|Author|| Kami Garcia |
|Publication date||October 2010|
|Published by||Little, Brown|
| Preceded by|
| Followed by|
Beautiful Darkness is the second installment of the four-book series called The Caster Chronicles written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It was published for the first time on October 2010 by the Little, Brown book group.
Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.
Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.
The novel begins with Ethan attending Macon's funeral with Amma. They go to His Garden of Perpetual Peace where the service is being held and where Macon will be buried. To Ethan's surprise, he notices that Macon's grave is 'a magnolia away' from his mother's. Ethan also notices Lena standing under the canopy with the Light Casters in her family, and thinks to himself that Lena looks as if she belongs in the rain with the Incubuses who have also come to see Macon's funeral. When Ethan tries to approach the Incubuses, one of them attacks him. Thankfully, a Succubus forces the Incubus to let go of Ethan. Amma shoots her a grateful look, which the Succubus ignores.
During the service, Lena's grief and anger over Macon's death causes a storm to erupt. This is only stopped when Lena's Gramma absorbs Lena's powers from her using her gift as an Empath. The Succubus points out that it is nearly dawn, and the Incubuses "rip" away, or dematerialize. Ethan starts to go towards Lena but Amma holds him back, saying that not all the Incubuses are gone. One remains, a boy. As the first rays of dawn touch the sky, the boy walks over to Lena and gives his condolences to her, and places a silver sparrow in her hand, before ripping away. Ethan notices that the boy's eyes as Caster green, and not black like the other Incubuses' eyes, and that the boy was able to stand in the sunlight without burning, unlike most Incubuses. This confuses Ethan as to whether the boy is an Incubus or not. Two months later, Ethan still can't look at a bird without hearing the sound of the sky ripping open.
Two months after Macon's funeral, Ethan goes to Ravenwood to try and convince Lena to come back to school. As he parks in front of the mansion, he hears the song Seventeen Moons in his head, as if it were being Kelting towards him. He realizes that the song is important and may forshadow what it to come. But when he mentions it to Lena, she refuses to talk about it and tries to change the subject. Ethan does, however, manage to get Lena to return to Jackson. When they arrive there, they are met by Emily Asher and Savannah Snow, who act surprisingly conciliatory and sad. Lena is furious at them because she partly blames them for her uncle's death, and Ethan makes a snap decision for him and Lena to leave almost as soon as they'd arrived. Instead, Lena and Ethan drive to Greenbrier and curl up in the garden there under a blanket.
Over the next few weeks, Ethan convinces Lena to leave Ravenwood only a couple of times. On one occasion, when Ethan complains about Lena's bedroom ceiling, Lena convinces Ethan to climb up to the top of the water tower, a place they'd been before. Although Ethan is wary, Lena is excited and full of life again. At the top of the water tower, Ethan presents Lena with a gift: a new sharpie. Lena is delighted, and uses it to draw an outline of a loveheart on the wall of the water tower. Within the heart she writes something. Ethan is happy, thinking that she is writing their names in the heart, but is disappointed when he sees that she has written a number instead. Ethan realizes that Lena is already counting down to her next birthday.
Two weeks later, Ethan's father comes home from Blue Horizons. Lena is with Ethan when he arrives, but she quickly leaves, telling Ethan that he should spent some time alone with his family. When Ethan speaks with his father, his father apologizes for losing it over Ethan's mother's death and it is clear that he is ashamed of the way he had acted for the past year. Amma receives a call from the Sisters, who tell her that Lucille Ball, their cat, is missing and they are in a state of total panic. Amma blames Ethan for it, since he has been telling the Sisters for years that Lucille shouldn't be kept on a leash and that cats always come back to their owners. Amma guilt-trips Ethan into searching with Link for Lucille after dinner. However, Lucille will not be found. During the search, he has a conversation with Link about Lena. Link mentions that Lena seems different than usual, but Ethan dismisses this, saying that it's natural for Lena to feel that way, since her uncle's just died. But later, Ethan can't get Link's words out of his mind. He realizes that Link is right.
