Sometimes you pick up a book for the strangest reason, and then find yourself happy that you did so. This is one such time. I had spoken with Morgan L. Busse online and found the young wife and mother very approachable and kindly. Even though she didn’t know me from Adam, she gave some good book recommendations to me, and was simply quite gracious. I found out she had a recently released book and bought it to read via Kindle format. I was initially trying to be nice and see if it was any good. I quickly became quite glad that I did do so, because Busse wrote a terrific page-turner (or is that button-tapper for e-books?).
Busse’s novel, Daughter of Light begins with a woman desperately trying to escape pursuit from those sent to kill her. In a bundle around her waist is a tiny infant girl, her daughter. She stumbles upon a small home as evil, gigantic wolves are about to catch up to her. Realizing she can’t make it to the White City, where she could perhaps have found safe refuge, she leaves her daughter on the doorstep of the small home and runs off making sure to distract these huge monsters so they follow her. It works, and her daughter is safe, but she is killed.
Fast-forward around twenty years, and the little girl is a grown, beautiful young woman named Rowen Mar. The family she was adopted by (whose house her mother left her on the steps of) has raised her in a loving home. If only the village were more loving, but they hate outsiders, and so they treat her with suspicion. She is sad about this, but generally happy with her father (her mother died a few years earlier) and her few friends in town. But her happiness and simple life there isn’t to last.
Two things happen that destroy her reasonably happy world in short order. First of all, she is sick, and the result of her sickness is a mysterious white mark on her hand the presence of which she can’t understand. The other event is that her father (a prominent commander in the Army of her country) is killed in battle. These events come together to wreak havoc on Rowen’s life when she is accused of witchcraft (due to this strange power that seems to emanate from her new mark/scar), and banished from town due to her father’s prestige (they originally were going to execute her).
Rowen fears that she will starve to death in the wild, but then she finds out that the head of her country, Lord Gaynor, has (in thanks to her adopted father who so recently fell in battle) offered her the job of varor (basically a type of bodyguard) for his daughter, the Lady Astrea. Rowen sends word that she gladly accepts, and makes her way to the White City from where Astrea and Gaynor live and rule. She is determined that, once having reached there, she will hide her mark and not allow any more of her power to ever again be used.
Events are not going to help her with that desire, as she finds out she is an Eldaran, a member of a race of beings that originally came from the sky many long centuries before on behalf of the Word (Creator of all things) to battle twisted monsters called the Shadonae. It appears these demonic forces are not all gone, and the Word intends to use Rowen as His human agent to face them…
This novel really was excellent. It’s hands-down one of the BEST books I have read in the past few years. I would put Busse right up there with such luminaries as J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Kathy Tyers, and others. Busse seamlessly combines a fictional religious mythos that is obviously comparable to (and based on) real-life Christianity, while being subtle enough to not take over the plot.
The mythology she thought up was impressive and imaginative. Some of it is based, obviously, on The Lord of the Rings, such as the monstrous wolves being analogous to the Wargs from LOTR, the Eldaran being analogous to traits from the Elves, Maiar and most especially Numenoreans, among other examples. But she managed to put her own spin on these characters and races/species that makes them unique and her very own literary creation.
The Word, the God and Creator of the fictional universe is characterized in such a way that simultaneously points back to the sacrifices of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, while at the same time not automatically having the reader get hit in the head with the similarities. Thus the reader doesn’t get pulled out of the story. Indeed, it seems that Busse has done an admirable job in getting the Truth, as C. S. Lewis would put it, past “watchful dragons”.
Busse also portrays characters in a very realistic manner. There isn’t one single unrealistically perfect character in the story. The real emotions of joy, hate, happiness, sorrow, triumph, loss, and so on, are present in the narrative. And the characters act as people realistically may if the story were true. Sometimes this means you’ll be pleased and cheer them on, for they conquer temptation (as a male character does in relation to Rowen), or you’ll want to deck or chew out the characters, as their cruelty and pettiness will be unbelievably painful and infuriating to read. All of this realism fits the plot of the story, and the Truths that Busse wants to communicate to her audience. Therefore, it all fits in perfectly.
There are three other point of view characters, but to explain what they do would be to basically give away the entire plot, and a thorough, informative review shouldn’t cross the line into a spoilerific review. Needless to say that the experiences of these three characters, particularly near the end of the story, both explain at least some (though not all) of the reader’s questions, while setting up new questions, as well as setting up a brilliant sort of sequel hook.
The only real problem was that the book could be somewhat violent, but thankfully Busse does not spend too much time on this, and is not too graphic, so that the reader can actually skip a paragraph and the violent scene is ended. This effort to be tasteful and keep violence to a minimum is something I truly and sincerely thank her for.
Really, I can’t say anymore than just encourage you to read this tale. Buy it and read it. It is truly fantastic. I am glad that I began to read it out of a sense of duty, because I finished it, and look forward to the next book, with great enthusiasm.