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A Light in the Darkness (Light of Loian Book 1) Kindle Edition
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This is a fantasy set in a capably-created world where magic is a real threat to the health and security of the people of Justan's kingdom. Merrilyn shares a nearly forgotten faith in a god who guides her personally, and an interesting part of the writing of this novel is how to share something as intimate as one's faith in a way that others will find meaningful and helpful. That is a difficult theme, and Sutherlin handles it well.
I enjoyed this story and its delicate portrayal of shared belief and the community of women who support Merrilyn's work and encourage her faith.
You ever have a book that you really wanted to love? That had so much potential yet had just enough that needed addressing that it missed the mark? That was this book for me.
The writing is beautiful and I can see the author has a gift. The world and the general plot is interesting and I devoured this.
But there was a lot of things that didn't work for me and they all built up to leave me disappointed at the end.
For starters, it was obvious from the beginning that Justan is head over heels for Merri. It was so obvious that I didn't buy Merri being oblivious for the whole book. There was some very romantic moments and gestures. Things Justan said or did that made it clear to everyone he loved her. Yet Merri walked around like, "I don't understand why Justan's saying/doing that? I'm so confused."
It got to be annoying after awhile.
There were parts I can tell were supposed to be humorous but(I hate saying this because humor is so hard to write) they fell flat, for me. Like there was a story about a goat in a dress that ran off and I kept waiting to feel some measure of humor and I didn't. The characters would laugh about something said/done and I felt awkward for not joining them.
It felt like Merri could do no wrong and Justan could do no right. But it felt forced, like Justan was written as so angry all the time that I thought maybe there'd be a twist like his anger would be a weapon the enemy used.
The plot could've been stronger. Merri HAS to go with Justan's army to find his brother and after one skirmish she's out of commission for awhile. She's sent back with one guard despite being a target, and the army follows shortly after, and then she leaves again, and the army follows. It felt rambling and pointless. Then they go all the way to the mountains for a battle and not only did I not understand why the battle had to happen there, but in the end it wasn't even the army/Merri/Justan who fought the big bad.
It's also left open as to whether the big bad is actually destroyed or just ran off. Merri and Justan don't resolve their relationship issue(they don't come out and say they like each other or realize the other likes them). Justan goes from being irritated at Aiden(the sorta, not really other love interest) to best buds overnight, that felt unbelievable.
I don't understand Aiden's role at all because he bounces between seeming romantically interested in Merri and hinting that her and Justan like each other. I can't tell if he's actually interested or not, and his actions at points suggests he is and I completely understood Justan's irritation.
Overall there was a lack of resolution in the plot. The book wasn't so large that it couldn't have been added too, and with the above things noted they also didn't find Justan's brother.
Aiden shows interest in Beatny at the end, but that wasn't built up at all and the age confuses me. Supposedly Merri's grandma was the last Alaith. But these three sisters that she stays with at the end of the book(Beatny being one) say their mother was an Alaith(who left them to go to the palace, so I doubt they were children at the time). So she must've died/vanished before the grandma. That makes these three women at least the age of Merri's mother, if not older, and Aiden(Merri's age since he's considered a possible love interest) is hinted to be growing romantically fond of Beatny??
Not that it's impossible to have a relationship with someone the age of your mother, but I had a hard time understanding how old the women were and what made Beatny so special that Aiden would overlook the age gap.
There's also a part where Beatny is healed by Merri from a mental disorder. Okay, that's cool, but Beatny responds by saying "I'm me again!" and everyone says she's been crazy for the past 10 years. So it's a mental disorder she wasn't born with? That makes me skeptical, but it didn't help that they never said what caused it. Why did a normal person suddenly go so far off the rails?
If this story had been longer(merged with book 2 perhaps) with more resolution of issues and some things polished/explained this could've been amazing. As I said, the writing was beautiful and the idea of a dark powered force and a light one meeting(with a healer of Merri's talent) it had all the key elements to be a great story.
I might read the second book in hopes that it'll be better because I really did want this one to knock it out of the park.