While searching for a book to read in his room, Ethan comes across a package (which was Macon's) that Marian had given him to give to Lena. Lena hadn't wanted it, so Ethan had kept it. Inside the package, Ethan finds a black wooden box intricately carved with caster symbols. Inside the box, there are pages of unbound old paper which has Macon's writing on them. When touching them, Ethan is flung into a vision. He sees Abraham Ravenwood, the first 'bogeyman' of Gatlin, and how Abraham was given the Book of Moons to keep safe by Ivy, Greenbrier's cook. Ivy warns Abraham that the Book will call to him, and warns him not to listen to it. She tells him not to open it, and to keep it safe until she can come for it. But Ivy's warnings come too late: Abraham is already listening to the call of the Book and intends to use it.
Ethan emerges from the vision, puzzled, wondering why he is seeing Abraham now. He recalls that Genevieve's locket triggered the visions that had occured before Lena's birthday, and that now the Book of Moons has been in both this vision and the one triggered by the locket. He realizes that he and Lena need to figure out why the visions are occuring this time.
Ethan begins to realize how much Lena has changed over the past four months. He realizes than Lena is not going to 'come out of it'. She is drifting away from him, so much that Ethan cannot reach her inside. Their telepathic connection, Kelting, has even faded. One day at school, Ethan hear Lena losing it in his mind, and immediately drives to Ravenwood to help her. He finds her room in a chaotic state, books thrown around and destroyed. Ethan comforts Lena, who is extremely distressed. She explains telepathically that her books 'all sounded like him. I couldn't make them stop.' As Ethan comforts her, he realizes that Lena has 'turned a corner'.
Lena's Gramma finally steps in and forces Lena to go back to school and act better than she has been. Until Lena gets better, she only allowed to see Ethan when he is dropping off homework for her. Ethan is annoyed at this. When Ethan next sees Lena's room, all the books and writing on the walls are gone and replaced with photographs. He notices a particular photo, one of a Harley motorbike in His Perpetual Garden of Peace. When Ethan asks about it, Lena says that 'some guy' was in the graveyard when she was taking photos, and that she meant to take that photo off the wall, since it looked so bad. Ethan also notices that the silver sparrow stands in the centre of the room. Ethan picks up a book, but when opening it, realizes that it is Lena's notebook, and that most of the pages are blank. Lena is furious and grabs the notebook out of Ethan's hands. Ethan tries to apologize, saying that he hadn't realized that it was Lena's notebook. He then asks why she isn't writing in it anymore. Lena says that she has been writing in it, but has charmed the pages so that no Mortal can read them. Ethan is furious, thinking that Lena has charmed the notebook so that he can't read it. When he demands to look at the notebook, Lena gives it to him, thinking that he will not see anything. However, he does. He reads:
What I remember
Mother/ Ethan/ Macon/ Hunting/ the fire/ the wind/ the rain/ the crypt/ the me who is not me/ the me who would kill/ two bodies/ the rain/ the book/ the ring/ amma's charm/ the moon
Lena grabs the book out of his hands, alarmed that he can read it. Ethan asks what the writing is about, but Lena refuses to answer, telling Ethan that it's private. She only says that she has been trying to remember the night Macon died.
When Ethan gets home, he finds Lucille waiting for him on the front porch. That night, Ethan has a dream about the night Macon died. He dreams that he was climbing onto the top of the crypt when Sarafine stabbed him with a knife, killing him. When Ethan wakes up, he sees a scar on his lower abdomen where the knife had stabbed him in the dream. It throbs, as if it was a real wound. But Ethan doesn't have time to speculate about it as he hears Amma calling him to get up, and realizes that he has an English Final at school that day that he hasn't finished studying for. Ethan goes to school, and when seeing everyone in swimsuits remembers that today after school finishes everyone will go down to the lake to swim and celebrate the end of school. During the English Final, Lena sits beside Ethan on the Good-Eye Side, but is barely recognizable. She does not talk to Ethan and has taken to wearing her dead uncle clothes. When Emily Asher insults Macon's memory, Lena takes her revenge by setting Emily's test on fire, and putting the blame on Emily by magically placing a lighter on Emily's desk. Emily is sent to the office by an angry Mrs English.
