On reading the Caster Chronicles

*Warning, this is a reaction to the series as a whole, so there may be SPOILERS*

I decided to read Beautiful Creatures after reading an author interview featuring Kami Garcia and being intrigued by the idea of the book being written as a way to engage students who wanted to read something different from what was being published. I really enjoyed that first novel in the series. I found the writing evocative and lyrical, and was drawn to the characters–especially some of the side characters. Family is a huge part of the Caster Chronicles, as is the idea of the South, and these are two elements that I loved and enjoyed reading throughout the series. Macon and Amma may very well be two of my favorite parental figures in young adult literature. That said, I found myself losing interest in the actual plot after Beautiful Darkness. Beautiful Chaos and Beautiful Redemption kept me reading because I wanted to know how it would come together in the end, but the action felt lacking to me and Abraham and Sarafine were more like caricatures than well-rounded, motivated villains. Just when it seemed like there was more to Sarafine that just being a big baddie, her redemption became lost in a whirl of “I’m going to get you my pretty”. Sarafine’s history, like Genevieve’s, was a deciding factor in many of the events that occur in Lena’s life, but those glimpses of the girl who was rejected by her family were overshadowed by her irrational desire to kill kill kill. The idea that Dark Casters are bad just because they’re Dark Casters didn’t work for me, in the same way that the reason behind Ethan’s decision didn’t work for me. His journey through death and his experience of the afterlife were interesting and had a mythic quality, but the part about Angelus’s involvement in Ethan’s sacrifice lessened it for me. Angelus just didn’t read like a villain to me. Don’t get me wrong, he was evil and full of hate, but it was stark evil without reason. Kind of a let down.

Beautiful Redemption ended well, but I found myself reading just to get to the end. The first part seemed to drag aimlessly until Lena’s book, but the last few chapters reached a satisfying conclusion.

And those are my 2 cents.

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not just another werewolf novel

Moonglow by Kristen Callihan

After reading Firelight, I was intrigued enough by the mythology created by Callihan to want to give Moonglow a try. Second in the Darkest London series, Moonglow picks up some time after Firelight left off. Archer and Miranda make several appearances as secondary characters, but the real protagonists in this story are Ian Ranulf, former Miranda stalker, and Daisy, Miranda’s older, recently widowed sister.

First introduced in Firelight, Ian is a werewolf with a yen for red-heads and a troubled past of his own. Given the troubled werewolf element, there is plenty of potential for cliché, but Callihan manages to establish a mythology all of her own, her werewolves living as part of society and serving as a sort of underground, supernatural kingdom right in the center of London.

Like Miranda, the widowed Daisy is an unconventional heroine well able of looking after herself, even during a werewolf attack. And that’s where the action starts, when a rogue kills Daisy’s would-be paramour when they set out for a clandestine tryst. Arriving on the scene at the right moment, Ian, exiled were and former member of Clan Ranulf, comes to Daisy’s aid just on time. As Archer’s former friend and Miranda’s caddish hanger-on, Ian has little to recommend him to Daisy but his personality. It just happens that his insouciant attitude is just what Daisy needs after a troubled marriage and tedious mourning.

Callihan does a great job of portraying lust/love as a companionate, mutually enjoyable thing. Like Miranda and Archer, Ian and Daisy are a pair of equals–neither is a naive innocent in this relationship. Even as Daisy comes into her own and discovers her own special talent for… let’s call it magical horticulture… Ian finds his own place through his relationship with her.

Especially interesting to me is Callihan’s concept of wolfhood, as explained by Ian:

“Look, we don’t know how we started, why we live this endless life, or from where we came. It’s all speculation. But the closest our elders can figure, it has to do with reincarnation. Once we were wolves. Over several lifetimes, our sprits [sic] evolved and we became men, but the wolf spirit lived on as well. Think of it as a soul divided.”

These wolves are not the usual bite-victims, but a kind of royal family. The elemental powers possessed by the Ellis sisters, as well as the GIMs (Ghost in the Machine), shapeshifters, demons, and who knows what that people this version of London add an extra layer of depth to what would otherwise be another historical romance.

But I really must stop waxing lyrical. This really is just a fun paranormal historical romance with some interesting twists, a side of mystery, and a number of sexy bits that are bound to make you blush, if you’re the blushing type.

I received an advance copy of Moonglow from Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley.

“a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul”

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was number 138 on the hold list when I requested this book many moons ago. It could not have arrived at a worst time. I was dealing with a family emergency and barely had time to pick it up before it was returned to the hold queue. Then, I had to deal with several other issues that made it nearly impossible to sit down and read it. As a consequence, my enjoyment of the book was marred by my need to read it during stolen moments, which seemed few and far between during the last month. At one point, I toyed with the idea of just returning it and waiting to check it out again (you can’t renew a request when there are hundreds of holds on it). But I really really wanted to finish it, especially when I got to the circus and fell in love with the whole concept of the book.

It’s such an immersive sort of book. It’s incredibly sensual in its narrative–in the true sense of the word. The narrative invokes all your senses, drawing you into the circus and making you feel/see/hear/touch/smell the magic of the circus. A scene or description that might seem disconnected at first, becomes clear as the stories continues, each chapter coinciding with the idea of the tents as individual, self-contained realities and experiences within a greater whole.

It’s hard to describe the book. It’s about magic, but it’s more than that. It’s about love, loss, reality, illusion, death, transcendence, power, perception, obsession, time, Shakespeare, myth…

It’s a heady sort of book. I almost felt like a rêveur in the end.