“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Cover of "Beautiful Creatures"
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.

It took me a while to work up an interest in this book. I first watched the movie and because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to read the book. Unfortunately, when I first attempted to read it, I put it down almost immediately. I enjoyed the prologue but when the story began, I found the voice too dry to bear. But after reading The JK Review’s review of the novel and movie, I decided to give it another try and be patient. It paid off.

Quick summary:

I read this book a while back so the details of the story are a bit foggy but here is the gist of what I do remember. Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan Wate, a teenager in his junior year of high school. He resides in Gaitlin, a small town in the South Carolina, which he hates because he finds it too backwards. He can’t wait to escape its borders and explore the wider world. In the meantime, he escapes through books. He is an avid reader on account of his late mother being a librarian. When the story begins, he’s been having weird dreams of a girl and hearing a strange song on his iPod in the mornings. Soon the girl he sees in his dreams turns up at his school. She is the new girl in town—Lena Duchannes, niece of the town’s shut in.

Ethan is immediately drawn to her and, of course, they fall head over heels in love. Their respective families try to keep them apart at first since Lena, whose family are Casters (like witches) have a curse on it—upon her sixteenth birthday she will be claimed for the light or the dark. Her uncle Macon Ravenwood tries to ensure that nothing prevents her from being claimed for the light. But Seraphina, a dark Caster, wants Lena for her side. It is believed that Lena is a powerful Caster.

Various events occur to threaten Lena and Ethan’s relationship and Lena’s nature. They are ostracized by the town—Lena, because she is different; and Ethan, because he’s with the weird girl. Along the way, Ethan and Lena learn how the curse began and how connected their families are. Ethan also learns that there is another side to Gaitlin that he was unaware of. With the story ending on a tentative decision, the reader will be tempted to immediately grab the next installment to see how things work out.

My reaction:

Okay so that was a brief summary with none of the juicy bits but it’s what I remember, plus I didn’t want to give the story away. Though the story faded from my mind over time, what stuck with me is my reaction to it. Such is usually the case. I enjoyed the story immensely once I got into it. It takes a while to build up. It has a meaty backstory that helps to propel it along and I love that. Gaitlin has deep roots and I am tempted to continue with the series just to find out more about its history.

I found the concept of Casters interesting. The authors try to deviate from the common witches and wizards and simply go by what the person does. There are even some that are akin to vampires, some drink blood while others feed on dreams. Actually, I was so curious about this world of Casters that I often hopped on the series’ Wikia page to find out more. I was too impatient to wait until I read through the series. The past greatly influences the present day in Beautiful Creatures (especially the Civil War); so much so that flashbacks are incorporated into the story. I love that. The authors can easily have one of the installments be a historical fiction. That excites me. Also, it shows how much our ancestors’ decisions affect our lives, who we are and how we define ourselves.

The authors also incorporate various “summer reading” texts into the story. It was done smoothly and didn’t seem forced on the reader. Sometimes they were included as small mentions and sometimes the characters had fun with them when certain passages of the books were incorporated into their dialogue. It’s quite a cunning way to get teens interested in the classics and not to feel daunted by their summer reading list.

While reading, I couldn’t help thinking of Romeo and Juliet, what with both Ethan and Lena’s families not wanting them to be together and how tragic their love seems to be. Speaking of their love, I often wondered if it is too passionate. Are they too stuck on each other? At times it seems that if they should be severed from each other in any way, bad things would happen and one of them would die. Then I wondered if their strong feelings for each other was on account of innocent, simple love or does the curse have something to do with it. Are they drawn to each other because history is repeating itself?

I like that the story made me ask these questions, made me want to engage with it in some way. Though I enjoyed reading it, Beautiful Creatures does have some faults. First, I think it’s too long—about 563 pages, excluding the back matter. Some of the telepathic chatter could have been cut and certain scenes could have been condensed, such as when Ethan visits the Sisters’ house to dig up the backyard only to learn one minor clue. And the rock concert, that could have been condensed too. I’ve read some reviews that claim to dislike how the authors portray the small, country town of Gaitlin. They think the authors focus too closely on the stereotypes of the South when creating the town’s characters but I like it. Some criticize Ethan’s personality, stating that it doesn’t ring true for a teen-aged boy and I do agree with that. He does sound more like a girl sometimes but I still like his voice. Also, the ending pissed me off. All that build up, count down, and waiting for seemingly nothing. But that’s just me.

Overall, I gave it three stars on Goodreads. I thought Beautiful Creatures to be a good read because it’s intriguing, the world building is intricate, and it leaves you wanting to know more. I recommend you pick up both the book and the movie. Though it’s probably best to watch the movie first so you don’t feel upset that certain scenes were cut or characters condensed, among other changes. By itself, the movie is a nice little paranormal romance flick. So yea, go get both to enjoy on a summer night.


3 thoughts on ““Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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