by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
'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.'
*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
This book, this series, was all the rage towards the end of last year and earlier this year because the movie was coming out in February. I had wanted to read this but it kept getting pushed aside. Hearing so many mixed reviews about it didn't help me get to it any faster. For a while I was even sure I'd see the movie before I ever got around to reading the book but then the movie came and went and I didn't see it. So now fast forward to the end of this year and I'm not buying as many books as earlier, and I'm trying to read what I still have here waiting, and my attention finally swung back to this.
I was surprised how much I liked this book! The one thing I remember almost everyone saying is how it's soooooo slow in the beginning, that they could have cut 200 pages of boringness out in the beginning and it might have helped the story. I didn't see it that way at all. I actually found the beginning *more* interesting. I liked that it took its time and let us get to know the people and the town and the way of life. It showed even more how much main character Lena did not fit in. For a while I thought this might be my new Twilight! (In the end, it wasn't.)
The relationship between main characters Ethan and Lena builds nicely. Even though they seem to have been thrust together by fate or destiny or whatever, and they are aware of some connection, things still build slowly. They are still two teens getting to know each other. The book is also refreshing because it's from Ethan's point of view, so it's cute to see him struggle with his thoughts and growing feelings for this girl. There is no cheesy love at first site, no sex . . . just a really nice budding relationship with a twist. That twist is, of course, that Lena is a witch. Sorry, she is a Caster. She is from a whole family, generations worth of Casters and on a Caster child's 16th birthday they are 'claimed' by either light or dark magic. Lena is convinced (and scared to death) that she will 'go dark' because of some family history. She feels there is no choice in the matter, that it's a fate already chosen, but Ethan is determined to prove to her that there is a choice and they can find a way to make it so.
One thing I didn't like about the whole light-dark thing is that it's set up like you have no control once you're claimed. It's like there is no longer any free will or whatever, like if you're dark you become an evil person. It seemed like you no longer had control of your choices between good and bad, and that you would always be doing 'bad' magic and hurting people. That's how it seemed to me anyway.
Ethan and Lena also uncover a long standing family curse that some people seem determined to keep Lena from learning more about. One of my favorite parts of the book was when they encountered the ghost of the long ago family member who caused this curse to begin with. It was so sad because this long dead girl was sad that it was all her fault and understood what these kids were now trying to do.
Like everyone else, probably, I was very intrigued by Uncle Macon, Lena's uncle and guardian. I kept trying to put the clues together to figure out what he was. I must admit though, I was a little disappointed when I finally found out. But oh well. I loved when he came into the town meeting and put them all in their place with his intelligence and way with words.
The end, or the whole Claiming part actually, left me confused and frustrated. They'd tried so hard to find a way to make sure Lena had a choice. They'd uncovered all these secrets and had all these clues, and were running out of time and still not making sense of the bits they'd found, and then there was all that Claiming night drama and none of what they'd worked for seemed to come into play anyway. I admit, if I went back and read it all again maybe it would make more sense to me, but for now it just seemed unfinished and disconnected. I was hugely disappointed in the last few chapters.
Still, I am looking forward to reading the next book, and I'm hoping Santa brings me the dvd of the movie next week.