On Lightlark and beyond, love had a price.
SERIES: The Lightlark Saga (Book #1)
LENGTH: 416 pages
GENRES: Fantasy, Romance, YA, Fiction
PUBLISHER: Amulet Books
RELEASE DATE: 23 August 2022
Welcome to the Centennial.
Every 100 years, the island of Lightlark appears to host the Centennial, a deadly game that only the rulers of six realms are invited to play. The invitation is a summons—a call to embrace victory and ruin, baubles and blood.
The Centennial offers the six rulers one final chance to break the curses that have plagued their realms for centuries. Each ruler has something to hide. Each realm’s curse is uniquely wicked. To destroy the curses, one ruler must die. Isla Crown is the young ruler of Wildling—a realm of temptresses cursed to kill anyone they fall in love with.
They are feared and despised, and are counting on Isla to end their suffering by succeeding at the Centennial. To survive, Isla must lie, cheat, and betray . . . Even as love complicates everything.
The Centennial was many things. A game. A chance at breaking the many curses that plagued the six realms. An opportunity to win unmatched power. A meeting of the six rulers. A hundred days on an island cursed to only appear once every hundred years.
So, I know that last year that there was quite a bit of drama around this book. And that it was cool to rag on Lightlark – a lot of BookTube was absolutely eviscerating it. But lemme tell you a little secret:
It’s not really all that horrible, guys.
Like, it’s not good. At all. But I’ve read far, far worse books, and I’ve hated novels more that I’ve disliked this one. So yeah, not too bad. It’s mediocre AF though. And it could have used another revision or two before publication.
I’m just gonna break it down now, if that’s okay with you…
[EDIT: The longer I’m away from this, the more I don’t care for it. Sorry that the rating changed again – I should have ruminated on this longer before posting. Plus, the sequel is making this retroactively worse.]
The rulers ▼
First off, before I get into these characters, I gotta let you all know how stupid it is that these people are referred to as simply “rulers.” Like, is it their title? Cuz Ruler Isla sounds kind of dumb, as does Ruler Cleo and all the other names. Plus, it’s not, like, a term of royalty or lordship or whatever. And it’s super vague.
But I digress. Let’s just move on to the “rulers.” AKA: The only relevant characters to the plot (and sometimes not even that).
Isla Crown often fell through puddles of stars and into faraway places. Always without permission—and seemingly on the worst occasions.
Isla Crown is a pretty dumb protagonist. She also kept changing her mind throughout the story waaayy too much – it was so annoying!! I really didn’t find her likeable, and I don’t understand why all the straight men were simping for her.
Oro was okay. He was just… okay. He didn’t feel as defined as he should’ve been – which is an ongoing problem for all of the characters in Lightlark, though some more than others. I kinda liked his and Isla’s relationship, though it needs a ton of development in the sequel(s). Cuz there was certainly not enough here. I’m not confident that he will, but I hope that he’s the guy that ends up with Isla. He’s the lesser of two underdeveloped evils.
Grimshaw is a ridiculous name. Like, I get it, he’s the bad boy with shadow powers, as well as Aster’s version of Rhysand. But really – Grimshaw? Ugh. He’s an annoying character too – and waaayy too horny. Like, dude – take a long cold shower please. And please, don’t ever come back.
Celeste was also irritating. Mostly because she has no purpose at first but to function as Isla’s best friend that she only occasionally talks to. And the so-called “twist” with her is so obvious, it’s as plain as the human heart on the cover.
Cleo was probably the most interesting character to me, if only because there’s so much character potential with her. Missed potential, of course, this is Lightlark, after all. She mostly kind of felt like a mean girl though, because of course she was.
Azul also had the potential to be interesting. Too bad he only has a few pages of pagetime.
The plot ▼
The plot was extremely underdeveloped and the pacing was terrible. There’d be pages where nothing really happens, and then suddenly there’s a hybrid scene of action and exposition. It was kinda ridiculous.
There were also some inconsistencies and plenty of plot contrivances. It was hell to read this book sometimes. And, of course, the biggest contrivance and ridiculous plot device is…
The curse ▼
This is one of the most specific and contrived thing I’ve ever read in a novel. Like, it’s really, really weirdly set up and executed. And incredibly specific in the strangest ways – if I didn’t mention that already.
Only joined can the curses be undone
Only after one of six has won,
when the original offense
Has been committed again
And a ruling line has come to an end
Only then can history amend.
Plus, as you can see, the way it’s written kind of (really) sucks too. It doesn’t flow at all. When prophecies (and curses too, I guess) are written in books, they have to have a poetic and/or lyrical quality to them. It’s not a rule, exactly, but it just reads so, so much better, and sounds better in your head.
The romance ▼
Alex Aster could do better. Chemistry is non-existent. I don’t want to talk about this aspect of the novel anymore.
The prose ▼
Lightlark was a shining, cliffy thing. Its bluffs were white as bone, and sunlight rained down in sheets of misted gold.
Singing was a Wildling thing, a temptress thing.
The sun had fallen. It was just a yolky thing, halfway consumed by the horizon, when Isla opened the double doors and stared up at the incoming moon.
This was one of the weaker things about Lightlark. (Did you see what I did there?) Aster needs to practice her synonyms, if I have to read something described as a _____ thing again, I’m gonna clae my eyes out.
The dialogue could also be improved some. I’ve read some that felt more unnatural, but she could still do to improve. Oh, and work on character chemistry, too.
Final Thoughts ▼
So yeah, Lightlark really wasn’t nearly as bad as some reviews made it out to be. (And yes, I’m aware that it’s actually rated relatively high – those aren’t the people talking about.) I found it to be pretty mediocre, personally, as well as slightly less than average.
I firmly believe that fans of Sarah J. Maas, Serpent & Dove, Twilight and other romantasy stuff will like it. It appeals to this specific group of people.
(Also, I should mention that this is nothing like The Hunger Games and isn’t even all too similar to A Court and Thorns and Roses like one of the blurbs claimed. So don’t go into it thinking that it is.)
Anyway, thanks so much for reading, and have a wonderful day/night!
See ya ~Mar