When I sat down to read Rachel McClellan’s debut YA book, Fractured Light, I was worried her book would disappoint because I was in the middle of my reading blitz on the books shortlisted for the Mann Booker award. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the end of Fractured Light when I realized that this book excelled in its character development even when compared to some of the giants of modern literature.
Fractured Light follows a 17 year old high school senior, LIona Reese who is almost invisible to her classmates, wishing she had friends like everybody else. But there is a twist; LIona does this by choice. She forces herself to blend into the background as much as she can because LIona is a Aura and has the ability to harness the power of light, and she and her type have been hunted by the Vykens for as long as anybody can remember.
When she learns that the Vyken is close to finding her, LIona must choose between running away to a special school for Auras as others have done for hundreds of years, or face the Vyken threat. With the help of the few friends she reluctantly reaches out to, LIona rejects the safety of the school and becomes the first Aura to take control of her life and develop her powers to protect herself.
One of the strongest aspects of this book is the growth that LIona experiences. She transforms herself from a meek, timid girl to an empowered woman. But it's not just the transition itself that makes Fractured Light unique, it is the space that LIona has to develop her own talents and grow as a character. There is nobody in her life that actively steers her onto the right path, and come the end, LIona is the one who takes action against the Vyken even though there are others willing to fight for her.
Far too often in literature, characters are given mentors that constantly protect them and keep them on the right path because the main character is not smart or strong enough to overcome the obstacle. But at the same time, there needs to be a relational character that assists in the growth of the character. This book has a perfect balance, allowing LIona to gather advice from a number of others, but leaves the decision making to LIona. Throughout the book, LIona is the one in control. This balance allows for a wide, sweeping character arc, making this book comparable with the character development I found in the afore mentioned Mann Booker nominees.
However, there were some things that could have used improvement, but overall they carried little weight when attributed to the book as a whole. The first thing would be the pacing in the beginning, where the plot takes it's time solidifying and the stakes are slow to be established. Some books can get away with this because the characters, setting, or concept is so interesting, but this is not one of them. But when the plot does get moving, the reader is rewarded for their perseverance. Also, I was able to identify the Vyken half-way through the book which ruined the mystery aspect; however, it inadvertently added to the tension in some of the later scenes. Finally, in the final confrontation with the Vyken, there was one of those 'James Bond' moments where the villain reveals to the hero everything they did and why they did it. If there were any paragraphs from this book that needed to be cut out, those would be it.
Overall, Fractured Light is a strong book with excellent character development and ends with possibly the best sequel setup I have read. I highly recommend this book to everybody, e.g., adults, young adults, fantasy fans, and literature snobs.
Fractured Light receives 4.5 out of 5 stars.