Tag Archives: margaret stohl

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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If I had been blessed with Amma’s finger-licking cooking all my life, and suddenly the delectable Southern cuisine lost all of its palatability, I’d know something was rotten in the state of Denmark, too.

That’s only one negativity haunting Ethan throughout Beautiful Chaos, the third book in the Caster Chronicles series. Though all is, for the most park, right in his and Lena’s relationship – their inability to touch without Lena eventually short-winding Ethan is still present, as is Lena’s jealousy of Liv and Ethan’s abhorrence of John Breed – all is far from well in Gatlin. In the second installment (which I reviewed, underwhelmed, in December), Lena’s choosing between Light and Dark – or, rather, not choosing – caused a disruption in the Order of Things. Now the grass is brown, and the insects are taking over, and the lake is dry, and Link’s mom thinks the plagues of Moses are descending upon the earth. What really are descending, however, are the dark casters and Incubi.

This book is noteworthy for its multi-facets: the teens must find the One Who Is Two, Amma is “going dark” and traveling to New Orleans via the tunnels, Ridley is a complete mystery, and John Breed metaphorically hangs in the air as a threat, or blessing, or captive or innocent caster-blend. Though it does overlook some seemingly major issues (why is there only humor regarding the fact that Link is now park Incubus?), it certainly harks back to the mystery and delight of the first book, Beautiful Creatures.

Once you hit the just pre-midway point, it’s almost impossible to put this novel down. Something is going on with Ethan that we don’t quite understand, and we have our theories, which may be proved, disproved, and proved again (as they did for me) like a major rat-race mystery, YA style. Lena is an emo anomaly in and of herself (regrettably, she doesn’t 100% redeem herself for me after her idiocy in the second book), especially as she watches the complex visions of her mother Sarafine turning into a Dark caster. Through these visions, we see Sarafine try to ignore her dark side and pursue a relationship with Lena’s father, a Light caster. Abraham, however, intervenes and helps draw Sarafine more to the Dark side. We then watch as Lena and Ethan flash back on the day Sarafine set her home on fire, leaving her husband and daughter to burn. This all, understandably, strikes a major chord with Lena.

I still have a major qualm with Ridley, as I have had since the beginning of the series. Although she may not be “Dark” per se in this novel, she still feels the need to topple the cheerleading pyramid to show off at basketball practice. It seems to me that if Sarafine is a Dark caster, and she is setting fire to her family, Ridley should be a little deeper than trivial high school pranks. In any event, she still proves to be an interesting one in this novel, and I’m eager to see how she’ll pan out in the final installment. Speaking of final installment, once you finish this third book, it’ll be impossible not to immediately download the e-book of the fourth. Cliff hanger, much?

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Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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I am told, by very reliable sources, that the first Caster Chronicles book, with which I was (am) obsessed, is not the best in the series. In that case, I have high hopes for the third and fourth installments because the second, Beautiful Darkness, was bleak at best.
Much was missing from this second installment—perhaps most noteworthy, the relationship between Ethan and Lena. I understand than “Book 2 Breakups” are common in our YA universe; they create tension and add depth to the characters. But no depth was created from this temporary separation. I’m thinking now of New Moon (my favorite Twilight book) in which Edward leaves Bella but Bella develops a strong relationship with Jacob, which we readers were able to cling to and appreciate in the subsequent novels (even though we, obviously, wanted Bella back with Edward). In Beautiful Darkness, the authors do add new characters, but these characters don’t add to the plot or to our understanding of Ethan or Lena. Throughout this book, you never think for a second it will work with Ethan and the other girl, and, moreover, the other girl just has almost nothing likable about her. She is a base, stereotypical character, and the novel is filled with stereotypical YA filler dialogue and references to get through a couple hundred pages. (She’s British, and everyone calls her Mary Poppins.) Ethan also spends a lot of time with Link, who I have thought, since Beautiful Creatures, is much too much of a high school boy stigma. And Lena. Lena runs off to try and find herself (in a somewhat implausible way, if I might add) and only gets more unlikeable for it. She has her annoyances in the first book, but they’re magnified to an extreme here. And I still can’t fathom why she thought her method of self-discovery would make sense. She’s sixteen, but she’s not stupid. This leaves this book’s ending for the couple non-conclusive feeling—just cold and unrealized.
My other major qualm with this installment was the higher power intervention. This was present in Beautiful Creatures, but only minorly—Amma helped Lena save Ethan at Ravenwood. But in this second book, Amma, and Lena’s family, and Ethan’s crazy old aunts—they were everywhere. Ethan couldn’t do anything on his own, and he was even worse off when he was with Link and Liv (Mary Poppins). When they almost got eaten by a deamon, Amma saved them. When they almost got attacked by incubi, other Lena’s family had their backs. Ethan and his friends were never able to conquer anything or anyone. Isn’t the fun of YA the idea that teenagers can save the world?
What Beautiful Darkness did have going for it was a great cliffhanger ending. Ridley truly came into play in this book as a major driving force in the series. In the first book, I was tired of her childishly “bad” antics; now, I’m eager to see what she’ll stir up in the future.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve actually had the time to sit down and read, or write about what I read; most of the reading I’ve been doing I owe entirely to the lovely New York City subway system. And what time I have had between work and play, I have been dedicating to my own writing, in honor of national novel writing month. And let me tell you, making up your own world is a lot more tiring that reading about someone else’s! At least that’s what I think…any writers out there agree?

In any event, I have recovered from my melancholia that ensued when I finished the three published books of the Cinder series (though, Marissa Meyers, if you want to leak that Winter book, I’d be all for it) and have latched onto a new: Beautiful Creatures.

I’m a little late on the trend: Little, Brown first published this first book in the Caster Chronicles series in 2009, and the movie was released just under a year ago. The book inside pages (I have the cheesy mass market paperback with the movie cover, because it was cheapest) reports that the dual authors, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, came to lunch with two ideas: one wanted to detail life in the South while the other wanted to spark a new YA fantasy trend. The result is a novel with firm setting and gripping other-worldly appeal.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a first person male voice. Also, all of my recent series have had the protagonist had the “fantasy” happening inside of them: Cinder is a cyborg; Tessa is a (spoiler) warlock. But Ethan is mortal. He just happens to be a teenager who has the same dreams as a girl he’s never met. (Okay, come to think of it, maybe Ethan isn’t a regular mortal. This is why I have to finish the series!)

Ethan sings his “wishing song” – his hope to get out of his small Southern town of Gatlin – throughout his first day of sophomore year of high school. As if on cue, a new girl, Lena, moves to town and captures his heart. But Lena isn’t a normal high schooler; she’s a Caster (don’t call her a witch!), and a special one at that: Ethan isn’t the only one who wants to get to her.

Garcia and Stohl turned up the romance factor in their debut joint novel. The beauty of it is, it’s the subtle passion of Twilight plus the constant adventure of Harry Potter. The novel is always moving, always turning, but throughout, Ethan and Lena are together, and they’re pretty adorable throughout. Lena can get a bit whiny sometimes; but maybe we can give that to her, since she sort of has the weight of the Caster world on her shoulders?