After school, Ethan tries to make conversation with Lena, but she refuses to look or speak to him. She seems distracted, as if her mind is elsewhere. However, when Ethan mentions the vision and dream he had, she is alert. He shows her the scar on his abdomen, and watches as Lena's face pales, and she seems panicked. Ethan tries to get her to open up, to tell him what's wrong, but she doesn't. Link then comes by and comments that nobody is going to the lake since all the cars' tires have been slashed-- all except Lena's, that is. Ethan asks Lena mentally if she slashed the tires, but she says she didn't. Ethan realizes something is wrong; 'the old Lena would have bitten our heads off for even asking.' Ethan asks if Ridley did it, but Lena says that Ridley isn't the only one who hates Mortals. Ethan sees a familiar guy on a Harley motorbike exit the parking lot. The motorcycle looks familiar, and Ethan strains his mind trying to figure out where he has seen it before. Lena sees the motorbike too, and immediately runs to her car, wanting to get away from there. Ethan and Link have to run to catch up to her.
Ethan, Lena and Link go to the lake. After some peace and fun, Lena and Ethan kiss, and things get out of hand. Lena pushes Ethan away and runs away through the trees, upset, realizing that she had almost killed Ethan by merely kissing him. She jumps onto the back of a motorbike, and rides away. Ethan, who has been chasing her, sees her and realizes that she knows the guy on the motorbike, or she wouldn't have jumped on.
In hope of finding her, Ethan and Link drive to Dar-ee Keen, Gatlin's greasy version of Dairy King. Instead, they meet up with Ridley, Lena's Dark Caster cousin, who always appeared barely dressed in risqué clothing, along with the power of persuasion. Ridley is with a guy, who introduces himself as John Breed. Ethan realizes that John was the one Lena had run off with, and that he is the boy who gave Lena the sparrow at Macon's funeral. After Ridley mentions John's motorbike, Ethan realizes that it was John who picked Lena up at the lake. 'John Breed wasn't about to disappear. He'd be waiting on the corner the next time Lena needed a ride.' Hurt and upset at the realization, Ethan leaves the Dar-ee Keen, slamming the door behind him.
Ethan is furious at Lena for deceiving him for all these months. He wonders how long she and John have known each other, and why she couldn't tell him. At home, Ethan skips dinner, choosing to stay in his room and look at photos and memories of him and Lena. Amma comes to his room to make sure he's alright. She tells him that he's 'not right' and that Lena isn't, either. She gives him a red string with beads knotted into it for Ethan to wear around his wrist. When Ethan asks her about John Breed, Amma refuses to answer him.
On the first day of his summer job at the Gatlin County Library, Ethan meets Olivia 'Liv' Durand. She is unlike any girl in Gatlin, including Lena, and is like a teenage Marian. Marian sets Ethan to work in the archive, going with him to make sure he knows what to do. They have a conversation about the Caster World, and Marian senses that the ghost of Ethan's mother is in the archive. On a chair in the archive, Ethan sees a book titled Darkness and Light: The Origins of Magic. Ethan lifts it up, and a wrapper falls out of the pages: the kind of wrapper Ethan's mother used to use as a bookmark. As he bends to pick it up, Ethan is pulled into a vison. This time, he sees how Abraham carried the Book of Moons into Ravenwood Manor and planned to Cast a spell from the book to save Ravenwood from burning to the ground. Abraham is interrupted by his brother, Jonah, who arrives and tells Abraham that they should use the Tunnels and leave before the Union soldiers arrive. Abraham refuses, and Jonah sees that Abraham is going to Cast a spell-- The Demon's Trade-- to save Ravenwood. He tries to convince Abraham not to do it, but Abraham shoves him away, saying that he will not allow a few soldiers to burn Ravenwood to the ground. Abraham speaks the incantation. Jonah rushes towards Abraham, and a small round orb drops out of him pocket. Abraham picks up the sphere, which he calls an Arclight, and subtly accuses Jonah of trying to trap him in it. He pins Jonah to the wall easily, and plunges his teeth into Jonah and drinks his blood. Abraham realizes that a bargain has been made; he from this day onwards he will crave blood. Near the end of the vision, he calls out Ethan's name.
