Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Lightmasters Number 13 by M.G. Wells, a young adult paranormal fantasy which I finished reading yesterday afternoon.
Characters: Thirteen-year-old Jessica Wyrd (pronounced “word”) narrates this magical coming of age story. Author M.G. Wells draws her clearly and vividly from the start.
My name is Jessica T. Wyrd─pronounced word, not weird. My schoolmates don’t get me and like to call me weirdo weird. I hate being made fun of all the time. I think they’re envious because I’m smart. Now, I wouldn’t call myself beautiful but I am cute. I have green eyes, fiery copper hair, and a temper to match. My friend, Cleopatra Quinn, says I act more like a boy. She thinks I should let my hair grow long, but I have no desire to be like all the other girls. Most of them are so phony and gossip way too much.
M.G. surrounds Jessica with a wonderful cast of characters. They include mean girls and friendly girls at school, the garrulous grandparents she lives with after the death of her parents, and a host of magical other-worldly beings into whose sphere she is thrust on her 13th birthday.
Here’s Siana, the Queen of Oceana, where Jessica has a brief sojourn as a mermaid:
Seconds later, I swim into a cavern astonished by a high ceiling that features dozens of unusual carvings. I approach the Queen, and her soft aqua eyes gaze into mine. A silvery mane of hair drapes over her slender chest. A platinum tiara rests on her head adorned with multicolored abalone shells. The Queen smiles and sharp white teeth glimmer against her scaly, peach skin. She’s by far prettier than the others and almost seems human.
M.G. does a nice job of description with all her characters.
Plot: Jessica learns on her 13th birthday that she has the magical powers (invisibility is one) of a “Lightmaster” and that there’s much more to her world and those around her than she knew. As her new powers and perceptions unfold, she undergoes ever stranger experiences and encounters, all leading her to choose — join the Lightmasters and help guard humanity or turn her back and try to live a normal life.
A malignant alien being called Sartan illustrates for Jessica both why humanity and the Lightmasters need her help, and the dangers involved.
Setting: The action jumps between rural upstate New York, and the magical “Otherworld.” In Otherworld, Jessica encounters rocks and trees that speak with her, tree roots that morph into snakes, floating boulders and many other wonders.
M.G. paints the Otherworld with the same lovely color she gives to her characters. Her New York and Arlington High School settings, while more prosaic, are also clearly drawn.
What I thought could’ve been done better: These criticisms are all minor. First, Jessica’s trademark phrase, “biscuits and gravy” just doesn’t sound like something a contemporary precocious 13-year-old girl would say, even one with a genius IQ — not that I’m any expert on 13-year-olds, except for having once been one. Certainly didn’t have the genius IQ. “You’re full of biscuits and gravy” and “what in the name of biscuits and gravy is going on” sounds like something an older person would say.
I love the phrase. In fact, I might borrow it to use with my own friends.
I found a few minor clarity issues. For instance, in chapter 12, Jessica wakes up on a cot in the school nurse’s office in Arlington High School in New York State. Her best friend Hank Turtleberry, who last we heard lives in Atlanta is there — or is he?
My best buddy Hank Turtleberry leans over me with a friendly smile. “Time to wake up, peanut.”
I sit up on the squeaky, metal cot and glance at my watch. I’m thirty minutes late for detention.
Nurse Reynolds bursts into the room and glares at me. “Mrs. Abdul’s waiting for you in her office, so get a move on.”
Her hard gray eyes look as if they might pop from their sockets any second. With clenched teeth, she steps closer and squints. “Why are you still here?”
My best guess is that Jessica dreamed Hank, since there’s no further mention of him in the chapter. But when I read that first line, I thought maybe he was up for a visit? I had to re-read several times to figure out what was going on, interrupting the narrative.
Easy fix, though. “Hank and the dream dissolve as I sit up on the squeaky metal cot…”
That, and a few others like it posed only small distractions, but any distraction at all is a needless disservice to the story, the reader and the author.
What I thought was good: A lot. I enjoyed M.G.’s vivid, colorful description and her fine use of active voice.
A dense purple cloud appears from nowhere, and whizzes to the window. Thousands of dragonflies fly before me in the shape of a figure eight. An avid dragonfly watcher, I’m familiar with the black and white Libellula luctuosa because they’re common to the area. However, giant purple dragonflies are not common to any area. Their delicate net-like wings are twice the size of their long hairy bodies. The agile insects stop moving and stare at me. Their shiny black bulbous eyes glow lavender, and they float in midair.
Jessica’s Welsh grandparents are absolute hoots.
I rush past my grandparents, who are still watching TV. My grandmother chews with her mouth open, and my grandfather taps a spoon against his mug in protest.
“Fer fartsakes, stop yer clanking,” Grandmother Wyrd barks in her sassy, Welsh brogue.
“Stop chewing like a wild hog!” Grandfather Wyrd snorts.
I dash to the front door and reach for the knob.
“And just where do ya think yer going, lassie?” my grandmother’s voice booms.
“I just need some fresh air is all.”
“Well, don’t ya be leavin’ the yard!”
“Oh, let the lassie be, ya old dragonbooger,” Grandfather Wyrd snaps in my defense.
“Mind yer mouth, ya blubbery old barnacle! Now lassie, I mean what I say. Ya don’t want a pack of hungry coyotes to eat ya, so be careful.”
M.G.’s depiction of high school also seems much as I remember with both horrible and wonderful teachers, friends, bullies, panic, fun and close calls.
I liked best the wonderful positive messages this story holds about standing up to bullies, even scary magical ones, and seeing things through even when they’re at their awfullest. Also, using our gifts for good and seeing past appearances to the real value of people — like grandparents — that we may have taken for granted.
Overall: Lightmasters Number 13 is a colorful, action-packed occasionally humorous young adult adventure. It works on several levels as it connects adolescence with a magical world, and in doing so, points out the magic — both scary and wondrous — of growing up.
Good job, M.G.!