Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Rachel McClellan’s tour for Fractured Light, the first volume in a new urban fantasy series. The tour has been running for the last few days, hitting up blogs all around the web. You can see the full list of participants and read all the great reviews, guest posts and excerpts via this post on the A Tale of Many Reviews Blog Tour site. Right now Amazon has the e-book version of Fractured Light at a discounted price of just 99 cents, a deal I recommend you take up.
As part of the tour, Rachel and Cedar Press are giving away 5 SIGNED copies of Fractured Light, 10 eBook copies and 3 necklaces inspired by the book. You can enter the contest through the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post. THIS CONTEST IS OPEN INTERNATIONALLY! But now on to my review.
Cedar Press (2012)
YA / Fantasy
Llona Reese is used to living on the run. After the Vykens killed her parents, she knew they would eventually come for her too. But she never felt ready to face them---until now. Defying the Auran Council and everything she's been taught, Llona must learn to use her power over light as a weapon if she wants to survive.
That’s the shortest book blurb I’ve seen for the first volume in a series in a very long time. While it gives a very vague overview about the plot of Fractured Light, I feel as though it doesn’t really describe the book I just read. Most of the fantasy concepts in the blurb are distant things that are talked about, but not seen until late in the game. Instead Fractured Light is very much a high school drama story that just happens to be told by a girl who can randomly turn lights on and off with her mind and can’t seem to get the boy who she likes to openly like her back.
Llona Reese is a special girl. She can control light, turning them on and off with her brain, receiving and losing super speed and strength with the changes in the moon, and occasionally being able to share light to help ease someone’s emotional strain. Because of this, she believes she’s antisocial, constantly fearing that the vampire-esque Vyken that killed her mother will inevitably come back for her. The first half of Fractured Light is solidly focused on Llona transforming from the antisocial loner, who tries to go unnoticed into a normal teenage girl. Somewhere about midway, she begins to seriously take her powers into consideration, learning about her own limits and capabilities when it becomes more and more obvious that a Vyken is pretty much stalking her.
The main idea behind the plot is solid and I really enjoyed the concept of a group of girls and women having control over light and using it for positive purposes. I especially enjoyed the use of a fable within the story to give a bit of background to the world McClelland was creating. I appreciated how the coming of age story paralleled Llona’s discovery of her own powers and sudden decision not to run from danger. I also like that the boy assigned to protect her was also imbued with supernatural gifts and didn’t fall into the dangerously annoying trap of an everyday human feeling capable of better protecting a supernaturally abled being than the person with the powers is capable of protecting themselves.
While the romantic tropes seemed a little worn and the bad guy was obvious from the beginning, I enjoyed the story and plotting. The pacing remained steady, though the final conclusion went from exciting to anticlimactic in about one paragraph (spoiler free!). Llona came across as a regular girl with doubts and self-esteem issues, and living inside her head – as the story is told in the first person – got a little tedious after she brooded over why so-and-so wouldn’t make a move.
I also really, really hate physical fight scenes told from a first-person perspective. McClelland does a fair job on describing physical fights and training, especially compared to other examples I’ve read in recent months, but it still comes across to me as awkward and without the impact that comes from being a third party observer. I suppose the added emotional monologue within the fight scene themselves get in the way of me enjoy people beating each other up. Despite that, McClelland has a better handle on how to write well-choreographed fight scenes than a lot of writers I’ve encountered.
My main issues of with Fractured Light came in the actual writing of the story. While I’m not sure if the e-book provided for my review was the final version, I found moments of inconsistency in either timing or a sudden shift in physical perspective. It was sort of like in a television show where, in one angle of a scene the character is holding a jacket and then puts it down, but when the camera angle shifts, the character sudden has the jacket in their hands again. Not particularly off-putting, but personally it can knock me out of the story a little.
Mostly I felt there were some inconsistencies in point of view. Up until the last quarter of the book, the story is told from Llona as though she’s living through these things as they happen. Then towards the end, she’s suddenly making foreshadowing comments like “If only I had known then what was about to happen”, which makes it less of a real-time story where I’m part of the action right beside the narrator and more as though I’m reading someone’s blog, recounting what they did that day. I was suddenly being held an arms-length away from what was going on, reliving the story instead of being their when it actually happens.
But overall Fractured Light is a solid beginning to a series with realistic characters and a unique supernatural element that doesn’t feel as though it’s been done to death. While some of the writing choices might have hit me in the wrong way, McClelland’s capabilities at writing exciting action sequences and carrying on a will-they, won’t-they romance without it becoming too grating carried the story well. I’m interested to see where the next in the series goes with a change of scenery.
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I received an electronic copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review. The Amazon link is part of the affiliate program, so if you buy something, I get a smidge to put towards contests.