Ethan comes out of the vision and hears Marian frantically calling his name. He tells her about the vision, and she explains that Abraham was the founder of the Ravenwood Blood Incubus line. Apparently once an incubus chooses to feed on blood, the instinct is inherited by his/her descendants. Marian says that Abraham died young, before Macon was born. Marian says that they should leave the book in the archive and not interfere. Ethan protests, but Marian begs him not to pursue it. She leaves the archive to talk to Liv. Ethan follows her.
Ethan is tasked with showing Liv around Gatlin and being her friend. After showing her around the town, he takes her to the Dar-ee Keen for lunch. As they are leaving, Ethan sees Lena drive away in her car. Lena sees Ethan and Liv, eating together at the Dar-ee Keen and Ethan laughing with her and races her car by angrily, obviously revealing that she had seen the two together and is more than jealous.
During the town's annual County Fair, Lena shows up wearing Ridley's type of clothing (overall that makes her look easy). Black tank that rode up on her stomach, black skirt about five inches short, streak of blue in her hair and black-rimmed eyes shocking Ethan and drawing attention from nearby guys. During Ethan and Lena's conversation, Liv shows up. Jealous and angry when she sees them together once again, Lena takes off, causing a chain reaction of chaos as she goes.
Afterwards, during the pie contest sponsored by Southern Crusty, Ridley, John and Lena cause maggots, beetles and grubs to crawl of every pie except Amma's, and causing Ethan's Great-Aunt Grace to faint. During the chaos, Ethan tells Liv to leave the tent, which she does. Lena, Ridley and John escape the chaos and enter the Tunnel of Love and disappear, not leaving a clue as to where they went. Ethan realizes that they are in the Tunnels. Ethan and Link decide to go after them through the Lunae Libri, leaving Liv behind at the fair because she 'can look after herself' and they believe that she knows nothing about the Lunae Libri and Casters.
When they arrive at the Lunae Libri, Ethan hears a girl laughing. It sounds familiar, and he believes and hopes that it is Lena. He follows the laughter and ends up in a study in the Tunnels. Both Ethan and Link are surprised to find Liv there with Marian. In the shouting that follows, Ethan feels angry, thinking why couldn't someone in his life not have a hidden life. Liv reveals that she is a Keeper-in-training, and is staying with Marian and working in the Lunae Libri with her. Marian then asks Ethan how he found them. Ethan admits that he heard someone laughing happily, and followed the sound, to which Liv blushes. Ethan then realizes that the study is Macon's. Marian tells him that his mother must have been the one laughing, and that she led him to this place and that he and Marian were meant to have this conversation. Ethan mentions that he can Kelt with Lena, something that Liv says he shouldn't be able to do, since he is a Mortal. Marian says that Ethan may not be a regular Mortal. She searches for a certain book, which Link accidently finds, and tells Ethan that he may be a Wayward, a Mortal sent to guide Casters who have a great purpose and destiny to fulfill. A Wayward is one who finds those who are lost. Marian says that Ethan may be bound to Lena or Macon. Ethan becomes certain he is bound to Lena. Finally, he tells Marian the real reason he and Link are in the Tunnels-- Lena, John and Ridley are down there, and he wants to find Lena. Marian warns them of the dangers of the Tunnels, and becomes even more unhappy when Liv states her intention of going with Ethan and Link. She warns Liv not to get involved, but Liv says that Ethan needs her, and goes with them anyway.
