begun my book club book this week, but I couldn't help myself. It did only take about three days to finish it so that says something about how I was drawn into the story. I don't know that I would necessarily recommend this book, especially to anyone beyond high school age, but I have already put myself on the library waiting list for the third book which will be released in October. To my semi-annoyance, that won't be the final installment. A fourth book (as yet untitled) is scheduled for release sometime in 2012. It's not the best series I've ever read, but I will likely stick with it.
Have you read it? What do you think?