Title: A Beautiful Evil
Author: Kelly Keaton
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Greek Mythology retelling
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: February 2012
Hardcover/Paperback: 288 pages
A power she can’t deny. A destiny she’s determined to fight.
When Ari first arrived in the dilapidated city of New 2, all she wanted was to figure out who she was. But what she discovered was beyond her worst nightmare. Ari can already sense the evil growing inside her—a power the goddess Athena will stop at nothing to possess.
Desperate to hold on to her humanity and protect her loved ones, Ari must fight back. But Athena’s playing mind games, not just with Ari but with those she cares about most. And Athena has a very special plan for the brooding and sexy Sebastian.
Ari is determined to defeat Athena, but time is running out. With no other options, Ari must unleash the very thing she’s afraid of: herself.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Gods and Monsters series
How did I get this book: Review copy from the UK publisher
Why did I read this book: I love Greek retellings and I had enjoyed Darkness Becomes Her – with many reservations – the first book in this series and wanted to see how the second book fared.
A Beautiful Evil is the sequel to last year’s Darkness Becomes Her and it picks up right where the previous book left off. Ari, our cursed-to-become-a-gorgon-when-she-turns-21 protagonist is training to be able to tap into her dormant powers so she can face the powerful Goddess Athena and rescue her father and her friend Violet. She has also been allowed by the Novem – the supernatural families that run New 2, this world’s futuristic version of New Orleans – to visit their secret library to research the way to Athena’s secret realm and how to break her own curse.
A Beautiful Evil was an extremely frustrating read. I was wary to begin with, given my conflicted thoughts about Darkness Becomes Her and unfortunately ALL of the problems I had with the first book make a return with a vengeance (to the point I could comfortably copy and paste my thoughts from that review). Simply put, this series has an awesome premise and world-building but flawed execution, lacklustre secondary characters and formulaic writing.
First the positives: I like the world building and the main character a LOT. The Greek Mythology reimagining is everything I want from my Greek retellings. By making Athena – the Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy – into a power-hungry lunatic who likes to play with the lives of those who serve her and who has horribly cursed Medusa and her descendants, it competently takes into consideration what immortality and the passage of years can do to someone’s frame of mind. I love this because more often than not, in Fantasy, we come across immortal beings that don’t seem to be affected at all by all the time they have lived and all the things they have seen or endured.
With regards to Ari, our main character, I love that she is a mix of vulnerable and kick-ass, that she lives on that line where she is adamant she doesn’t want to become a gorgon because she doesn’t want to become a monster but is inevitably attracted to the power she has.
That’s about it though, when it comes to the positives. Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned aspects is enough to hold this story together when the execution of the plot is so rushed as to make it ridiculous and even conflicting with what we are told. Athena is – supposedly – one of the cleverest strategists and yet, leaves quite a few things to chance. The location of her temple is – supposedly – one of the most well guarded secrets of the ancient world and yet Ari finds all the clues to find it after a couple of visits to the library with a thoroughly easy way to open its alter-dimensional door.
Although I understand that there is an element of urgency given how Ari’s father is undoubtedly being horribly tortured by Athena, Ari and her friends rush into danger with no back-up, no training (unless you count the couple of sessions she had) and no real plan. Repeat after me:
And if you do, there has to be real consequences. But in the end, I felt that every single plot point is addressed, Athena was defeated (for now), Ari is sort of comfortable with her powers and has the hope to fight the curse and Ari and love-interest Sebastian walk into the sunset even though Ari does something really fucked up to him when they are taken by Athena. The resolution of that conflict is so rushed and dealt with in such a hand wavy manner as to be problematic (although there are things still left open, I do wonder if this is going to be the last book?).
Furthermore, the secondary characters are one-dimensional including Sebastian – his character is only surface deep, his descriptions don’t go much beyond his looks and even the one thing that might define him in terms of emotional conflict is disregarded with no real consequences. The writing relies on shortcuts (adrenaline that runs through veins to convey excitement; blood pressure rising to convey anger and so on and so forth). Not to mention how weird is it that the book is extremely violent, with horrible, graphic scenes of torture – both emotional and physical – and yet strangely PG when it comes to Sebastian and Ari’s romantic relationship. They pledge themselves to each other but don’t do a lot more than…hold hands.
In my review of the first novel, I said that it felt like reading a prequel. Well, this one reads like an entire series of 10 books condensed in 287 pages. Despite my misgivings with the first book, I still had hopes for the second book. I tried, I really did, to give this series a chance but I really don’t think this is going to get any better. It’s time to say goodbye.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: All fight scenes and when Ari kicked ass – these were totally awesome.
Rating: 4 – Bad, but not without some merit
Reading Next: Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgwick
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