Ethan, Link and Liv travel through the Tunnels and end up in a Caster bar aptly named Exile. Ethan is shocked and becomes instantly raged with jealousy to see Lena dancing with John, his hands on her hips and her hands on his shoulders. After Lena --reluctantly-- admits that she does not want to see Ethan there, Link, Liv and Ethan himself leave. Back in the tunnels and still furious with jealousy and anger, Ethan nearly, on an act of impulse, almost kisses Liv and accidentally kelts of the near encounter making it possible that Lena most likely heard (which she later confirms bitterly that she did).
Back in Gatlin, when Ethan goes to see Lena at her mansion, she reveals to him that she is going to run away before her family leaves and that she has put a Cast on him, one that will make sure he is unable to tell anyone even if he wants to. Meanwhile, a short time after, Liv and Ethan both come to the conclusion that Sarafine was trying to pull the Seventeenth Moon out of time to get Lena to claim herself. With the help of Ridley (who loses her powers after an encounter with Sarafine through the journey), Link and Lucille, Ethan's great-aunt's cat, the one who keeps disappearing, they find The Great Barrier, the place John Breed is leading Lena to, after sometime in the Caster Tunnels. Halfway between though, Ethan learns that Lena made a deal with the Book of Moons, a powerful Caster book, for Ethan's life after Sarafine killed him. It was Ethan's life for something, which unexpectedly turns out to be Macon's life. Now, Ethan understands why Lena's erratic behavior; she blames herself for her uncle's death, and rightly so.
Before the group is about to enter the Sea Cave where Sarafine is hiding, Ethan understands the purpose of the Arclight and, with the help of Liv, is able to free Macon from it. Once outside, Macon has Green Caster eyes, which confirms that he has switched from an Incubus to a Caster. He also explains how Lila Jane's Sheer (spirit) saved his life once The Book of Moons took his life by capturing him inside the Arclight; thereby giving him the chance to be freed and live again. In order to help the teenagers fight off the Incubuses and Dark Casters inside the Sea Cave, Leah Ravenwood, Macon's sister and a Succubus, goes with them. Inside the cave, John is holding Lena, who has no idea where she is or what she is doing. There are also a lot of Vexes, powerful demons of the underground, who are sent back once Amma, Arelia (Macon's mother), Gramma (Lena's grandmother) and Twyla (Macon's aunt) arrive. Quickly, while the others are fighting, Ethan helps Lena revive herself. Lena claims herself to be both Dark and Light, killing off both Twyla, a Light Caster, and Larkin, a Dark Caster (and also Lena's cousin), since on her last birthday, Lena had learned that if she was to turn Dark, then all the Light Casters in her family will die and if she turned Light, all the Dark Casters in her family will die.
One night after these events, Lena sneaks into Ethan's bedroom wearing one of his oversized t-shirts that ends at her middle upper thigh and shorts underneath and crawls into his bed next to him. After lying together, she begs tearfully for forgiveness for her actions and Ethan does without hesitation (proving how much he truly loves her) and they make up kissing passionately before falling asleep together. Soon after they reconcile, Link sneaks through Ethan's window and interrupts them. He tells them that while the fighting was going on he was bitten by John, who is revealed to be a hybrid; half Caster and half Incubus. After Lena confirms it, Link realizes he is now turning into an Incubus.
In the last chapter of the book, the "after" part of it, Ridley, who has completely lost her Siren powers and is now a mortal, is shown in her room. Ridley takes the Arclight out of its hiding place and looks at it, then counts down from three and something is "decided"- which is really her decision to free John Breed from the Arclight.
Critical reception for Beautiful Darkness has been positive, with the Manila Bulletin calling it "moody and atmospheric." Booklist praised the book's "gothic atmosphere" and new characters. The School Library Journal blog positively reviewed Beautiful Darkness, with a librarian also giving a positive review for the book's "great storytelling balance." Kirkus Reviews wrote that while the book had a "weaker and more hurried plot" than its predecessor, "readers... will find satisfaction here"