My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
When I began Beautiful Darkness, I was just starting to fall into a reading rut. I had a difficult time getting into the first fifty to hundred pages. But as the story unfolded and started to pick up some pace, it lured me out of the rut, which helped me enjoy the book far more than I had originally anticipated!
Unlike the first installment, Beautiful Creatures, this book had a few elements that did make it feel of lesser quality. None of those things are really so extraordinary that it would ruin my Caster Chronicles experience, however. These aspects did make me question as to whether or not the authors may have been hasty with the creation of it. But before I get into the icky stuff, let’s check out the portions of the book that I loved!
The dominant theme from beginning to end is simple yet beautifully complex: grief. Now, before I explain the importance of such a foundation, I should warn you that there will be non-plot-ruining-story-hints ahead. I won’t spoil anything, but what I will discuss might imply what is to come, just in case if you haven’t read the first book (or any book in the series, really). With my disclaimer…disclaimed, let’s move onwards. Our female protagonist experiences one of the most profound and excruciating emotions that anyone could ever undergo, which is the grief that comes along when you lose someone, or even something, very near and dear to your heart. Whether it’s a loss that stems from death, or just two people going separate ways, there are stages that we experience along the path of mourning. This path was illustrated quite adeptly in Beautiful Darkness and ends up being the focal point of unfolding events.
Anger. Guilt. Sadness. Disoriented within your own life. Trying to answer the horrid question of “why.” These are all of the facets that people endure when dealing with loss, plus many more. Our authors captured that brilliantly as Lena finds herself feeling wholeheartedly confused with splashes of self-loathing and rage. Her sadness infused with her abject affections for Ethan, create a catalyst of fear and loneliness that is agonizingly relatable for anyone who has ever felt the knife of loss. Spiraling down a very dark path, she tries to match her actions to the storm brewing inside of her, which is far from pretty. Garcia and Stohl do an exquisite job of showing the reader what it’s like to fall into a pit like that. The lengths that humans go to just to stop hurting, even if it’s only for a fraction of a second. I have lost people who meant the world to me, I’m still trying to recover from one of them. It’s not an easy task, at all. The deeper I dove into Beautiful Darkness, the more realistic the characters became for me. I could picture myself in Lena’s position, making the same choices, running from the same mental and emotional demons. Not a lot of writers can capture the essence of that kind of pain. I’m glad that Garcia and Stohl did.
Character growth in this book wasn’t extreme. While the obstacles that the cast members end up facing do change them in numerous ways, I felt that this change (for some, not all) was decidedly limited. I find this to be a good thing because there are still two installments left within the series. While I want to see these people transition and shape up into something grand based off their experiences (whether it’s evil or good), I don’t want to see it happen too quickly. The balance of growth felt just right. It may even have been a bit underplayed, but I’ll take that in lieu of overdoing it any day.
Now, let’s take a look at the components that I did not particularly enjoy. I’m going to start with the dialogue. Drawn out and terribly clichéd would be a fantastic way to describe the thoughts that came to mind while reading some of the interactions. I find it really peculiar because it only seemed to occur when particular people were talking, such as Link and Ridley, or a couple of villainous persons (of whom I can’t name without spoiling, sorry). There was no originality in the way they bickered back and forth. To be perfectly blunt, it felt like an atrociously dimwitted teenage film. Beautiful Creatures didn’t have this issue, so I don’t understand why it popped up in Beautiful Darkness. I’m severely hoping not to encounter this in the last two volumes, or my interest will wane rather quickly.
Unnecessary appearances also seemed to be a running familiar in the novel. There is one villain from the previous book that makes an appearance in this one, but their arrival was abrupt and their departure disappointingly anti-climactic. I was expecting so much more and got so little that I don’t even understand why they were brought back to begin with. This happens quite a lot with the character named Link as well. He plays a part in the story, but it felt so lacking and gratuitous. Chiming in with a phrase here or there, mostly for comic-relief (at least that was the effect given), that I wished they would have left him out as well. The finale of the book made me understand why he was given screen time, but again, I think it could either have been written much better or just not included.
The continuation of the story from book one was pretty decent. The dangling loose ends from Beautiful Creatures is adequately addressed in Beautiful Darkness, yet with the quality of the overall writing taking such a dip, I feel hesitant to read the last two books of the series. The characters are growing on me. I want to watch them blossom (or break), but there is a newfound fear of it happening with poorer taste. Nonetheless, book two of The Caster Chronicles stays very true to its name and remains really dark from beginning to end. The pace is slow at the start, but when it picks up you can find yourself getting carried away with all of the craziness that occurs. It was a very good reading experience, even with the hiccups; three and a half lollipops outta five.