Paranormal Young Adult
Available November 15th
Received from publisher for review
Wendy is a Lightbringer–a reaper of souls able to send spirits of the deceased into the Light–an ability she discovered after the horrible car accident that robbed her best friend Eddie of his father. Turns out she comes from a long line of Lightbringers, and has been training with her mom to learn the ins and outs of such a unique gift.
When her mom mysteriously falls into a coma and Wendy can't find her spirit anywhere near her body, she decides to spend all her free time scouring the city in search of her. On one of her outings Wendy runs into Piotr, a Rider responsible for the protection of several souls of Lost children from dangerous spirits known as Walkers. Thinking he might be able to help her in a way no one else can, Wendy asks him to assist her in her hunt for her mother, a request he accepts in exchange for the return favor of helping him search for some of the Lost who have gone missing.
What Piotr and Wendy learn is that a new spirit known as the White Lady is amassing large numbers of Walkers and sending them out to steal the Lost. Walkers typically feed on the Lost, using all the youths' unlived years to strengthen their own spectral existence, but now they are simply taking them and not feeding, hording them instead for some greater purpose. As Wendy and Piotr struggle to figure out the White Lady's plan for the Lost, things about each of the two of them that have been hiding in the dark up until now finally make their way into the light and change everything.
Lightbringer illuminates a world that exists parallel to our own, one where life and death coexist simultaneously and where dead in no way means gone. It’s a world we could potentially reach out and touch if we knew it was there, feeling real enough through the paper pages to draw us in and have us itching to explore what exists just beyond the reach of our reality. Because we enter into this story at a point in Wendy’s life when she’s already cognizant of her role as a reaper of ghosts, we are left to play a bit of catch up with regard to the terminology and the distinguishing characteristics that define each type of spirit (Rider, Walker, Lost, Shade). Our resulting detachment from this initial role as an outsider does begin to fade as we slowly learn the the rules that govern the Never and its inhabitants, allowing us to fully engage with our somewhat temperamental heroine, her ghostly love interest, and her steadfast best friend.
Wendy is a character who has a gift for pulling us close and then pushing us away with shocking strength just as she does those around her, at times earning our sympathy for the hand she’s been dealt but then a few pages later knocking us back several steps with her abrasiveness. She often snaps at her family, Eddie, and Piotr, treating them to an attitude they did little to earn, and while we admire the bravado she frequently projects but doesn’t necessarily feel, the negativity that sometimes gets the better of her can be an touch off-putting. Luckily for us though, this tendency and behavior does not go unacknowledged by either Wendy or those on the receiving end of her wrath, and she is quick to remedy her wrongs with sincerity.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this story is Wendy’s role as Lightbringer, her inherited legacy of sending spirits into the Light one that remains difficult to decipher, leaving us to wonder whether or not this gift makes her a savior or monster. Given Piotr’s initial impression of her as well as the seeds of doubt planted by the White Lady, we begin to question, as Wendy does, the certainty that she’s doing the right thing. Wendy slowly begins to realize just how blindly she's been following her mother’s teachings without ever questioning the whys of it, and the more she learns about her ability the more a haze of confusion begins to replace what was once crystal clear to leave us all in an intriguing limbo scrabbling for purchase.
Though Wendy can be problematic at times and our general ignorance in the beginning keeps us at a bit of a distance, the overall story is rather captivating. We are given a little romance, a little heartbreak, a lot of emotional intensity, and a truly horrifying hooded villain even more grotesque once we finally see the face hidden beneath. We’re left with a solid conclusion for the most part with one huge exception, the uncertainty of one character’s fate sure to haunt us as we wait not-so patiently for a second installment.
(I couldn't really decide between a 3.5 and a 4 - sometimes when I think back on the story Wendy's behavior and attitude bother me more than they do others, so I'm just giving a range:-)