There were only two kinds of people in our town. “The stupid and the stuck,”… “The ones who are bound to stay or too dumb to go. Everyone else finds a way out.”
Beautiful Creatures is one of my favourite films. I loved it for its magic, its fantasy, its story of love, but more so I loved it for its refusal to be like the other young adult fantasy of its time. When I got hold of the series I was certain it would only go one of two ways; I would love it or I would hate it. There was no third option. Safe to say, the book lived up to its film, or rather the film had satisfactorily emboldened the story.
Gothic, southern, and without the usual melodrama of teenage fantasies and supernatural reads, this novel has everything it needed to be its own entity within a very popular genre. While I do feel that I am too old for this book with its juvenile protagonist and his lovesick, confused voice, there must be credit given to the authors to make it so realistic. If the characters were slightly older and the context more dangerous, I would have loved it even more.
What we are given, though, is a novel set in two worlds that are as real as each other. The rich history of Gatlin and its position in the Civil War is riveting for a Brit like me who didn’t hear anything about it in History at school. Ethan Wate’s life as a very simplistic human in a very small, southern town is filled with texture and painful emotions even before Lena Duchannes arrives. The loss of his mother and the absence of his father are felt without any indication of their relationship with the world of Casters. Likewise, Macon Ravenwood’s life as a recluse in a beautiful southern mansion is made to seem all the more normal, despite the reality of his lifestyle. The Caster world seems to inhabit the human world seamlessly and without conflict.
I would go so far as to say that the love story is not the central plot of this novel. While it is all Ethan Wate initially cares about as the narrator of this tale, the history of Gatlin and its various occupants takes over for me. I am more interested in the broader Caster world, the Civil War history, and how Macon and Lena came to be, than I am concerned about Ethan and Lena’s first kiss. I am impressed that the authors managed to construct such a seductive cast of eccentric and enticing characters when they could probably have left it at a teenage love story.
What I have concluded from reading the first in a four part series is that if, as a writer, you can perfect the setting and the minor characters, you will create something much deeper and effective than your average young adult fantasy forbidden love story.
Have you read this before? Do you have any recommended reads for me? Let me know in the comments!