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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Beautiful Dead, Book 1 - Jonas by Eden Maguire

The Beautiful Dead, Book 1 - Jonas by Eden Maguire
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (279 pgs)
Rating: Aurora Best Book
Reviewed by Fern

Not alive. Not dead. Somewhere in between lie the Beautiful Dead.

Something strange is happening at Ellerton High. Phoenix is the fourth teenager to die within a year. His street-fight stabbing follows the deaths of Jonas, Summer, and Arizona in equally strange and sudden circumstances. Rumors of ghosts and strange happenings rip through the small community as it comes to terms with shock and loss.

Darina, Phoenix’s grief-stricken girlfriend, is on the verge. She can’t escape her intense heartache or the impossible apparitions of those that are meant to be dead. And all the while the sound of beating wings echos inside her head...

And then one day Phoenix appears to Darina. He tells her that she must help Jonas—the first of the four to die—right the wrong linked to his death. Only with her help can Jonas finally rest in peace. Will love conquer death? And if it does, can Darina set it free?

Not alive. Not dead. Somewhere in between lie the Beautiful Dead.

Every once in a while, a reader will come across a book that changes them. Perhaps it’s the characters that seal the deal. Or maybe they are blown away by the prose and the attention to detail. There are numerous things that can enhance the experience, be it an emotional scene, a brand new concept, or imagery that is impossible to shake. In Eden Maguire’s poignant and unforgettable first novel, Beautiful Dead, Book 1 – Jonas, you get all of those things – and more.

As an enthusiast of the paranormal, it’s not often I find something that shakes the foundation of the genre and provides a glimpse of something extraordinary. In this, you are introduced to a new breed of zombie, revenants referred to as the Beautiful Dead. Brought back to the land of the living – what they regard as the far side – each are given a strict amount of time to settle the mystery surrounding their deaths. If they succeed, they will be granted peace to rest. If not, they will return to an endless limbo, set adrift in the place between life and death. Aided by a multitude of powers, they exist under one ruler, their overlord, and his will is law. Never have I read a concept so brilliant, and as the story progressed, impossible to tear myself away from.

When Darina learns of these alive, yet dead, beings, with her beloved boyfriend, Phoenix, existing amongst them, she is willing to do anything it takes to remain inside their circle by his side – including putting her own safety at risk. What occurs next is the piecing together of a jigsaw puzzle, starting with Jonas – one of the four classmates who have died within a year. His time is nearly up, and finding his murderer is the only way to see him off to the other side. Determined to unravel the mystery, Darina soon discovers the road to salvation often results in the path to destruction. So many things occur, all of which I refuse to spoil, but suffice it to say all of the characters, including those who are not the beautiful dead, leave a lasting impression.

Yet, even with the exceptionally presented elements of suspense, teen angst, and troubled pasts of the cast, it is the doomed love affair between our heroine and her deceased beau that makes Beautiful Dead so hauntingly beautiful, to the extent that you’ll think of Darina and Phoenix for hours following this particular installment’s completion. Young love is often tragic, but never has the sacrifice to experience it been so extreme. For no matter what Darina does to aid and assist her lost love, ultimately, he will have to go, and she will have to face a future without him. This certain truth is always present, and even as they cling desperately to the time they are given, you can’t help but hear the clock ticking in the distance.

It is impossible to praise Beautiful Dead as I so long to, so I am doing the one thing within my power to convey just how exceptional this story is by rating it as an Aurora Best Book. Ms. Maguire has cemented herself as an author who stands apart in a genre saturated with sparkling vampires, werewolf tribes, and characters who couldn’t grasp the eccentricities of love if it stared them in the face. I cannot wait for the second story in the series, Book 2 – Arizona, and will be the first in line to purchase my copy on release day.

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