The Lightcasters (Umbra Tales 1)

The Lightcasters (Umbra Tales 1)
Age Range
Release Date
August 29, 2023
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Twelve-year-old Mia McKenna has grown up in the darkness. It’s all she’s ever known, and she finds comfort in it. Like nearly all the cities in the Kingdom of Lunis, her home of Nubis was plunged into a forever night years ago by the shadowy Reaper King—a figure now only known in nightmares, a cautionary tale warning children to stay safe inside the tall city walls.

But all that changes when a mysterious cult storms Nubis, capturing everyone with the ability to protect it—including her parents, the rest of the umbra tamers, and their mystical, powerful creatures made of shadow and starlight.

Now, Mia and her brother, Lucas, are the city’s only hope of survival, and Mia must learn to harness her umbra taming abilities to stand any chance of saving her city and rescuing her parents. If she can’t, she’ll lose her soul, and her family, to the Darkness forever.

Editor review

1 review
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Overall rating
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What worked:
Umbra are creatures made from shadows and starlight that can be ferocious fighters. They can change their sizes and they wield sharp teeth and claws. Most of them have yellow eyes but umbras with red eyes are unnatural and dangerous. Some of the umbra can be tamed and become loyal partners with their tamers. If a person fails to tame the umbra it might eat their soul. The pair are connected mentally and the beasts can project messages into the minds of other humans. Mia’s parents have umbras that can be found lying around the house when they’re not out defending the wall surrounding the city. Mia’s attempt to join with an umbra has unexpected consequences.
Mia is the main character and the opening pages of the book share an incident from her childhood that scars her for years. She sneaks outside the wall one day and is almost killed by a red-eyed umbra. This experience leaves her fearful and leery around umbras which adds a complication to her character. She’s destined to become a great umbra tamer who will rescue the kingdom from the Reaper King and his minions. It’s much more difficult to bond with umbras when the character feels distressed around them. What happens when the character doesn’t want to make a connection or doesn’t want to become the savior of the kingdom?
The author creates a contrast in settings as shadows take over most of the kingdom. The first half of the book is dismal with the only natural light supplied by the moon. This dreary setting lacks color and reminds me of the opening, black-and-white scenes from “The Wizard of Oz” movie. Later, the characters arrive in the capital city Stella which is reminiscent of when Dorothy wakes up in the land of Oz. Vibrant colors offer a stark difference from the earlier chapters and almost overwhelm Mia. The author’s descriptions artfully paint mental images to show how the shadows are taking over the kingdom.
What didn’t work as well:
I don’t want to share any spoilers so I’ll just say Mia’s lightcaster powers are confusing. She has trouble controlling them but she receives something later in the book that is supposed to help. She still struggles to defeat a minion before a showdown during the book’s climax. The learning or growth in her abilities is unclear.
The final verdict:
This book tells a fun, exciting adventure of a young girl who must unlock her latent powers to save the kingdom. Her character displays humbleness through it all as the enormous responsibility takes a mental and emotional toll. Overall, this book should appeal to middle-grade readers and I recommend you give it a shot.
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