Beautiful Darkness is the second in a trilogy (the last book is due out in October) and I’m having a hard time deciding how I felt about this book. In some ways, I felt like it avoided the middle book trap (that is, being mostly filler) and in other ways I thought it fell right into it. Just as a warning, there are some spoilers about the first book in this review (the first paragraph is the setup, after that it’s spoiler-free).
After Lena’s sixteenth birthday, in which she avoided being claimed until her seventeeth birthday, Lena and Ethan are dealing with an entirely new set of problems. Lena is still reeling from the death of her Uncle Macon, and she feels responsible for his death as she made a deal with the Book of Moons to save Ethan, triggering a trade-off type of situation. Lena pulls further and further away from Ethan and shows signs that she might be choosing Dark instead of Light. One day, Lena disappears with her Dark Caster cousin, Ridley, and a mysterious Caster-type named John Breed. Ethan follows her in an attempt to bring her back and convince her to go Light, and discovers a lot more about the Caster world than he ever knew existed.
Sometimes when I’m having a hard time expressing myself, I find it helpful to make a pro-con list. So here are my pros and cons as they relate to this book.
Pros: Ethan gained a stronger voice and actually did something with himself. Some of my favorite supporting characters are back in full force, namely Link and Ridley. There is also a new character, Liv, whom I also quite enjoyed. The book is fast-paced and there is much action to be had.
Cons: One word: Lena. Oh my God, Lena. I found her to be trying in the first book, but I have to say in this one she was downright grating. I get that girl went through some stuff, but 1) it’s not Ethan’s fault so stop taking it out on him, especially when you sacrificed so much to save him and 2) stop wallowing and being a brat. Liv’s character is set up as a romantic tension, not quite a love triangle, and she was twice as enjoyable as Lena; nice, funny, and easy-going.She was more engaging in a few pages than Lena was in the whole book and I found myself wishing Ethan would go “ya know, this whole Emo girl thing? Not really for me. See ya later, Lena”. If you’ve ever read any teen love triangle story ever, I’m sure you know the likelihood of that happening.
Having typed this all out, I think I’ve just realized where my ambivalence about this book stems from. I ended up liking Ethan more and Lena less, leaving me wondering why the hell he’s so committed to her. On a much smaller scale of annoyance, I thought they drew out the big magical reveal a little too long as well. Once they figured out what the scheme was, and how, things seems to move so fast, I think some threads were left in the dangling with little or no explanation. There were a few convenient plot devices I could have lived without as well.
This story was saved for me by the strengths established in the first book: great characters (you know, minus Lena) and a great setting. The tunnels of Caster world are more thoroughly explored and some new supernatural beings are introduced, and both of these things flowed really well with the story. I think it also helped that Lena is absent for a large portion of the book. This was a decent follow up to the first installment and fulfilled the purpose of the middle book, which is to set up the final act. I will definitely be tuning in to find out what happens to the good folks of Gatlin, South Carolina.