Mia is torn between two worlds in this epic, “intriguing fantasy adventure” (Publishers Weekly).
Mysterious lights have flickered above Crownsville for as long as Mia can remember. And as far as she’s concerned, that’s about the only interesting thing to happen in her small town.
That is, until Sol arrives. Mia’s not one to fall for just any guy, but she can’t get Sol—or the brilliant tattoo on his back—out of her mind.
Then Mia’s brother goes missing, and Mia’s convinced that Sol knows more than he’s sharing. But getting closer to Sol means reevaluating everything Mia once believed to be true. Because Sol’s not who Mia thought he was—and neither is she.
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|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
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There have been strange lights in Crownsville for as long as I’ve lived here. Lights on the Ridge; lights on the river; lights that seep from the ground and then float to the sky in clouds of colored mist. No one really talked about them. No one really cared.
* * *
The patrol cars parked on the corner of Birch and Main were the first thing I noticed when I left work that night. After what had happened in the neighboring town of Onaly that morning, I wasn’t surprised. But seeing the cops in Crownsville still gave me the creeps.
The second thing I noticed was Rusty, my car, parked with his headlights glaring. I groaned.
“Mia . . . Why did you do that?”
I tried to remember even switching them on, but came up blank. That pretty much summed up my day. It was nine o’clock, which meant Rusty’s crappy battery had been draining for three solid hours while I’d waited tables at Mickey’s. Having only just liberated him from Reggie West’s Motor Repair and Salvage—Rusty’s second home—a dead battery was the last thing I needed. Now I would probably be stuck here while Jay waited for me at the Bakers’. Pete, as usual, was nowhere to be found.
I heard the door to Mickey’s open and close behind me. As I rummaged through my bag for my keys, Greg, the night manager, stepped onto the sidewalk.
“You left Rusty’s lights on,” he said, stating the obvious.
“Yeah.” I continued digging. Some of the stuff had been in my bag for months: spare socks; a million tissues (mostly used); a cigarette lighter, though I didn’t even smoke. I swore to clear the purse out as soon as I got home. I mean, how much crap does a seventeen-year-old really need to carry around?
“And you forgot this,” said Greg, passing me my jacket.
“Thanks, Greg.” I took it from him with one hand as I pulled out my keys with the other.
“Something on your mind, Mia? You’ve been twitchy all evening.”
I glanced at the cops, parked on the side of the road. “It’s the Onaly thing,” I said. “Have you heard of anything like this happening before?”
“In these parts? Can’t say I have. But someone’s taking those kids.” He shook his head. “Five gone in six months and all within fifty miles of here.”
I didn’t need reminding.
The media called them the Crownsville Kidnappings, but only one of the boys who’d vanished, seven-year-old Simon Wilkins, had actually lived in town. Crownsville was a hub for the small towns and farms that surrounded it. This was the reason there were more than fifteen hundred students enrolled at school. Occasionally, kids went missing, but everyone knew where they were—Omaha, Kansas City, Sioux Falls. They bailed when they’d had their fill of rural Nebraska. But this wasn’t the same thing. The boy who’d vanished from Onaly Crossing this morning was ten years old, the same age as my half brother, Jay, so don’t tell me he’d gone looking for a new life in the city.
“I’ve got jumper cables in the truck if you need them,” said Greg.
Which I invariably would. I had no one to blame but myself.
He walked me to the car. I slipped into the driver’s seat, patted Rusty’s dash—a sacred ritual—and turned the key. The engine wheezed, then roared. It was the best news I’d had all day.
“These old homegrown beauties last a lifetime,” said Greg. He slapped Rusty’s hood. “See you tomorrow night, Mia.”
Dark had fallen thick and fast. By the time I turned off Main Street, I’d switched on my high beams. It was a couple of miles to the Bakers’ on rural roads that had seen better days. Having once mangled a rim in a pothole down here, I kept to the speed limit.
I’d gone about a mile when my phone burst into “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That meant one thing—my best friend, Miss Willie Burkett. I pulled over to take the call.
“How was work?” she asked. Willie never wasted time with “hello.”
“Usual crowd,” I replied. “I swear the place is some kind of alternate dimension.”
She laughed. “Have you spoken to Pete about this weekend at the lake?”
I cringed. “Haven’t seen him yet,” I said. In truth, I had no idea where he was. “Wills, I promise I’ll talk to him. Just don’t expect miracles.”
