The Light of Dark: Leah, Tobias, Bethany, Jesse Box Set by D. Gail Miller
The Light of Dark box set consists of four books. The first one details the teenage years of Leah Albrecht and the strange discovery she makes whilst cleaning out a house for her Englisher neighbour, Ralph Martin. To start with, though, that’s the least of her worries. Leah is in love with a boy called Phillip but he is due to be married to their friend Abby in an arranged marriage. The personal story is interwoven with her investigation which suddenly takes a more sinister turn. Who exactly is Ralph Martin, and what is he involved in?
A few chapters in the story suddenly skips to twelve years later, which was a shame as I was enjoying the day-to-day life and ambitions of the characters, and Leah is now a broken woman having succumbed to witchcraft in order to try and save one of her sick children. She is excommunicated, shunned and eventually kills herself in front of her son Tobias. Before anyone complains about spoilers, all this is highlighted in the introduction.
The remaining three books follow her surviving children and have a similar pattern; there’s some romantic-based personal character drama amongst the young protagonists, which usually involves someone wanting to marry someone else out of reach. It’s then followed by the on-going plot about the cult of witches, missing Amish teenagers and a growing conspiracy about a group called the Lightbearers; a kind of Illuminati / Hydra variant. As the story progresses the conspiracy angle gets larger and wider until pretty much everyone in power seems to be implicated. In some ways, I would have preferred it if the danger was kept smaller and local, as it would have kept things grounded a bit whilst still providing plenty of drama. Still, that’s not what the book is about so that’s my problem.
With deeply religious main characters there’s always the danger that they can come across overly pious or ‘holier than thou’ to a secular audience. But, because of the great way they are written the Amish characters come across as genuine, and so well-meaning and good-natured that I found it impossible not to root for them. And because I wanted them to succeed, I cared for them and cared what happened to them. As things progress we are introduced to some side characters, including a cult member, a previously brain-washed pop singer and an FBI agent. All of whom have their own stories and roles to play within the greater narrative.
To me, the standout book was Bethany’s story, which has just the right mix of romance drama and peril with some exciting sections which had me on the edge of my seat (literally in this case, as I was on a plane at the time). Plus, the romance angle was flipped around a bit making it a bit different from the others.
By the time we get to Jesse’s story, world events start to kick off and the scope of the story widens into a much larger area. There are some good sequences here, but at this point things start to go a bit over the top and I felt it lost its way a bit.
One of the main problems I found is that every single person the protagonists meet seems to know exactly what’s going on, and imparts the information in one huge info-dump which is repeated at least twice per book. Although it could be argued that the characters need to know, from a reader’s point of view getting through the same thing eight-plus times can get a bit irritating. The conspiracy itself also starts to go a bit overboard, with more and more outlandish details and claims, where fewer might have worked better.
Still, by the time this became an issue I was so invested in the main characters that I was willing to go with it, which is a testament to the quality of the writing. It was also somewhat refreshing that in this day and age where many stories are about revenge and violence, that the characters were still trying to find the good in their enemies and were willing to forgive them.
There is one caveat emptor, however. As this is a Christian-based work of fiction there is a lot of religious musings and quotes of scripture from various characters (and, of course, a very pro-Christian view of the world). To me, this wasn’t an issue, but if you’re a fundamentalist atheist, for example, and get offended by such things, it might bother you and therefore you might want to look elsewhere (the blurb for the book clearly states it’s a Christian novel though so you only have yourself to blame in that case!).
In conclusion, I’d give The Light of Dark 3 ½ stars normally, but it gets an extra half for getting past my preconceptions and winning me over with its charming cast.
Rating: 4 / 5
Disclaimer and disclosure. I received a free copy of The Light of Dark in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I am receiving no payment for the review, either by financial or review-swap means.