Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Hardcover, 563 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Little, Brown and Company
Four stars: This book is a great beginning to a new series.
For Ethan Wate it is going to be another school year that will be strikingly similar to last year and the year before because he lives in Gatlin, South Carolina and nothing ever changes in this town. It is a place where everyone knows everyone and everything; due to the fact that the mailman reads your mail and a phone tree that exists primarily for spreading the current, churning gossip and rumors. An old town where the Civil War or War of Northern Aggression, as the locals refer to it, is still a prevalent topic of conversation and the inhabitants are obsessed with their historic past. It is a place where Dixie never died and the residents proudly re-enact their claim to fame, The Battle of Honey Hill, every February. Ethan will soon discover that in his stagnant town the winds of change are blowing. He will uncover the deep, dark secrets of Gatlin that lie hidden underneath. Secrets that will change everything. It begins with the strange, dreams of a girl. Dreams swirling with danger, the wafting aroma of rosemary and lemons and a snippet of a haunting melody. Then the dream becomes reality when the girl, Lena, arrives in town driving the black hearse that belongs to her Uncle Macon Ravenwood, the enigmatic town recluse. She is girl unlike any other. She is a caster, a girl with extraordinary powers. Lena is terrified by the specter of her impending sixteenth birthday. A day where she will be claimed, she will become either light or dark; good or evil. Lena cannot choose her own destiny it was decided long ago by her ancestor. As Lena and Ethan race against the ticking clock to unravel the origins of the curse that controls all of Lena's family, they unearth a mystery that began one hundred and fifty years ago. The night General Sherman marched through Gatlin bringing death and fiery destruction. Will Lena and Ethan be able to find the answer to fight fate and allow Lena to claim herself?
What I Liked:
- Ethan, it was refreshing to have the story told from a male point of view. I admired that Ethan remains strong despite the recent death of his mother and he now has a father who has become a ghost of his former self, a shut in. I liked his sarcastic take on life in a small town. I loved his resolute determination to solve Lena's problem. He shows tremendous fortitude and courage as he fights against the town's harsh judgement of an outsider.
- Link, Ethan's best friend, the two share a bond that was formed when they were five over a shared Twinkie that was dropped on the floor. Link is fiercely loyal. He provides a good deal of comic relief. He also freely loans his killer car, The Beater. We should all be so lucky to have a friend like Link.
- The secondary characters. I liked so many of the quirky inhabitants of Gatlin, from Ethan's senile great aunts to Lena's eccentric relatives, Aunt Del, Ryan, Gramma and even the lollipop loving Ridley. I especially loved Amma, Uncle Macon and Marian the librarian. Amma is Ethan's house keeper, a wise, old African American, who is a skilled seer, an amazing cook and she knows a thing or two about voodoo. She is a crossword connoisseur and is always armed with an array of sharp pencils, an expanded vocabulary and homemade charms for everything. She is formidable, yet gentle and she smells like red hots. When angered Amma is known to "go dark." The debonair Uncle Macon is a mystery. I was fascinated by this strange player. He has an old house that is always changing. His constant companion is a shaggy, wolf-like dog named Boo Radley. Then there is Marian,a distracted librarian, always surrounded by stacks of towering books. She is educated, refined and quick with her arsenal of quotable quotes. Marian, Amma and Macon are a tight lipped trio, they hold the keys to Gatlin's shrouded, privileged information.
- Gatlin, this charming town is an integral character of the story. The authors do a tremendous job of bringing Gatlin alive, with all of it's unconventional citizens and unique shops like the Stop and Shop (Stop n' Steal). A town mired in the past; brimming with Southern hospitality and superstition. I fell in love with this one of a kind, little town.
And The Not So Much:
- Lena, this character was a conundrum for me. On one hand I liked that she stood out in the way she dressed, especially with her charm necklace overloaded with distinct charms. I appreciated her talent for writing poetry. However, I struggled with her stormy disposition and her constant pessimism. She is moody and definitely does not possess the same never say die attitude that Ethan adamantly clings to. I wanted her to battle her fate and stand and claim herself.
- Ethan's father was frustrating. It was heart breaking the way he shut himself in his study and out of his son's life under the guise of writing a book. When Ethan finally confronts his father nothing happens and nothing changes. I was so disappointed in this story line. I wanted Ethan's dad to come out and participate in Ethan's life.
- This book builds and builds toward a dramatic ending but when I reached the final pages I was left with a mess of unanswered questions. It was definitely anti- climatic. There was not a clear resolution. This would have been a five star book if not for the muddled ending.
Beautiful Creatures is an awesome debut to a new series. It is brimming with unforgettable characters. Set in the Old South, this book is steeped in mystery and history. You will love the charming town of Gatlin. This is a big, complex book with a tangle of mysteries. A welcome addition into the paranormal genre. I recommend you start reading this fabulous series immediately.
"Every house had it's secrets, but everyone on the street knew them. Even that was no secret."
" Maybe I had picked a hole in the sky and the universe was all about to fall in on me."
"You can't jump off a cliff when you've already fallen off a bigger one."
"I knew what it was like to lose someone. I wondered if it was worse to never have them at all."
"It smelled like aging wood and cresote, plastic book covers, and old paper. Old paper, which my mom used to say was the smell of time itself."
I purchased a copy of this book. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.