Book of Light

Book of Light

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for is prequel, Guardian of the Underworld. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Book of Light was written by Rachel Tetley and first published in 2015. It is the second instalment of the Underworld Chronicles and follows the continuing adventures of Jake as he trains to be the Guardian. The novel is preceded by Guardian of the Underworld (2014) and a third novel is planned for release later this year, though at the time of writing no further details have been announced.

It’s been a year since Jake Summers became the Guardian and since then he’s lived with a nagging fear that he’s not good enough. Even though he passed the five trials, he’s been without his Grandfather’s tuition and feels undeserving of his title. However, the time has come for his skills to be tested again. Disasters have begun to plague the Earth and this can only mean one thing. Lucifer has amassed an army and plans to destroy the world.

With his loyal friends Arianna and Will at his side, Jake heads back to the Underworld to receive his mission. The rise of Lucifer has been long foretold and there is only one thing that can stop him: the legendary Book of Light. There is only one problem. The Book of Light belonged to a previous Guardian and when he died, he took the secret of its location with him.

Jake teams up with the dragon Salazan and a bad-tempered puffle named Ferdinand and begins the dangerous trek across the Underworld in search of someone who knows the book’s location. However, his path is filled with danger. Giant spiders, dark spirits and cursed waters bar his way but these are far from the most dangerous things that Jake must face. An old friend has now taken a place at the head of Lucifer’s army and now will stop at nothing to kill him…

Before I begin, I just think I should admit that some of the details of this story were a little lost on me. When I reviewed Guardian of the Underworld I was reading from an advanced copy provided by the author but it’s clear that quite a few of the finer details have been changed prior to its publication. There were things referenced within this story that I’m pretty sure never occurred in the version I read and even some of the character names seem to have been altered. Please bear that in mind if you look back over my previous review.

My opinion of Book of Light is very mixed and so I think that I should first begin by talking about the novel’s greatest merits. Firstly, this story is definitely shows that Tetley is improving as a writer. The setting of the story is greatly imaginative and brought to mind the ever popular Chronicles of Narnia series. While the Underworld wasn’t explored in the previous novel, this time most of the story is spent questing through its wilds. It really is a world where anything is possible and Jake encounters all kinds of fantastical beings and talking animals before his journey is over. This made the direction that the tale took hard to predict and gave a great incentive to keep reading.

The story was also far better paced than the previous instalment. If you read my review of Guardians of the Underworld, you might remember that I felt that Jake’s trials were incredibly rushed. So much time was devoted to building up to them but they were over in a heartbeat. This time, only a chapter was set in the real world before Jake and his friends were summoned, allowing for much more time to be spent on the adventure. I’m also pleased to say that there were far fewer textual errors this time around. While one or two did baffle me (it was established early on that Jake’s mother was dead but he then made several references to his parents in a way that made her sound alive), this story was a far more pleasant read than the last.

However, the story was still lacking in something fundamental. Tetley has a bit of a frustrating habit of focusing on the small details and losing sight of the bigger picture. At one point Jake witnesses the death of an ally, during a fight sequence that only lasts a few paragraphs. While the death is actually pretty shocking, the focus is quickly drawn from this event and it never really has much of an impact on the surviving characters . In the chapter that follows, most of the page space is devoted to a lengthy description of Jake lighting a fire. I just feel as though the story would have flowed much better if Tetley had spent more time on sequences that were actually plot important and showed the effect that they had on the protagonists.

At times, the novel also felt a little too familiar. Other than the aforementioned similarities with Chronicles of Narnia, there were also parts of the story that really felt similar to famous existing works. Such as when Jake’s way is barred by a Goblin who demands that they answer his riddles in exchange for safe passage. Or the bit where the obstacle preventing Jake from getting to the magical McGuffin is a large chasm which requires a leap of faith to cross. While I accept that few things are truly original in this day and age, it still doesn’t help to make a novel memorable when some of its best scenes are derivative of better-known fiction.

The ending of the story was also a bit of a disappointment as it just kind of tailed off without conflict. Although there is a battle, the reader sees very little of it and Lucifer never appears in the story in the flesh. It all felt rather anti-climatic. Although Jake does stop the bad guys, I’m not even sure what function the Book of Light played in the proceedings. The final revelation of how Lucifer was to be defeated (no spoilers here) left me wondering if a quest was really necessary at all. The story also just kind of cuts off very abruptly after Jake’s victory, leaving me feeling a disappointed. We don’t even find out if the baby Noggin was born! It would have been nice to have seen what happened immediately after the day was saved.

The characters also felt a little less developed this time around. While Jake is still likable and is definitely a good role model for a middle grade reader, he seems to have taken a backwards step. The previous novel was about him finding his confidence but he’s back to being unsure of himself once again. He also never really feels like a real twelve year old boy. He’s just a bit too altruistic and self-sufficient. In one chapter he manages to kill, prepare and cook and deer before building a raft capable of sailing down a dangerous river all by himself. This just seemed a little too much for someone so young. Arianna and Will also didn’t have much to do this time around. Although it initially seemed as though they were being trained to have complementary skills, these never really came into play.

I think I’ve probably rambled for long enough now. Although Tetley’s writing is improving and the novel contained fewer technical errors, it still did feel rough around the edges on the whole. However, I am still curious to see where Jake’s adventures will take him next and will certainly read the next instalment of this series.

Book 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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