Tuesday, 31 January 2012

review: Darkest Light

by Hiromi Goto
Razorbill, January 31, 2012
young adult fantasy
ARC received from publisher (thank you!)

Gee knows he’s not the same as his peers. He looks nothing like anyone else—and as far as he knows, nobody else has swells of dark emotion that urge him to act evilly. When Gee’s past in Half World is revealed to him, he thinks it could be his chance to find his parents, find his past. Barely staying out of monsters’ arms, Gee ventures into Half World with a sulky cat and an unstable Goth girl named Cracker, where it will be up to him to fall back into the vicious Half Life cycle… or break out of the vicious circle and prove his humanity.
The cover:

The illustration style is so, so lovely, but I have to say that I really dislike the pose they’ve captured Gee in. I’m partial to active covers, and this could’ve been such an awesome one, especially with the eel in the mix. But yeah. :/

The book:

With both a prologue and an introduction, the first chapter’s frontloaded backstory—however succinct—bogs the reader even further down. Add to that the fact that Gee isn’t the most likeable hero, and we have a slow start to this sequel to Half World (Razorbill, 2010). Of course, there is a reason why Gee isn’t likeable. His struggles with his inner self are realistic, but also prevent any kind of smooth character development; the instant that Gee starts feeling more human, his evil voice will speak up, or vice versa, and they’ll be back at square one.

Cracker, the Goth girl, is spastic, prone to mood swings and occasionally irrational. The only thing that makes her identifiable as a Goth is her attire. Thus Cracker is not a stereotype, but she also doesn’t seem like a real person. The emotion that leaks through in Half World thanks to her sister’s death goes a ways to making her seem genuine, but it’s only when she shows her guts against Gee in the climax that we start to like her. White Cat is, unfortunately, a stereotype—the condescending animal companion who only has advice to sling around in the form of insults. However, he provides excellent and timely comic relief when not playing his role.

The plot moves smoothly, thank goodness. A few bends and kinks illustrate the depth of Hiromi Goto’s creative Half World, but not so many as to tire us with the amount of misery. The suffering in the story balances neatly with the theme of redemption. It’s the ending where Goto’s writing shines best, flowery-eloquent. Her ability to write an Oriental language as English is also excellent; Ming Wei’s maternal speeches are Chinese if I ever heard it before: “And no more swearing! Wahhhh! Such a mouth on this one! …She has too much heat. Yin deficiency. She needs a soup. And lessons in manners.”

Rating: 2.9 out of 5