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Mia and the Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy


Having always been a fan of the adventurous spirit of the YA fiction genre, this one delivers on multiple levels. Mia and the Lightcasters is one of those stories that is powerful, and having a strong female lead to drive the narrative really sets it apart as something quite special.


Janelle McCurdy is a UK author (that, alone, is a great feature as YA is so dominated by American writers) and has a black perspective that brings its own magic and flavour to the story.


An easy read, the story dips and dives through the adventures of Mia and the first of a series titled the Umbra Tales. Umbras, you see, are beast like creatures that are made of shadows and take on the forms of some of the more commonly known animals like foxes or wolves. Mia’s parents are umbra trainers, but she has no interest in such things - at least not yet.


After a fairly traumatic encounter with an umbra, and a new entity taking over her city, Mia is forced to become an umbra trainer and begins a journey filled with fear and adventure. One of the most enjoyable feature of the novel is the idea that Mia has powers, but doesn’t use them immediately, rather she prefers to become familiar with the strange new world, and then develop all parts of her abilities.

There is a telepathic element to her new abilities whereby she must harness the power and skill of umbras to do her bidding - for good.


Easy to read, and hard to put down, McCurdy has brought the skills of illustrator Ana Latese to help explore the world of Mia and her journey and the presentation of her two umbras, Lox and Nox, help the reader to envisage the strange and mysterious creatures.


One aspect that was quite helpful was the incorporation of notes from Mia’s mother’s research. This gives some of the back story to the whole episode and assists in the contextual knowledge of the narrative.


Overall, this is a great read, if a little on the long side. The next few books are likely to draw out more of this skill and ability of Mia, and no doubt bring their own troubles for the plucky and adventurous female lead. Highly recommended!


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Allen & Unwin

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