Both times I watched Breaking Dawn Part II in the theater, I saw a trailer for Beautiful Creatures. I made a note to check out the book. I found myself with some kid-free free time in Barnes and Noble, and found the first book, Beautiful Creatures. I read the first 54 pages before they announced the store would be closing in 10 minutes. I almost bought the book, then I texted my good friend Shaina, who said she had all four of them.
Executive Summary: If you like young adult supernatural romance fiction – and what self-respecting 30-something mom doesn’t? – I do recommend the Beautiful Creatures quartet. (Yes, 3 is a trilogy, 4 is a quartet. Thank you, Google.) Christy, this means you should read them!
I will now review all four books, as briefly as possible. There will be serious spoilers! So, if you actually plan to read all four books, only read the first review.
Book One: Beautiful Creatures
The premise is this: Ethan is a (supposedly) normal, mortal teenage boy living in a deadly boring town in the US South. The kind of town where the Daughters of the Confederacy is second only to the DAR as an institution, and nobody goes to the library because they don’t read (or don’t want to admit that they read, as we find out later). Enter Lena Duchannes (“rhymes with rain”), the niece of the town’s Boo Radley, Macon Ravenwood. Naturally, Ethan and Lena fall in love, even though Lena is a “caster” (witch). Her family includes several other casters with various powers, as well as Incubi and at least one Succubus. On her 16th birthday, Lena will be chosen for the Light or the Dark. She finds out that her mother, Sarafine, whom she thought had died in the fire that killed her father and almost killed her, is a very powerful Dark Caster. Sarafine is working with another Ravenwood ancestor, trying to persuade Lena to choose/be claimed for the Dark.
And, just in case it wasn’t Twilight-y enough, mortals cannot “be” with casters, because the mortals will die.
So, Ethan is Bella and Lena is Edward. You’ve also got Ethan’s father (who is clueless, like Charlie), and his housekeeper and local voodoo practitioner Amma (Billy Black).
Nevertheless, the first book was a very good read. I didn’t want to put it down. It was derivative as hell, but interesting in its own right. Ethan is a much better narrator than Bella, I might add. Lena is totally Edward, down to the whole “I must protect my amazing mortal significant other at all costs” bit.
Doing so causes her to make a choice that results in another character’s death…
Book Two: New Moon
Seriously. I forget the title of this book, because it’s New Moon. (I looked it up; it’s Beautiful Darkness. Or like I said, New Moon.) Lena made a choice to save Ethan, which resulted in her uncle’s death. Ethan doesn’t know this, however. She didn’t choose Light or Dark at the end of Book One, meaning she still has to make a choice and be claimed. She thinks she’s going to go Dark, so she starts hanging out with her Dark Caster Siren cousin Ridley (who is so much better than Rosalie, personality-wise) and Ridley’s mutant motorcyle-driving friend, John Breed.
Seriously, his initials are even JB. Oh, and there’s another Jacob Black as well – Olivia Durand, an exchange student from England who spends a lot of time with Ethan learning about the supernatural community of Gatlin. As we discover in this book, there are a lot more supernatural beings than we would have expected around these parts.
Lena essentially breaks up with Ethan and goes off with Ridley and JB in search of The Great Barrier, which is never fully explained, but seems to be what the cast of Star Trek V was after. Meanwhile, Sarafine is calling a moon out of its time to make Lena choose the Dark. The book ends completely anticlimactically with one character coming back from the dead, one disappearing, and Sarafine and Blood Incubus Abraham just getting the heck out of dodge yelling, “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!”
But Ethan and Lena get back together at the end of the book, because that’s what all good supernatural couples do.
Oh, and Ethan’s best friend Link gets bitten by John Breed, who is part Incubus, which makes Link an Incubus too. Thus, Link officially turns into Emmett. He’s my favorite character in these books. (Sadly, there really isn’t an Alice in Beautiful Creatures, although there is a Jasper in Lena’s cousin Reece.)
