Destiny of the Light by Louise Cusack
This book is heavy on the intrigue and light on the introspection, but there’s plenty of room for strong, independent female characters.
This review is part of the AWW2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. Click here for a list of books I’ve read so far.
Catherine lost her mother to cancer and her twin brother in an apparent suicide. When she visits the cliff where she last saw her twin, she’s compelled by a voice in her mind to jump.
So she does.
Catherine wakes up in a strange land in which she is apparently the long-lost Princess Khatrene and her brother, now called Mihale, is the ruling king of Ennae. Though she dies after her jump, Talis, her Guardian, saves her using his special brand of magic.
What follows is a kind of epic road trip interspersed with battles, pursuits, magical machinations and political intrigue. It’s not always easy to follow the plot. There are so many characters and strands that you need to be fully invested in the story to keep track of it all, and I admit that the story couldn’t always sustain my attention.
Perhaps the biggest weakness of book is that Queensland author Louise Cusack tries to set up too much of the story instead of focusing on two or three of the most compelling characters and allowing the story to develop around them. Some of the transitions—between characters, scenes and settings—can be disorienting. Just because two events are happening simultaneously doesn’t mean they have to be dealt with at the same point in the narrative, and I wish Cusack had played around with the structure and timing a little more.
Cusack includes various romantic subplots between some of the more interesting supporting characters, though most are left unresolved by the end of this book. Although the publisher categorises Destiny of the Light as romance, it doesn’t really fit comfortably into the genre, and I think it’s fairer to say that it’s a fantasy with romantic elements.
I have mixed feelings about the romance between Khatrene and Talis. It lacks the edginess that I prefer in my fantasy romance, and although their big conflict is quite dark—Khatrene is seduced by someone else and effectively raped—the way their love develops lacks complexity, particularly when compared to the subtle nuances in the political tensions that move the external plot.
What I like most about the world that Cusack creates is that there is plenty of room for strong, independent women. This is the story’s greatest strength, even if I didn’t always like every female character. And yes, sometimes their fates are decided by the men around them, but the women have their own skills and ways of subverting those plans.
Yay or nay?
In many ways, I feel the story works better if it had been aimed at teens. That said, readers who prefer their fantasy books to be heavy on the intrigue and light on the introspection would probably appreciate it more than I did.
Who might enjoy it: Readers who love knowing what each character is up to and why
Who might not enjoy it: Readers looking for a complicated love story
A review copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher.