Arclight, a book by Josin L. McQuein (format: audiobook)

arclight_josin_l_mcquein_book_cover_a_p Arclight, a book by Josin L. McQuein (format: audiobook)

The Gist?

A girl named Marina with no memories faces the horrors of a world where humanity has been driven into this compound named the Arclight. They fear the dark, because the dark brings the bad creatures, the Fade. A wall of light protects humanity. Light is their only protection.

The Breakdown

The setting is intriguing, with a kind of post apocalyptic/dystopian quality to it. The Fade creatures are not quite like anything else I’ve seen, kind of a cross between symbiotic/parasitic mixed with nano technology gone wrong. Also, the main couple characters are likable, though they are a bit too on the nose, sometimes. And it may have just been how the narration comes off, but there are times when a character or two get a little bit annoying and whiny for my tastes, especially some of the inner dialogue of the main character.

The story is told from the perspective of Marina, so we get access to all her internal processes as she faces each situation. These range from fearful interactions to momentary shows of strength as she gets more and more confident in herself. She never quite loses that uncertainty, though. Some of her thoughts can get a little… heavy handed at times.

The Narration

Tara Sands does a fine job of playing the character of Marina, since the story is told from her perspective. Tara creates a distinct voice for the Fade, though none of the voice work is elaborate to any degree. Overall, nice work.

The Gimmick Nature

This is a gimmick book and because of that, the story is pushing toward that gimmick and that doesn’t always come across naturally. The book is more about the gimmick, the twist, than it is about the story. It’s about saying ‘here’s the story’, then turning right around and going, ‘No, actually, here is the REAL story’. This is where the conventions become really cliched, all designed to make the gimmick work.

You have the amnesiac lead. You have the two characters who know anything lying their teeth off. No one else seems to have a clue about what is really going on. You have the love interest. The author even manages to squeeze in a love triangle… sort of… (it’s hard to go into this without getting into spoilers.) The story has a great central set of ideas, but I’m not sure I cared for how these ideas were revealed.

The Descriptions

Some parts I found hard to follow due to a lack of description, where I didn’t know who was where or what anything looked like. It was very imprecise. And while I don’t care for too much description, I could have used more to really see what this world looked like. I only ever got some very general ideas, which is fine if you are setting it in modern day, but not so when you are creating something original. Using a first person narrative makes this trickier, but it can be done.

The Excitement

(light spoilers)
The opening is this big attack, but there isn’t much else all that exciting in this story. Even in the finale, it just ends up really underwhelming… the author even manages to push a ‘tragedy’ into the finale, and everything still wraps up nicely and overall happy with a little bow on top. The story ends too nicely, and I don’t think it earns that ending, if that makes any sense.

If you look at other, similar stories: City of Ember, for instance, ends with a big question mark. The kids are free, but then what? What about the rest of the people? Maze Runner ends with all kinds of questions of what’s to come. Arclight feels too easy, too safe. The journey isn’t all that big or even life threatening, even though the opening begs to create that life threatening sense that the rest of the novel fails to continue. And in the end, all the life threatening was bogus.

Also, every single Fade character was as bland as could be. As a whole, the concept is cool, but on an individual level, *yawn*.


I kind of liked it with some reservations, but it didn’t interest me enough to want to listen to or read any further books in the series. The characters didn’t draw me in, even though some of the story elements did. The book ends too easily, too nicely, and doesn’t earn a happy ending. Ah, well.

Have you read this book? Let’s Discuss!

The Fade are essentially what I would call ‘god creatures’. They are made up of nano technology, can heal virtually any wound, and can even heal just about any other human character. This leads to invented situations where a character is dying, but could just be saved if a Fade is nearby…. which means having to invent reasons why this Fade would not just save this human, especially since by this point, the Fade have been pretty well established as good guys who only want to help.

As far as the gimmick/twist, it feels too concocted and I think that is largely due to the fact that Marina is the amnesiac lead who just so happens to have all the importance. If that angle hadn’t be apart of the story and it was just about a character discovering that the evil creatures are actually not the evil creatures and it becomes about a perspective shift, then I think I would have liked it better.

Also, because of the way the gimmick works and being limited to a first person perspective, some things felt to me like they didn’t really line up. That sense just turns me way too wanting to jump in again.

I’ve listened to the Mortal Instruments audiobooks for the entire series and the Clockwork Angel series, and those stories had a lot of issues, but somehow, they still drew me into the world of Shadowhunters. I still wanted to go back.

Did you like the book? Why? What drew you in about it? What did you like the most/least?

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