If the book had just ended here, it would have made the next book an actual mystery. Instead, we find out what happened to the “disappearing” character, thus we know that in the third book…
Book Three: Beautiful Chaos
… something’s up with Ridley. She lost her powers near the end of Book Two. So why is she suddenly able to be a Super Cheerleader? Seriously – Ethan and Lena actually debate if there’s such a thing as a Cheerleading Cast.
At the end of Book Two, Lena chose both Light and Dark (so one of her eyes is yellow and the other one is green – because if Twilight taught us anything, it’s that we need eye color to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys). However, her choosing both totally whacked out the universe, which may be bringing about the apocalypse. Abraham and Sarafine think this is just gr-reat. All signs point to someone needing to die to sacrifice him- or herself to heal the split in the universe.
Everyone’s looking for John Breed. The good guys, because they believe he’s the one who has to die, the bad guys because… they’re bad, I guess? However, we know where he is, because the authors told us at the end of Book Two. So instead of piecing it together, we just sit there yelling at Lena, Ethan, Liv, and Macon “He’s in Ridley’s closet!”
Part way through the book we meet the Volturi – I’m sorry, I mean the Council. Because Liv helped Ethan in Book Two, which is against the rules, they’re considering killing Liv’s sponsor, Caster librarian (aka “Keeper”) Marian Ashcroft. At Marian’s “trial” it’s pretty much given away that one of the Council members, Angelus, is not-quite-mortal and is Dark. (Because people with the name Angelus are always the bad guys, right? It’s ironic. Get it?)
Anyway, to the surprise of no one who knew there’s a Book Four, Ethan is the one who has to die to restore Order. He does so.
Book Four: Beautiful Redemption
Nobody tells anybody that Ethan is dead. All the “normal” people think he’s in Savannah, visiting his aunt. Ethan is actually communing with his dead mother, until his dead great-aunt tells him that he can come back to life if he burns his page in the Caster Chronicles, a book that the Volturi – I’m sorry, I mean the Council – keeps hidden somewhere far, far away in the land of the afterlife. Ethan uses crossword puzzles to tell Lena and Link that he’s out there and trying to get back to them. He needs a few things, including the Book of Moons, the powerful spell book introduced in Beautiful Creatures and not seen since. He has to trade it with a mortal-turned-monster named Xavier so he can get into the big complex where the Volturi – I mean, the Council – live.
Lena, Link, Liv, and John all go off in search of the Book of Moons, which is in the possession of Blood Incubus Abraham Ravenwood. This is probably my favorite portion of the book. It’s highly amusing, reunites us with cousin Ridley (who has her powers back, but is she really as Dark as she says she is?), and ends with Link killing (someone) with garden shears that he stole from his summer school biology class back in Book Two.
Ethan gets the Book of Moons, and, to the surprise of no one who’s ever read young adult supernatural romance fiction, is able to burn the page in the Caster Chronicles, kill the evil Angelus, and reunite with his lady love. Oh, and somehow, dying and coming back to life relieved him of that little “mortals can’t be with casters” problem.
Oh no, wait. Because Ethan comes back from the dead, someone has to die and take his place. So Amma ascends into heaven, a la the Virgin Mary.
What really kills me about this series is that it is incorrectly paced. Book Two is slower than something slower than molasses. But then, the denouement comes and goes seemingly without any thought. Random characters know things we didn’t know they knew. Some show up again, some don’t. There are a ton of questions asked, which you think are going to be central to the quest, but are never fully answered. Among them: Who and what exactly is John Breed? Why can’t mortals be with casters without dying, and how can that be changed? What happened to the other two Council members? Who’s going to take Angelus’s place? Is Liv’s visa going to be revoked now that she can’t be a Keeper?
Aside from Book Two, which I really did feel was a total waste of my time, I did like this series. The thing is, it’s so obviously derivative of Twilight. I feel like it was rushed to the shelves to capitalize on Twilight’s popularity. I don’t think the authors really knew what they were doing at all. (Breaking Dawn was published in 2008, Beautiful Creatures in 2009.) The first book showed such promise, but the rest of the books really didn’t follow through.