Author: K.D. McEntire
Genre: YA, paranormal, fairy retellings
Release Date: November 2011
Summary: The Never is a place of greys, a world a breath beyond our own, layered just past the memories of yesterday and the fleeting present moment. It is here, in this dismal limbo, that ghosts such as Piotr, Lily, and Elle must sort out an existence, both protecting the children called Lost and themselves from the walking darkness that is the army of rotting Walkers.
Caught between her duty to her calling as the Lightbringer and her concern for her new ghostly friends, Wendy must walk the line between the two worlds, aiding Piotr in his fight against the Walkers as well as searching out the wandering soul of the one who means the most to her. Time, however, is running out and in the end… who will she choose?
☆: 4/5 – an interesting retelling of “Peter Pan” and a wonderful debut.
Review: You know, I really never thought of the Never being part of the ghostly/faerie realm, but McEntire really did a good job with how she crafted and twisted the old tale to not only create a reboot, but a very creative one at that. “Lightbringer” is not for the faint of heart (or of stomach, in some chapters), but it cuts to the heart of the truth about death, and what it can do to the soul. And it fundamentally makes us ask ourselves – is our heroine really a heroine because she’s the main character? Or is she the unreliable narrator and possibly the villain after all? This one really messes with your mind, kids, so beware.
It always had occurred to me whilst reading the original “Peter Pan” that maybe the Lost Boys were really just ghosts of childhoods past – we know that in the original Neverland was a place of eternal youth, where you never had to grow up, and where you could always have your own adventures – and each child had their own version of Neverland, there were never two of the same. But in a rather Dickensian way, McEntire makes us question that of the original text – what if, much like the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, that the Never was a place full of ghosts of the past – of childhood (the Lost), teenagers (the Riders), and the adults (who occasionally turned into Walkers). I thought that was a very clever spin on the entire old concept of Neverland, which in turn has been used in various retellings and reconstructionist tales in YA over the years.
So in this vein, she tells the story of one girl who can bring all of these ghosts peace (or is she really bringing them obliteration?), in a dark world that sits next to our own, full of memories of forgotten things and people. I really liked that spin on it, and liked the deep darkness that McEntire attached to her entire story – the Lost were like “batteries” to the Riders and the Walkers (and as we find out later, to the Lightbringers over the course of their female line of descendents). She never gives us an origin story of the never, which I both liked and didn’t like – it was confusing at first, but once you see things start to tie together around the end of the first third of the book, you relax into it.
Then bringing in Peter (or rather, Piotr in this version), the original leader of the Lost Boys as the leader of the Riders with a huge Alzheimer’s problem in terms of what he’s done in the past. While I think the love triangle with Wendy’s BFF was unneeded, I can see why McEntire did it – to make Wendy’s choice between her “destiny” as truly becoming the Lightbringer for her generation or to run from it into the arms of the living. It was cleverly done, but it did bring down my enjoyment of the book just because I’m sick of love triangles in general in YA. But she handled it well and it didn’t really tie in until the very end of the book.
There were parts where it dragged and were repetitive (Wendy’s hunts for her mother’s soul and out to reap the Walkers), which also kind of slowed me down and let my mind wander a bit, but that was within the first half. All in all, perhaps the first third could have used one more draft to tighten things up in the dragging/repetitive areas. It kicks into high gear at the end of the first third of the book, and from there snowballs into one of the most explosive endings that I’ve read in YA in awhile. The payoff is HUGE, and let me say that I admire McEntire for being able to ruthlessly torture and kill her darlings (no pun intended) whenever she needed to. The ending was fabulous, though I can safely say we all knew who the White Lady was all along with all of the hints she dropped throughout the book.
And her use of sensory language was at times overpowering – but this is a good thing. The Walkers interacting with the White Lady (really any scene with the White Lady in it) was so visceral there were times I had to put down the book and walk away because it made me react so hard in a physical way. In a way that would make the crew of “The Walking Dead” TV series proud, the scenes with the Walkers cannibalizing their own kind only to be “healed” by the White Lady were stomachturningly awesome. These were some of the scenes I enjoyed the most, and I hope for more Walker interaction in book 2.
Finally, there’s the question of Wendy being an unreliable narrator – is she really a savior to the Lost and other trapped souls in the Never? Or is she really a murderer? I loved that this question was posed at all – it seems very rare in YA lit as a whole as of late that authors are doing this with their MCs. I won’t giveaway the answer, but it was definitely something for me to chew over when I took breaks from the book.
Final verdict? Definitely worth the read if for just the luscious zombie soul scenes alone. “Lightbringer” is out now via Pyr/Prometheus books and book two, “Reaper” will be out this August. Be sure to check it out as it’s definitely one of the more original and fascinating retellings in YA I’ve read in awhile.