Sara and the Chimera: A Prison of Light

Sara and the Chimera - A Prison of Light

It’s been quite a while since I reviewed a science fiction novel, so today I’m going to be taking a look at the first book in the Sara and the Chimera series. A Prison of Light was written by Greg Dent and Todd Morasch and first published in 2012. It follows the adventures of two beings with remarkable powers as they try to escape destruction at the hands of an evil overlord known as the Mongrel. The novel is followed by its sequel, Seven Stars, which was published in the same year.

Sara Starbright is blessed with the ability to know everything. Although the people around her believe that she is crazy, she has learned that she can discover everything there is to know about something simply by asking the right questions.

Although she has taken lengths to hide her powers from others, they have not gone unnoticed. Moving between dimensions in his Worldship, a monster called the Mongrel searches for all people that could eventually threaten him. Learning from his psychic “prognosticators” that Sara possesses such a power he sends his agents to Earth in order to capture her.

Imprisoned on the Worldship amongst some of the most dangerous creatures in the multiverse, she strikes up a psychic link with the creature in the neighbouring cell. Jonathan is the Chimera, a creature who possesses the ability to continuously evolve to suit his environment but has the mind of a ten year old boy. The unlikely friends quickly realise that they can use their combined powers in order to escape but doing so puts them in constant danger. On the run from the Mongrel’s personal army and their leader, the Neverknight, they are forced to hop from reality in order to escape their pursuers and find a place where they will be safe from all those who want them dead.

Sara and the Chimera: A Prison of Light is a wonderfully creative novel. The setting had a very distinctive feel to it which reminded me a lot of Clive Barker’s Abarat. Although the written style of the story is not especially descriptive, you are still left with a very vivid impression of what the realities that Sara and Jonathan visit are like. Amongst the most interesting (and by far my favourite) is Haven – a towering city full of the things that never existed. As the laws of reality don’t really apply in Haven, it is full of fantastic tiny details like molten ice cream and glasses of yellow juice (so called because it is made from yellows and not oranges). I would have loved to read an entire novel set in Haven because for me it was just perfect – awe inspiring and fantastical in equal measure.

The more I think about the story, the more I like it. It is a surprisingly complex tale that takes its audience very seriously. Arthur C Clarke once wrote that ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. I really felt this to be true within this story. The story does not blind the reader with hard science but takes a very philosophical approach to the nature of reality, creating a dense plot that really does require two readings to fully appreciate.

However, the story did not immediately grip me. I found the opening couple of chapters to be very slow and clunky, filled with a lot of irrelevant detail and clumsy exposition. The opening chapter did not really add a lot to the story. While it did introduce the character of Rithrial, he did not appear again until quite far into the story and the shadow creature (which seemed really important) vanished from the book altogether.

I also felt as though the Mongrel’s grand plan was held back for a little too long. The story was very fast paced and did hold my attention throughout, it always felt as though something was lacking. While the Mongrel was an intimidating figure, I felt as though the novel spent a lot of time telling me how evil he was, rather than showing it. While I did appreciate the Lovecraftian creepiness of the character (it is stated early on that to look too deeply into the Mongrel is to drive one to insanity), it did also cause him to lose a little of his intimidation. The Mongrel’s scheme is finally revealed in the climax of the novel and it is actually quite brilliant, yet I felt that there should have been some hints towards this earlier in the novel. It came a little too much out of left field, which could have been resolved by allowing the reader to learn a little more about the Mongrel and his race earlier in the story.

The main characters of the story were both incredibly likable but I don’t believe that they were especially well introduced within the story. I felt, at first, that Sara seemed just too overpowered. A character that knows everything leaves very little to the imagination. I mean, how can you surprise a character who seems to have already read the Spark Notes for the story? However, as the story developed and it became apparent that her power could be blocked or manipulated, I found her character to be a little more sympathetic as she became less Godlike and began to show a far more human side.

However, Jonathan was by far my favourite character in the story. I really liked the contrast between his childish personality and his monstrous form. However, one of the biggest disappointments for me was that we never find out what the Chimera really is. We get a little about Jonathan’s past as a human boy but we never learn how he came to meet the Chimera, or where the Chimera came from in the first place. I hope that this is explained in the sequel as I thought that this was one of the most curious loose ends of the story.

The side characters in the story were also very memorable and well rounded. El Gato was a very fun character, presenting a truly believable portrayal of an anthropomorphic cat (as a cat owner myself, I can honestly say that the authors hit the nail on the head here). The development of the Neverknight was also brilliant, leaving me very disappointed by their eventual fate. I won’t spoil this for you, suffice to say that it really closed a lot of doors for future stories that could be told with this character. The only real disappointment for me in terms of character was Rithrial, as he was nowhere near as important as he seemed. I would have liked to have seen a lot more of him but he was primarily used for exposition purposes, rather than as a true member of the supporting cast.

So, to conclude, A Prison of Light is a very creative and well written novel which provides a very strong start to the series. Although it is let down by some pacing issues, particularly in the early chapters of the novel, it is an exciting and fast paced story that contains some incredibly original characters. The ending of this story was truly exhilarating and left me longing for more. I really can’t wait to see how it develops in Seven Stars.

Sara and the Chimera: A Prison of Light can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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