Tag Archives: witches

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?

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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I’ve gone ahead and subtitled the first installment in the All Souls Trilogy “The Adult Twilight.”

And who doesn’t want an adult Twilight? It was the greatest streamline enjoyment for YAs (and greatest guilty pleasure for non-YAs) of its time, what with its vampire – forbidden love – love triangle trifecta. And an adult version of that would just, you know, take our leads out of high school and make them slightly less post-pubescent and grammatically incorrect.

A Discovery of Witches may not have a love triangle (at least not in this first installment), but it does have a beautiful vampire and his non-vampire love interest. Diana (the non-vamp) is not a human, but a witch who had forgone her powers in her youth because of her parents’ mysterious death. Little does she know, there is a reason she can’t easily summon up her witching powers—and her beautiful vampire can help her find out why.

Let me say, to begin, that this is worth the read. It’s characters are lovable yet fallible — this is a quibble I have with an array of young adult novels. Characters can still seem perfect to their love interests if they have flaws! Sure, Matthew is a vampire. He is insanely handsome, uncannily intelligent, perfectly graceful and suave — but he also is roughly over-protective, secretive, and controlling. Despite this, Diana loves him. (And so do I.)

It’s also got originality — yes, it’s the adult Twilight, but it’s also got a mind of its own. And so does Diana’s house (have a mind of its own, I mean).  It makes up rooms when it wants, locks doors when people want to be alone, shelters old ghosts and ancestors, throws houseguests across the room when it’s mad, and hides knitting from the knitter. It’s like the changing staircases at Hogwarts, only better.

In the quibbles, department, this novel is long and it feels long. I’m all for 600-pagers (who didn’t love Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?), but there were times where this one could have used some edits. Sometimes, it’s a novel. Sometimes, it’s a college history lecture. (Author Deborah Harkness is currently a professor of history at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She’s brilliant, and it shows. But I graduated college. I figure most of the readers have too.) Continuing with minute particulars, Diana might be narcoleptic – she’s always falling asleep. And it’s convenient that Matthew happens to have been on a nickname basis with every famous historical figure throughout history, from Shakespeare to Washington. I’m sure he was also best friends with John Lennon, though he doesn’t seem to mention that in the first book. Later in the series, perhaps?

But, all in all, this novel is definitely going places. There are basically three major plots fueling the story: Diana’s trying to summon her witching powers, a mysterious manuscript that everyone wants, and the creatures who are trying to break up the witch-vampire romance. I’ll admit, I’m going to wait before going straight into the second book – I need to break for a book that’s just a little less smart – but read it I shall.