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.
By Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
4 stars out of 5
Like Beautiful Creatures, this sequel drew me in with the lush, vivid descriptions and fascinating characters. However, Beautiful Darkness suffers from the same problems that plagued its predecessor: uneven pacing and a confusing ending that solves few of the problems that have been building up for 500 pages. And who am I kidding--I'm knocking off a star for my favorite character, Liv, who really gets shafted in this book.
The delightful supporting cast is my favorite part of this series. These two authors can be masters of characterization. From Amma, Marian, and Macon to Link, Ridley, and Liv, this series contains an impressive supporting cast of witty, brave, and loyal characters. These characters come alive for me, and I look forward to any scenes with them. Where the book struggles is with the leads. Ethan is a sweet voice for the story but perhaps not particularly realistic for a 16 year-old-boy. And I admit--I've never been crazy about Lena. The authors did such a good job having Lena push Ethan away that I didn't WANT Ethan to go back to Lena. I understood he needed to help her and would always be there for her, but I thought a teen paranormal novel would finally break from the predicable relationship pattern and provide a fresh twist...and that brings me to Liv.
I adore Liv. She's brilliant, loyal, and caring, and she could have been the sunshine Ethan needed after so much darkness. By half way through the book, I was completely cheering for Ethan and Liv. I thought, "Finally! We get a unique story where the guy and the girl (Ethan and Lena) DON'T end up together but everyone's still happy and the choices feel real." Nope. I thought for sure the book was establishing that you can find love again after loving someone you can't be with. Yeah, he'd always love Lena (like his Mom loved Macon) but he could find sunshine, warmth, love, and acceptance with someone else. I just loved how Ethan described Liv...how he said it felt like he'd known her forever, how easy and natural it was to be with her, how warm and caring she was. How could he throw that away to jump right back to Lena's cold, dark arms? I was beyond disappointed when in the wrap-up at the end, Liv was relegated to a few quick sentences after she sacrificed so much and had such a natural, healthy connection with Ethan.
Was it just me, or did this book feel like it could have been about 100 pages shorter? I remember feeling that way when I read Beautiful Creatures, too. The world created by Garcia and Stohl is rich, captivating, and original; however, the pacing is uneven with huge chunks of the book that slow to a crawl and delve into talking about the same problems again and again and again (you get the point). And after reading SO MUCH about the problems and conflicts, you expect a little resolution at the end. Nope. Just more confusing, vague endings that aren't really endings at all and more "choices" that aren't really choices. At the end, didn't you feel like you were back where you were at the end of Beautiful Creatures? After 1000+ pages, I really need a little resolution, here, instead of dragging out the same problem for two books.
Will I read the next installment? Yes, but I hope the authors provide a real ending at some point. There's a way to end a book (that's part of a series) where the reader feels satisfied and it feels like an ending, and yet the door is open for sequels. I hope at some point the books in this series can give readers this kind of a satisfying ending. (And here's to hoping Liv gets an ending she deserves.)