Daughter of Light
by Morgan L. Busse
Rowen has a gift. When she touches someone, she sees all their darkest thoughts, their most evil words, their cruelest actions. Seeing the darkness in others doesn’t help someone have faith in humanity. And then her village exiles her as a witch.
Her nation falls into war as their southern neighbor invades and every able-bodied person is needed for the army. Rowen’s skills with a blade make her invaluable to the war effort… as the bodyguard to the princess. Can she keep her curse hidden? What will happen if she touches the woman she’s sworn to protect?
Meanwhile, far to the west, a scribe escapes from a city taken over by ancient enemies bent on the conquest of the world.
Busse excels in her imagery and character introductions. The introduction of the villains may be the best-written villain introduction I’ve read in any fantasy novel. That chapter in particular grabbed my attention and my imagination. She doesn’t fall into any hackneyed stereotypes for the bad guys. They’re powerful, scary, and believable within the setting.
One particular scene where Rowen struggles with her identity and comes across an abandoned ruin also soars. Seriously, Busse knows how to weave words together to powerful effect.
Another scene that works incredibly well: a protagonist crosses through a mountain pass that was recently taken by the enemy. He describes the aftermath of the battle in ways I don’t know if I’ve seen before in a fantasy novel. You smell and even taste the decay.
Now, you may be noticing a theme here: I’m raving about certain scenes. Busse rocks in certain scenes.
The rest of the book is good. The basic plot is standard fantasy, but the unique touches and twists keep us guessing. The characters are broken and so very human, but still people we cheer on and want to see succeed. Rowen’s gift brings struggle. Another main character, Lore, has a unique relationship to the sea that intrigued me. Pacing is excellent. Busse knows when to linger on a scene and when to skip ahead several months.
Yes, plot, characters, pacing, all good.
But those certain scenes shine like nothing else.
I don’t know if the writing mojo flowed for her there or if they were the first scenes she wrote and she wove the rest of the story around them. Whatever she did, it worked.
Is it all good? There are weaknesses in the book, too.
Rowen’s brokenness, though realistic, sometimes annoyed me. She second-guessed herself far more than I would have liked – but, again, her writing was true to character and realistic to boot.
The climax also only half-worked for me. Rowen’s segment of the climax works incredibly well, and the build-up is delicious. The aftermath of Rowen’s portion of the climax also provides a great, appropriate creepy vibe. Again, this is one of those scenes that just works. Yet, it didn’t feel like it climaxed enough.
I’ve been analyzing and trying to figure out what didn’t work. It may be that I wanted more of a wrap-up, but that didn’t come. After all, book two in the series is out now. Busse couldn’t wrap up all the loose ends!
However, the ending here reminded me not a little of the book of Revelation. Yes, from the Bible. There, the writer describes how the forces of darkness surround the last remaining camp of believers. It looks bad. And then Jesus comes and everything’s better. Just like that. It’s almost anti-climactic.
And that’s what I felt like here.
Now, I want to be clear: The climax works within the context of the novel, and the build-up is great. The story builds right to this point and gives us a resolution appropriate to the set-up. Yet, something was lacking and I can’t put my finger on it. Did I expect a big battle scene? Am I just that bloodthirsty that I needed to see more of the fight? I’m not entirely sure.
I also want to be clear: The book is a great read. Those scenes that shine? Those scenes alone are worth the price of the book. The weak points are simply the weakest points in the book; they are not bad points.
One more thing I want to mention. This book is Christian fantasy. Here, a being called the Word absorbed the darkness of humanity into itself to rescue them. We don’t get deep, deep theology here. It’s a novel, not a catechism! However, some of the theological pictures Busse spins not only match biblical theology, but I may steal them for use in my sermons!
Not everything is accurate. This is a fantasy world so the rules aren’t all the same, and I’m willing to let it pass because it’s Busse’s world.
Rowen can see the depths of human depravity. Busse isn’t afraid to show how evil we are. Through Rowen’s eyes, we understand how the Word must see his creation.
And then we meet the Word himself, who takes that darkness into himself. We see how amazing his love is, because we see how dark his creations really are. And then, he takes their wounds and makes them his own. We see the scars of countless healings before, and the fresh scars as his loved ones’ become his.
Busse’s theology within the novel is another highlight and well worth the purchase.
Look into this. Check out the ebook; Marcher Lord keeps their ebooks very reasonably priced. I recommend it! And then, check out book 2!