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.

Summer Reading, part 2…

or getting my YA on

Finished Beautiful Creatures last night and can’t wait to get my hands on Beautiful Darkness. I was really surprised that I enjoyed the book as much as I did. I’d been getting away from YA during the last year… I’d had a hard time finding books that I could connect with and was starting to worry that I was losing my youthful whimsy. I haven’t lost it :). Beautiful Creatures drew me in from the start. It’s not perfect—there are some scenes that turned me off, especially the party scene, and it’s YA, so there is bound to be the near insta-love element that is so common in this kind of fiction, but it worked for me.

What I find especially engaging is the way that the Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl evoke the unique character of the South. The individual voices are wonderful–especially among the adults in the book. Who doesn’t love Ethan’s kooky aunts and the magical Amma?–and the settings are nicely rendered and imagined. There is a great atmospheric quality to the narrative that almost reminds me of Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (without all the minute details).

I was afraid this would be one of those in-the-shadow of Twilight books, but it is most definitely not. The romance between Ethan and Lena is easy and develops naturally, though you know it’s bound to happen the moment they meet and there’s that shock of attraction (and I do mean shock). There’s love and sacrifice, but it’s not a toxic love, and that’s one of the best things I can say about any YA depiction of romance.

Even as I write this, I find myself thinking of The China Garden by Liz Berry, another great YA read about a family curse and one of my favorite books. I’m sure fans of Beautiful Creatures would love it too!

Born Wicked

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Scheduled Release: Feb. 2012

Growing up female in a patriarchal society that views women as little more than decorative objects is never easy, especially for a trio of smart, intrepid sisters. Growing up a witch in a society governed by religious zealots that view magical ability as an evil sign of female wickedness can prove even harder. Left in the care of their distant father after their mother’s untimely death, Cate, Maura, and Tess bear the truth of their magical heritage, keeping it secret for fear of retribution from the Brotherhood that rules the country. Unsure where to seek advice, the Cahill sisters fight to stay strong as they learn to wield their powers without guidance, but these girls are part of a greater truth that threatens to destroy them all…

Born Wicked was not at all what I expected after reading the blurb on the back cover… it was so much better! Cate, Maura, and Tess are distinctive, well-developed characters that I instantly wanted to know more about. Cate narrates the trial of being an older sister to a pair of girls growing to fast and powerful for their own good. Always the voice of reason, Cate is a classic older sister as she tries to make the best of a complicated situation while keeping her sisters safe and deflecting the attention of their neighbors and the Brothers.

The plot is tightly woven and suspenseful. This was definitely one of those books I couldn’t put down! I just wanted to know what would happen… Would the girls be discovered? Would they suffer the fate of the other girls branded as witches by the Brotherhood? So many twists to keep me guessing. The history of the Daughters of Persephone–the matriarchal order of witches that ended when the Brothers waged war against witchery–was equally fascinating and lent the story a sense of time and place. I really look forward to following this series.

A great read for anyone interested in mystery, alternate history, and realistic magic (think Charmed).

I received my copy of Born Wicked through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.