***Disclaimer: All opinions are my own.***
“Rise with flame and fury” – Sara Walsh, The Dark Light
The Dark Light Review
**BE WARNED – CONTAINS SPOILERS**
The Dark Light by Sara Walsh is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that follows the journey of two parallel universes fighting together against imminent annihilation. Mia, our unknowing heroine, is a seemingly normal high school student; when she is not serving tables at the local diner, she can be found relaxing with her friends or looking after her younger brother. However, Mia’s simple and straightforward life is challenged when her familiar, yet already extraordinary, hometown turns sinister. Ever since Mia can remember, Crownsville has always been affected by a strange phenomenon; mysterious lights flickering in the sky. With a lack of explanations and no visible aftereffects, the Crownsville community just accepted the lights as an interesting feature of their small town. Unfortunately, their quick dismissal of the strange lights only allows them to be an easier target for the evil that lurks in the secret other world.
The usual easygoing community of Crownsville suddenly becomes on edge when a series of abductions rattles their town. Child after child, young boys are disappearing without a trace. One night while walking home from work, Mia witnesses an abduction taking place. To her bewilderment, the abductors vanish into the notorious lights with their unfortunate victim. Naturally, Mia reports her experience to the police, but regrettably, her statement is written off as a result of shock. Even with the police’s firm reassurances that they have it under control, Mia is still distraught; she wishes she could have done more to help save the young boy. However, her panic and overall distress reach new levels when her little brother is abducted next. With no solid information on where her brother was taken or how to save him, Mia confides in the only person who seems to know more than he is letting on; Crownsville’s newest (and attractive) resident, Sol. Together, Mia and Sol discover the true (and menacing) intentions behind these abductions all while travelling to new worlds to save not only the children but also the world (or should I say worlds).
The Dark Light features not only an intriguing plot, but also captivating yet complex characters. When the audience is first introduced to Mia, we immediately learn about her troubled family life. As a child, Mia grew up under the watchful eye of her grandmother; her father abandoned her as a baby and her mother is otherwise occupied serving time in prison. Unfortunately, when her grandmother perished, she was sent to live in Crownsville with her inattentive uncle, Pete. After a couple of years, Mia’s tiny family expanded to include her younger half-brother Jay, who was also abandoned by her father. With the lack of a strong parental figure, Mia put it upon herself to look after Jay and his wellbeing.
Furthermore, Mia schedules her life around Jay; never accepting invites unless Jay is taken care of. She even goes as far as disciplining her uncle into action in times of need. She is also constantly worrying about him. In addition, with the string of kidnappings occurring close to home, her fear is justifiably heightened. As a result, she hovers a little more than usual; she personally picks him up from his after school activities if she is available. In one particular incident, she is so preoccupied with a mysterious (and important) heirloom that she completely misses the fact that Jay never entered the house after getting dropped off. In this lapse of judgement, Jay is lured away and into the light. As Jay’s main guardian, Mia is frantic; tearing after him before he disappears. However, when she is too late, she still does everything she can. For instance, when she is not talking (maybe yelling is the right word) to the police, she is digging for the truth behind Sol’s arrival; determined that it has something to do with the kidnappings (she was dead on actually). In all, Mia’s past influenced her present. Her constant abandonment as a child only further solidified her strong sense of loyalty; to Jay, Sol, and even Pete. Her loyalty to not only ‘our’ world but also to justice being rightfully served influences her actions and the overall story.
Another remarkable aspect of Mia and her personality is her compassion and selflessness. Through her period of time in the other world, Mia’s empathy and generosity is constantly recognized. For instance, while travelling to where the kidnapped kids are being held, Mia slowly develops feelings for Sol. She not only admires his looks (because how could you not), she also admires his sense of responsibility and justice. As the rightful prince in this other world, Sol is used to others falling over him for his looks and power (which is why he hid his true self originally). However, that is not the case for Mia. Mia fell for him due to his courage, kindness, and compassion for his realm. In other words, she fell for Sol’s personality and humanity rather than his handsome appearance. Mia’s ability to see people for who they truly are is what influences her to ultimately trust others. Another example of Mia’s compassion is when she is reunited with her father. (Long story short, Mia discovers that she was actually born in this other world. Her father sent her to ‘our’ world to protect her from those who wish to control her due to her tide-changing abilities.) She is initially (and understandably) upset at him for not only leaving her but for also abandoning Jay. She doesn’t open herself up to him at first; why should she if he didn’t want to stick around in the beginning. Nevertheless, through his actions and her careful observations, she realizes that her father only ever had the best intentions. His abandonment was truly for their own good.