“You have to be there, Mia. Andy is definitely coming. This is a chance for you guys to finally get together.”
I wasn’t so sure. Andy Monaghan was a drop-dead gorgeous senior who drove a black Corvette that came straight from the showroom of his father’s dealership. We’d come pretty close to dating a couple of times, but each time something had gotten in the way: Andy’s broken leg, his ex-girlfriend moving back into town, me and Seamus McEvoy—a month-long fling I’d rather forget. But now Andy had broken up with his girlfriend, and Willie said he’d been asking about me around school. . . .
“I’ll ask Pete as soon as I see him,” I said. I picked imaginary lint off my jeans. “But I’m warning you, Wills; he hasn’t been around much lately, and I can’t leave Jay with this psycho loose on the streets.”
“Pete needs to sort his sorry ass out,” Willie muttered.
True, but I didn’t see that happening any time soon.
I slumped in my seat and turned my head to the window. The lights on Rowe Boulevard were faint in the distance. Across the open fields, the trees that bordered the elementary school were silhouetted against the night sky. I watched their outlines swaying in the breeze, resigned to the fact that I was always the one who had to back out of our plans.
“. . . and if he doesn’t shape up, I’m gonna speak to Dad about it again.”
I realized Willie was still talking.
“Don’t you dare,” I said, catching the tail end of her threat. A genuine threat. Willie’s dad was Crownsville’s sheriff.
“It’s Pete being useless. Totally different.”
“I guess.” She sighed. “Come over and we can figure something out.”
“I can’t,” I replied. “I’ve still got to pick up Jay.”
Silence followed and I knew we’d strayed into difficult territory. Somewhere along the line, Willie had decided that I had the world’s most horrendous life. You couldn’t blame her; my dad had abandoned me at birth and my mom was in prison. I’d lived with my grandmother in Des Moines until I was eight. When she died, I was shipped here, to Crownsville, Nebraska, to live with Uncle Pete, my mother’s brother. Pete wasn’t the most attentive guardian, but things weren’t that bad. I pretty much did what I wanted. But it also meant that Jay, who’d lived with us for the past six years, had no one to worry about him but me. I wasn’t afraid to step up to the plate and take care of Jay. I was an honors student, had a 4.3 GPA, played volleyball and soccer, and still waitressed three shifts a week. I was doing fine.
Resigned to Willie’s lecture, I stared out of the window.
And then the light caught my eye.
At first, I dismissed it, thought maybe it was the beam from a flashlight. I was parked on Route 6, and the light was far out, somewhere on the open land between me and Rowe. It was hazy in the faint glow of Rowe’s streetlights, but definitely there.
I rolled down the window for a closer look, squinting through the darkness. The beam had widened, and I was sure I saw pastel shades in the light.
“You there, Mia?”
“Yeah,” I said, though, of course, I wasn’t. Whatever was out there had my full attention. It was like a reflection in one of those crazy mirrors at the State Fair—you expect to see reality, but what you get is indistinct and unreal. “Willie, I’ll call you back.”
“You’re pissed at me.”
“Course not.” I watched, mesmerized. “I’ll call you back.”
Hanging up the phone, I stepped out of the car. The light danced in the breeze, the colors deepening. Red and blue and gold, the shades were vibrant against the surrounding silvery mist.
As I tried to rationalize what I was seeing, maybe fireworks or marsh gas, my peripheral vision caught a shadow low to the ground. A moving shadow, close to the light. It drifted to the left and, suddenly free of the light’s glare, took form. It was a figure, hooded and cloaked, though I knew it must be a trick of the eye; there had been nothing but the light a second ago. Alone on a deserted road, with who knew what out there in the fields, I backed up to Rusty.
The moon broke free of the drifting clouds.
And then they were gone.
The light. The shape. They both vanished.
Mildly spooked, I climbed back into the car. Whatever had been out there wasn’t there now. It was just the same old fields. The same old lights on Rowe. Still, I locked the door behind me.
By the time I reached the Bakers’ to pick up Jay, I’d banished the incident into the “crazy story to tell Willie” category. Mrs. Baker answered the door with the widest smile I’d seen in days. She always made me feel welcome. Shrieks and screams came from somewhere inside the house.
“They’re slaughtering orcs in the living room,” she said. “Come on through.”
