Out Now from Clarion Books; 433 pages
Content Warning: Violence, discussion of suicide, poisoning, death
About the Author: “Sunya Mara grew up in six different cities across five different states and now calls Los Angeles home. She studied film and business at the University of Southern California and went on to write and illustrate at Kobe Bryant’s Granity Studios. When not telling stories, she spends her time haunting old movie theaters and staring at museum walls” (Bio from author’s website).
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Set three years after the events of The Darkening, The Lightstruck reunites readers with Vesper Vale, the daring protagonist who saved her city from the encroaching Storm that cursed everyone it touched. After sacrificing herself to become the vessel of the Great Queen, Vesper awakes from a three-year slumber to find that her homeland is still plagued by power-hungry gods. The Great King has seized control of the city center and manipulates the minds of civilians who look upon his powerful light. In the conclusion to this dynamic duology, Vesper must learn to balance the responsibilities of her role as the Great Queen’s vessel with her guilt and fear or run the risk of failing herself, her friends, and her people.
In The Lightstruck, Sunya Mara crafts a thoughtful coming-of-age story within a high-stakes YA fantasy novel. Vesper and her peers, specifically Dalca and Cas, explore personal identity and purpose throughout the novel as they grapple with their roles in society and how much emotional weight they can carry without collapsing. I love a flawed protagonist, and I always will. Vesper’s fears and desires felt real, but sometimes it felt like she could never do the right thing. I appreciated how she was supported by the other characters, but that support often turned into reliance. I found myself wishing that Vesper played a bigger role in solving pivotal issues. Vesper was granted incredible abilities, and the author could have explored them more. The world-building and supernatural system felt hurried, and I found it difficult to visualize large portions of the novel. I expected this sequel to feel more familiar since I obtained an understanding of the world from the first book, but I often felt more confused due to the abundance of new characters and concepts. However, I was impressed by the symmetry of the novels, as the author flipped the idea of the first book on its head to create the problem for the second book. Mara eloquently expresses the profound importance of finding a balance between fears and desires, between flaws and perfection. Overall, The Lightstruck is an innovative resolution to The Darkening duology that will especially resonate with readers who loved the pacing and character dynamics of the first book.
Pine Reads Review would like to thank Sparkpoint Studios and Clarion Books for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.
Ashley Amacher, Pine Reads Review Assistant Director & Lead Editor