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Beautiful Darkness
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Little, Brown, 512 pages

Beautiful Darkness
Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Kami Garcia is a teacher and reading specialist with an MA in education, and leads book groups for children and teenagers.

Margaret Stohl has an MA in English and studied creative writing under poet George MacBeth at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl Website
Beautiful Darkness Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Kami Garcia
ISFDB Bibliography: Margaret Stohl

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

If there was ever a city that lived in the past, it's Gatlin, Tennessee. And if there were ever two star-crossed lovers, they are the caster Lena Duchannes and the mortal Ethan Wate. Beautiful Darkness is another tour de force by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, to continue the rousing story of the Lena and Ethan. I certainly hope this series is planned to be a trilogy or even more.

Volume one of this series ended with a giant sigh of relief. I like resolution in each book of a trilogy or whatever. Volume two is no letdown. Previously I have written about how irritated I was when Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need (The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through) stopped volume one and two between two words. There is no such abrupt cut off between these two volumes. In fact, it's a very smooth transition. Smooth enough to almost keep you from noticing that you have stopped reading for a while.

Lena is a caster. Casters are more or less witches but they each have a special gift. Lena can control weather whereas her cousin can make you walk off a bridge (she's an dark caster). There are light and dark casters. Lena is a light caster which is much the same as saying she is a good witch whereas her Uncle Macon is a dark caster and has the potential to do much evil. But long ago, he chose to associate with light casters. In other words, he chose good over evil, whereas his father and grandfather were both dark casters and truly evil. You or I would not be safe in their company or even in the same neighborhood. Nor are they pleased with the choice their son made.

Ethan, whom we thought was a plain, vanilla mortal, turns out to be a Wayward. He has the ability to lead in the right direction even if he doesn't realize he's doing it at the time. He has no magical powers other than the dreams he has and can share them with Lena plus the ability they have to speak to each other in their minds. Most of the time, Ethan manages to save the day even if it is at great cost to himself. He's kind of a bungling, over-grown teenager who is a little clumsy on his feet. Whereas Lena is as graceful as a rose petal.

As I've been reading these books by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, I've been asking myself why can't I write like this? The real question has been what makes these such good books to read? Of course this will be a multi-faceted answer for which I will not have the complete answer nor perhaps even the correct answer.

First, to me, there has to be a story. Not just a "Harry met Sally" story but something where the characters are deeply immersed in some trouble over their heads. For young adults, this can range from being a lost orphan to fighting dragons to fighting a virus threatening to destroy the world. There is no room here for a silly, situation comedy. Young adults don't want to be insulted by what they read. They expect sophisticated plots and real science. Even though Beautiful Darkness deals with magic, the plot is complicated and the magic believable. Furthermore, the magic seems to flow out of or fit the personality of the character.

The characters need to jump out of the page at you. They need to take on a three-dimensional life of their own. The reader needs to begin to think of them as real people. When I think back on Harry Potter, he seems like someone I once knew who related this fantastic tale to me. Stephen R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant is as real to me as they come. I refer to him in conversation often as if he were a famous, historic person. I often have the opportunity to speak at my church. I have been criticized for quoting too many fictional characters (Gandalf, for example) and not quoting the scriptures and living prophets enough. For example, we can take a lesson from Hobbits. In our frantic, hasty, hurried world who can imagine a Hobbit not stopping to smell the roses or not taking the time to enjoy breakfast? As Frodo and Sam showed us, slow and steady wins the race.

Finally, the ending must be satisfying. Even volumes in a trilogy must offer some kind of closure at the end of the book. But the overall ending must be even more satisfying. My favorite fantasy ending comes from The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. The bad guy is truly an evil dude -- powerful and sinister. The protagonist has the sword of Shannara and the task of killing the evil one is thrust upon him because he is of the right bloodline. He has no idea of how he will defeat the evil one and save the people. In the end, he merely has to touch the evil one with the sword and that causes the bad guy to realize he's been dead for ten thousand years. He literally dries up and blows away. I remember thinking to myself, "Yes, it's only logical."

Garcia and Stohl's books have these qualities. I care about Lena and Ethan. I worry that they won't find a way to be together. Beautiful Darkness along with Beautiful Creatures are two of the finest books I've read from the young adult genre. I recommend them to you with the highest of praise. I promise you won't be sorry for taking the time to read them. You also won't be able to put them down.

Copyright © 2011 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at (under construction).

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