Meg’s Review of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Audiobook read by Kevin T. Collins (with special appearance by Eve Bianco)
I haven’t read any teen paranormal romance since I attempted Twilight, which all but killed my faith in the genre and scarred my brain for life. But I’m a sucker for any book being made into a movie, so I picked up Beautiful Creatures during a nifty sale at Audible. I figured that if it sucked, at least it would only be $5 of suck.
Much to my surprise, I really liked this first installment of the four-book series. Partially, I think my enjoyment was at the deft move by writers Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl to make the narrator a teenaged boy rather than a girl. It inherently dropped the angst factor by about 75%. They also split the love story, with the majority of it revolving around the star-crossed lovers of Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, but there was also the added love story of a boy mourning the loss of his mother that gave the book considerable, and quite unexpected, depth.
That said, it was still totally a teen paranormal romance. The story follow Ethan, a plain-jane human (maybe? that part is a little foggy) who falls for the mysterious Lena, a witch-like caster with untold powers. And if the whole, sort-of-mortal/caster relationship wasn’t complicated enough, Lena is just months away from her sixteenth birthday, the day where her powers will be claimed for either the Light or the Dark, in a choice that is completely out of her control. And if she goes Dark, then Ethan will lose her forever.
The world-building in the story was immersive, pulling the reader into small-town South Carolina full of Civil War reenactments and age-old grudges. Garcia and Stohl did a wonderful job of making the town a character, an especially important part of Ethan’s mother’s death storyline, really showing how even when supernatural stuff is going down, mundane world happenings can be just as important.
And thank goodness the story was strong, because the audiobook was a hot mess. Every time an external event was mentioned – such as one of Lena’s conjured storms -sound effects were added in to help improve the atmosphere. Or at least I assume that’s what the goal was; in reality, they were obnoxious, especially in the dream sequences where the sound effects actually overpowered the narrator, and I couldn’t hear a damn thing. (I should take a moment to point out that it didn’t actually matter that I couldn’t hear what was happening in the dreams because they didn’t actually impact the plot that much. Which probably means they didn’t need to be in there in the first place.) And the constant repetition of the bizarre prophetic song “Sixteen Moons” was pretty terrible and was not improved by orchestration and ‘singing.’
Also, is it a thing now to suddenly change the narrator at the end of a first person book? That’s what totally threw my panties into a twist during the first Mira Grant Newsflesh book, Deadline, and when it happened again with two chapters left in Beautiful Creatures I was more than a little annoyed. I was especially peeved, as it gave the reader insight into something that Ethan doesn’t know, because he was momentarily dead. But why should the reader know if the main, first-person narrator doesn’t know? It sort of ruins the tension.
Regardless of all the strange sound effects and that truly terrible song, the main narrator, Kevin T. Collins was lovely, capturing the twang and drawl of the South in a genuine way. And the brief glimpse we have of Eve Bianco taking up Lena’s narration is great as well. Together, they more or less overcome the weirdness of the recording.
I’m interested to see how the book adapts when the film hits theaters on February 13, 2013. I’m worried that when narration is taken out of Ethan’s head, the angst levels will rise again. But I can’t make myself be that worried, because I’m totally in love with the Florence + the Machine-accompanied trailer.
Oh yeah. I’ll be first in line for tickets.
Is this on your reading list? Any other teen paranormal romances I should put on my reading list?