I headed in to find Jay and his best friend, Stacey Ann, sprawled on the rug, Wii control pads clutched in their hands. Both turned when I entered, Stacey staring through those horrific glasses that magnified her eyes to twice their natural size, Jay brushing his wild mop of curly hair from his face. Picture any painting of a cherub. That’s Jay Stone. Right down to the chubby baby cheeks and wide puppy-dog eyes. It’s clear we only shared a father; my hair was chocolate brown, Jay’s was more creamy caramel.
I got a chirpy “Hi, Mia,” from Stacey Ann and a long groan from Jay.
“I love you, too,” I said. “Time to lock and load.”
As Jay packed up his Wii, Mrs. Baker saw me back to the door. “Thanks again for watching him,” I said. “Pete . . .”
I paused. What could I say? That Pete was probably off drinking again, infecting the world with his soul-sapping outlook on life, when he’d known I’d had to work? Or that I’d arrived home from school to find Jay alone again at the house with the door unlocked? And Onaly Crossing less than a ten-minute drive on the highway . . .
“I just don’t like leaving him alone with—”
Mrs. Baker put her hand to my arm. “He’s welcome here, Mia. Anything you need. Any time. Just call.”
I offered her a relieved smile. “Thanks.”
Jay burst into the hallway with Stacey Ann glued to his side. “Ready,” he said.
I grabbed him in a headlock, then marched him through the yard to the car. Rusty started on the first turn.
“That isn’t why it starts, you know,” said Jay, his feet up against the dashboard.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I replied, innocently.
“That stupid tapping thing you do. It’s just a car.”
I revved the engine, grinning ear to ear. “Hasn’t failed me yet.”
“Yet,” said Jay. He waved to Stacey Ann as we pulled away.
By the time we arrived home, I was ready to call it quits. Only homework waited on my desk. Jay had other plans. We’d no sooner entered the kitchen than the Wii was out of his pack.
“Hold on one minute,” I said. “Homework.”
“Did it at Stacey Ann’s.”
I’d heard that one before.
He tossed a piece of paper onto the kitchen table. It was a detailed pencil sketch of our house. Memories flashed as soon as I saw it. It was the same assignment I’d had when I first moved to Crownsville. I remembered it clearly.
My art teacher, Mrs. Shankles—Cankle Shankles—had instructed us to draw our homes. I’d sat in the yard with my sketch pad. A few lines here, a few lines there. Porch. Windows. A couple of bushes, a couple trees. How easy was that?
But Cankles had been far from impressed. “You haven’t tried, Mia,” she’d said. “There’s no detail. No life. I know you have more in you.”
I don’t think she ever realized how deeply I took those words.
I’d hid my grade from Pete, not that he’d been remotely interested. Then I’d taken my sketch pad back to the yard. I’d sat. I’d looked. I’d tried to feel the house and its land. Over the next two hours, I’d drawn it again. And Mrs. Shankles had been right; there was so much more to see. The wraparound porch sank to the right. The warped white siding had faded to gray. The green paint on the shutters was chipped. The walnut tree. The gravel driveway. I’d never noticed how much detail there was here. But from then on, I saw it. From then on, I stopped thinking about Grandma and Des Moines and started living in Crownsville.
I looked at Jay’s drawing. He’d already noticed what had taken me so long to see.
“That’s awesome, Jay,” I said proudly, but tactfully. Jay wasn’t big on fuss. “You should go to art camp this summer.”
Jay was rifling through the snack drawer, completely unimpressed. “Art camp?” he blurted. “Too busy with baseball, Mia.”
I laughed. Jay was a kid who knew exactly where he was going in life. I often wished I was more like him.
I waited at the kitchen table, the picture in my hand as Jay headed up to his room. There was a lot I didn’t get about the world, but nothing shocked me more than what had happened to Jay. Jay’s mom was my dad’s second wife, and Jay had lived with them until Dad bailed again and the wife took revenge on him by dumping her four-year-old son with Pete! I mean, where do these people come from? At least Jay had our dad for a time, I guess. I wouldn’t have known the guy if he’d hit me over the head with a mallet.
So, though Jay was my dad’s kid and, therefore, not actually Pete’s blood, Pete had taken him in too, and I’d gained the brother I’d always wanted. Don’t get me wrong. Pete was pretty much useless. But he had saved Jay from a life without family, and he’d given me a family in the process.