In addition, Mia also realizes how much this sacrifice distressed him. When he is reunited with Jay, the pure joy on his face is unmistakable. In a way, Mia never had the chance to think of the consequences of sending loved ones away until she met her father. She was only ever concerned with how she felt. This important realization influences her upcoming decision to allow Jay to stay behind. At the conclusion of the story, Jay does not want to return home; he wants to remain with his father. Mia is initially opposed; after all, Jay’s life is back on ‘our’ earth. Though, through serious contemplation, Mia realizes that her opposition is due to her own desires. She should not force him to stay for her own personal reasons; she must learn to let him go if it is in his best interests (like father like daughter). Mia’s overall selflessness and compassion are what truly allow her character to jump off the page. Through her many decisions and sacrifices, I consistently felt connected to her; feeling her moments of joy and sadness. This character connection is what truly drove me to devour this story.
The Dark Light also features a noteworthy and swoon worthy male character, named Sol. While Mia is the ultimate nail in the coffin for ending the impending decimation of the parallel worlds, Sol is the driving force. When Sol first strode into Crownsville, the entire high school community was intrigued. Who was this mysterious outsider? Most people wrote him off as just another quiet yet attractive guy, but Mia was more adamant. See, Sol just so happens to have a giant tattoo of a bird on his back. Initially, that just gives him more of a bad boy vibe. However, Sol’s sudden arrival seems more and more suspicious to Mia once she realizes that Jay has the same exact tattoo on his leg. This coincidence is too odd to ignore and is what fuels Mia to search for clues when Jay is abducted. In retrospect, if Mia were to have never seen this tattoo, the impending decimation would have proceeded as normal. Sol’s presence in Crownsville is essentially what sparks Mia into action. Besides being the fire under Mia, Sol is also quite the romantic interest. He is the perfect balance of mysterious and alluring. With his sudden appearance in Crownsville, Sol is a great mystery. Who is this new boy? Where did he come from? Why is he so quiet and living with the town’s reclusive resident? Why is someone so young covered in a massive tattoo? As an experienced reader, I can sense the bad boy appeal from a mile away. Mia (and myself for that matter) never stood a chance. Sol is also very protective. While facing danger against a horde of demons (yes, demons exist in the other world), Sol takes it upon himself to fight them off. Granted, Sol is more than capable of holding his own; thanks in part to his supernatural inheritance of strength and power (aka the bird tattoo).
However, Sol does not have to take the burden of fending off demons alone; he only does so to protect Mia from having to experience the uncertainty and danger of battle. Besides, in my opinion, I don’t think Sol would be able to handle seeing her hurt. Plus, when Sol is slightly injured from fighting solo, Mia is immediately concerned. The possibility of losing Sol just further solidifies her feelings towards him. Furthermore, Sol’s protectiveness is not always for Mia’s physical wellbeing; Sol also wishes to protect Mia’s mental stability. He purposely reveals revelations about Mia and her past at opportune times; ensuring that she is not overwhelmed at any one point. His disclosures are not always in the best method (admitting there are demons while running from them) but his intentions are pure. The main takeaway is that Sol was never going to hide anything from Mia; he wanted full transparency but not at the cost of Mia’s sanity. Before I continue rambling on about the romance, let me make one final point on Sol’s character. As I mentioned before, Sol is the rightful prince to this other worldly realm. He also just so happens to be a soldier fighting against the ever-growing evil. Since this battle has been waging for ages now, Sol grew up under this constant threat. However, instead of cowering in fear, Sol took action. He trained to fight, learned about his kingdom and enemies, and even rallied forces for his cause. Sol is a true leader; Mia recognized this even before she knew he was a prince. His take-charge attitude is what allows readers to rally for his success; he goes after his dreams and aspirations instead of waiting for them to come to him.
Overall, The Dark Light was a fantastic read. I was genuinely surprised by how enthralled I became. The romance is what initially drew me in, but the gripping plot is what made me stay. The aspect of a parallel world and its infrastructure was intriguing. For instance, there is a whole system of bloodlines with rules and expectations for each; like, one bloodline should only marry into the same bloodline. In addition, each bloodline has a special ability. In the story, we meet one pure blooded descendent of a bloodline and her magical ability is to alter her appearance based on that person’s hair. Essentially, imagine this woman having a collection of hair samples hidden in her closet. This other realm also values the importance of their sacred objects, like Mia’s heirloom. These magical objects are what allow portals between the parallel universes to open. In all actuality, the reason Mia is first transported to the other world is because she was holding the heirloom while questioning Sol about its significance. It is later revealed that Mia is the only one who can harness the sacred object’s powers, which is why the portal opened while she was holding it. Interestingly enough, Mia’s heirloom is the key to both stopping the impending multi-world annihilation and allowing the total destruction to happen. Now, I will not spoil the story anymore; I would never be able to properly give the novel the justice it deserves. Therefore, if you enjoy reading paranormal / fantasy romances with great characters and a suspenseful plot, The Dark Light is for you. So, go forth and enter this fascinating world of worlds and discover what it really means to fulfill your destiny!
Stay current with this unique universe by visiting Sara Walsh’s website.
My Rating: 4.5/5