ARC Review: A Light in the Sky by Shina Reynolds
Reading format: e-ARC
Content warnings: death, mention of torture
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from Wink Road Press via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
Aluma Banks dreams of riding her very own winged steed. But that privilege is reserved for the king’s Empyrean Cavalry, who guard Eirelannia from the troublesome land of Laithlann. So Aluma resigns herself to a life on the ground and a future that doesn’t interest her. Moreover, she’s about to lose her close friend Thayer, who plans to compete in the Autumn Tournament for a chance to join the Cavalry.
Just when Aluma thinks she’s hit an emotional low, her father is tragically injured in the tournament. Suddenly thrust into the competition for a spot in the Cavalry, she now has a chance to pursue her dreams. But along the way she begins to realize that not everything is as it seems and Eirelannia’s king may be keeping a secret from his people.
The description and cover of this book intrigued me as, at the time, I hadn’t yet read a fantasy book involving winged horses. Similar to many stories, A Light in the Sky shares themes of coming of age, learning about and pushing oneself, and loyalty. A couple of characters reminded me a little bit of Peeta from The Hunger Games and Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter.
Shina Reynolds’s writing is clear, if not a little plain. There’s nothing wrong with that, though I prefer writing that evokes a little more emotion. I will always give kudos to authors whose grammar and punctuation are on point since I find continuous errors of this nature to be distracting. I was very happy to see that there were no errors of this kind worth mentioning.
It’s also evident in the descriptions of the horses’ movements that the author has equestrian experience. I looked the author up afterwards and found she used to ride horses when she was a child. One of the more vivid scenes in this book, to me, is when the horses compete in the tournament. Reynolds does a great job describing the course and how each horse navigates it.
However, the characters in this story are a bit two-dimensional. Their dialogue is elementary and stilting considering they’re all in their late teens. I also felt their dialogue was rather formal. I wasn’t sure if this was due to the author’s writing style, or because most of the characters had to become fast friends. And though there’s the beloved (or hated) love triangle trope, I found Aluma’s inner dialogue about it so awkward. It felt slightly misplaced with everything else going on in the story; I found myself wishing it hadn’t been included at all. Reynolds also recycled descriptors of physical appearances of the two boys in the love triangle, which I personally found annoying.
I also had a difficult time with how naïve Aluma is. Her character takes everything at face value. Despite someone close to Aluma betraying her, she allows herself to fall for it again. And, perhaps the most important critique in my mind, the plot is fairly predictable. Almost everything seems to go Aluma’s way even though she’s basically a newborn to how the world works outside of her family home.
The most interesting part of the story for me concerns two different types of powerful objects that are important to Eirelannia and Laithlinn. Keeping this spoiler-free, I found this concept intriguing. Though several characters use these objects in the book, I felt like I didn’t really understand the full concept of them. I’m happy to chalk that up to the fact that this book will be part of a series. But I also felt like we could have learned more about them from several characters if Aluma had chosen to push certain people for information.
Overall, if you’re looking for a complex storyline or well-developed characters, I would look elsewhere. If you’re up for a light, fast-paced read, then dive right in. This book ended up not being for me. But I’m sure there’s someone out there who will since we all enjoy different things.
Publisher: Wink Road Press
Publish Date: November 9, 2021