I placed Jay’s picture on the table, then headed for the shower to wash the scent of Mickey’s fried chicken out of my hair. I’d barely settled in to study when the sound of Pete’s truck brought me to my bedroom window.
Pete stood in the driveway, takeout bag in one hand, six-pack in the other. He looked out over the moonlit cornfields that bordered our land. His shoulders were back, his chin was up, and though I couldn’t see his face, I knew his gaze swept those fields.
I frowned. It was so unlike Pete, who invariably stumbled when he arrived home this late. I quickly scanned the cornfield. There was nothing there. Yet Pete remained fixated on the horizon. I remembered the light and the shadow in front of Rowe.
“Maybe we’re both cracking up,” I said to myself. But I wondered if I wasn’t the only one to have seen something strange that night.
What People are Saying About This
“Action packed and compulsively readable, The Dark Light pulls you in with the mystery of strange lights on the horizon and a rash of sudden disappearances, and takes you on a fantastical journey full of magic, romance, and adventure.”
Heather Anastasiu, author of Glitch
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First off let me start by saying that the blurb for this book is completely misleading. “Mia is torn between two guys” ehh… not really, actually not at all. I don’t want to go into exact detail otherwise I’ll totally ruin one of the big surprises of this book, but I will say that there’s really not a love triangle like they’d like you to believe. Sol the new resident hotty and pegged “mysterious” boy is of course linked to Mia but the other boy they try to allude you with, Andy, doesn’t really affect the story. In fact, he’s not really in the story at all. I just wanted to give you all a heads up, because if you were like me, expecting and excited for a love triangle — I didn’t want you to get your hopes up. Okay, enough about love triangles! It’s time to get down to business. The Dark Light was nothing like I expected yet more than what I hoped for. With a synopsis talking about strange lights, a new gorgeous boy and a missing sibling, a story could pretty much go in any direction, which is one of the reasons I immediately wanted to read DL. I’ve never been a big fan of mysteries, at least not in the Sherlock Holmes or NCIS sense but for some inexplicable reason I was drawn to this book. It might have been just because of the shirtless, buff and tattooed guy on the front (no shame here) but I’m sure the whole “strange” lights played a part as well. With the story options endless, I had a wicked fun time coming up with various possibilities. Now here’s where I try to convey my love for this book yet do so in a way that doesn’t completely ruin the big reveal. Although the solving of the “lights” mystery is pretty early on in the book, it’s but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the big picture i.e. the meat and bones of the story. Let me start off by saying WOW followed by HOLY COW. I of course had a few guesses as to what fantastical element was at play but was completely off! (Which I loved) Walsh takes this book in a completely different direction than I expected. Some books can be easily figured out, but not The Dark Light. Until we’re literally told, I doubt anyone could figure out what’s really going on which solidifies the wonderful creativity and imagination Walsh has. So then there’s the characters. You’ve got our main heroine, Mia who struggles with parenting her half brother, Jay due to the irresponsibility of their uncle, and actual parental figure, Pete. Sol of course is the new guy who brushes into town and keeps to himself while Andy, a fellow student and potential love interest of Mia’s, just sort of the blends into the background along with Mia’s best friend Willie. There’s of course a sleuth of other minor characters used to support the story, but they don’t really spark for me. I loved how Mia’s so protective of her little brother, going as far as searching and literally battling her way to get him back. She has all the makings of a great main character but I just couldn’t really get invested in her. The only real character I felt any connection with was Sol. The entire time I was reading I was mentally begging for more background info on the guy. His story was the one I eagerly ate up. As for the rest of the characters, for me, they sort of faded into the background. Regardless of the weak character connections, I still loved this book. A lot. I didn’t necessarily rush to finish reading it like I do with most books I love, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the story. It’s creative and rich and entirely entertaining. I haven’t read anything alluding to book two, but after Dark Light’s ending there HAS to be a continuation. Although I neither hated nor loved the entire cast of characters, from the story standpoint I’m still entirely too invested in them to not see what happens next.
So I started this book because the author is doing a signing near where I live soon and originally thinking it was about one thing and it absolutely threw me when it wasn't what I thought.. I hate ruining surprises for people so I'm not going to say much, but any book that keeps sending good surprises and twists my way always makes me happy especially considering that it seems like so much out there today is so predictable. Definitely recommend it!
