Thursday, September 22, 2016

Light Runner by Philip Brown Review

"Sixteen-year-old Dara Adengard would rather read graphic novels than do her homework and prefers the freedom of skateboarding to the restrictions of life with her military father. Stung by the recent death of her mother, Dara conceals her mom’s picture under a square of grip tape on her skateboard. But no matter how much Dara tries to keep a foothold on the past, she can’t ride away from her own destiny. 

One evening, she discovers a silver and gold armlet with mysterious powers in the shadowy water of the swimming pool. Forged from an ancient meteorite metal, it possesses the power to heal or wound. When Dara holds it, it emits a light that seems to have been ignited by a star’s ray. Moments later, she is stunned to find that someone’s broken into her apartment, her father has vanished, and a dead body lies sprawled in the courtyard. 

Evading the police, Dara escapes on a perilous quest for her father, begins to uncover her mother’s hidden past, and starts to realize the shocking truth about herself. Accompanied by a stray dog, Dara soars to sudden fame on the wings of a YouTube video that shows her using the Jyotisha to heal the handsome Diego of a gunshot wound. When the video goes viral, a famous TV talk show personality connects with her, and Dara is propelled from homeless runaway to worldwide sensation."

Light Runner surprises me. The story is told in an unexpected way, and it doesn't follow what I thought it would turn out. (My prediction was based on the synopsis, and I admit that I welcome that surprise.) Let's dig in.

I can't exactly describe the genre of the story. It's more of a mixture between YA Contemporary and Fantasy. The fantasy part comes in the form of a mysterious armlet with the strange powers to heal. In possession of Jyotisha (the armlet's name), Dara travels in a quest to find her missing father. Along the way, she picks up a few friends and finds herself in the middle of a media circus. It's truly a fascinating premise, and the author does indeed manage to interest me in the story, despite a somewhat lacking feeling/spark in the writing itself. 

The plot sends Dara being chased by various villains and healing people along the way. The armlet's powers seem miraculous and draws the attention of some dangerous characters. But the strongest part of the story isn't in the action. It's in Dara's personal journey, and my favorite part of the novel is when Dara finds Diego. Their relationship is what I remember the most from Light Runner. (Oh, and I can't forget about the dog.)

There is a strong cast of villains in Light Runner. But the one who strikes out the most is the one who is the most manipulative and subtle one with the ability to move pieces around the board without getting the pieces to realize they were being manipulated. I didn't even see that villain until the very end of the book, and she/he is a great one. The planning he/she put into Dara and her path is amazing, and she/he is a worthy contender for the Jyotisha. 

As I have said once before, Dara's personal journey is perhaps one of the most important part of the novel. Pay particular attention to it. 

The ending leaves off with a surprise, and I'm curious to see what would happen next and what would Philip Brown would bring to the table. I would love to see the future of characters such as Diego, Dara, and especially, Mercy. 

Rating: Three out of Five

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