The Dark Light by Sara Walsh is a standalone young adult fantasy novel that follows the journey of two parallel universes fighting together against imminent annihilation. Mia, our unknowing heroine, is a seemingly normal high school student; when she is not serving tables at the local diner, she can be found relaxing with her friends or looking after her younger brother. However, Mia’s simple and straightforward life is challenged when her familiar, yet already extraordinary, hometown turns sinister. Ever since Mia can remember, Crownsville has always been affected by a strange phenomenon; mysterious lights flickering in the sky. With a lack of explanations and no visible aftereffects, the Crownsville community just accepted the lights as an interesting feature of their small town. Unfortunately, their quick dismissal of the strange lights only allows them to be an easier target for the evil that lurks in the secret other world. The usual easygoing community of Crownsville suddenly becomes on edge when a series of abductions rattles their town. Child after child, young boys are disappearing without a trace. One night while walking home from work, Mia witnesses an abduction taking place. To her bewilderment, the abductors vanish into the notorious lights with their unfortunate victim. Naturally, Mia reports her experience to the police, but regrettably, her statement is written off as a result of shock. Even with the police’s firm reassurances that they have it under control, Mia is still distraught; she wishes she could have done more to help save the young boy. However, her panic and overall distress reach new levels when her little brother is abducted next. With no solid information on where her brother was taken or how to save him, Mia confides in the only person who seems to know more than he is letting on; Crownsville’s newest (and attractive) resident, Sol. Together, Mia and Sol discover the true (and menacing) intentions behind these abductions all while travelling to new worlds to save not only the children but also the world (or should I say worlds). To read the rest of my review, visit the blog A New Look On Books.
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***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** The Dark Light by Sara Walsh Publisher: Simon Pulse Publication Date: August 28, 2012 Rating: 5 stars Source: Won a giveaway (This review is a little late. I read this book back in September! The first review was originally posted HERE, on December 28, 2012) For the year of 2012, I have not given many five-star ratings (most of my reviews are on Goodreads), but this book definitely deserved all five stars. I do not understand why the overall rating of this book is so low. This book is incredible. Summary (from Goodreads): Mia is torn between two guys--and two worlds--in this epic, romantic fantasy. Mysterious lights have flickered above Crownsville for as long as Mia can remember. And as far as she's concerned, that's about the only interesting thing to happen in her small town. That is, until Sol arrives. Mia's not one to fall for just any guy, but she can't get Sol--or the brilliant tattoo on his back--out of her mind. Then Mia's brother goes missing, and Mia's convinced that Sol knows more than he's sharing. But getting closer to Sol means reevaluating everything Mia once believed to be true. Because Sol's not who Mia thought he was--and neither is she. What I Liked: I am going to be honest - I had very high expectations for this book. I am a sucker for fantasy, paranormal, and a little science fiction. This book met all of my expectations and then some. I expected to see a weak-ish protagonist in the beginning of the book, with tunnel vision (to find her brother), and at the end of the book, she is defiant and brave, but still wary and concerned about herself and others. I definitely saw the character development in Mia. I liked her from the start, because she cared about her brother more than anything else. But I also liked how she attacked situations head-on, considering the factors that came on both sides of the decision. On the topic of protagonists, I liked Sol. He is one of my favorite heroes of Young Adult literature this year. And it is not because he is described as absolutely gorgeous - tall, brooding, and oh so ripped - but also because he is fierce and loyal, yet gentle and sweet. He seems so sure of himself, but not in a cocky, arrogant way; and yet, sometimes, he is nervous and hesitant in his actions and feelings. I loved the fantasy in this book - because Sol and Delane are warriors, which ups my respect for them. Delane is a cute, funny character, but he is serious and stern when he needs to be. I loved how Ms. Walsh ties the royalty and lands and wars aspects into this book. It is epic! Trust me. I could go on and on (but I will not). What I Did Not Like: I cannot say that there was much that I did not like. This sounds stupid, but it is so true. I loved this book so, so much. Would I Recommend It: YES! To all fantasy lovers out there, this is definitely a book for you. Rating: 5 stars. I really hope this book is not a standalone, because I want more! Wonderful debut, Ms. Walsh!
I want to read this book but, I keep seeing mixed reviews... Is it really WORTH $10 & it's been out for awhile?
This book was outstanding and brought on a whole new side to the supernaturals! Sara Walsh has created a breath taking, page turner, and edge of the seat with suspense book.