While on another rescue mission on Gaia, a group of friends with supernatural abilities make a grizzly discovery: chained to the wall is a woman who has been severely tortured and beaten, yet is still alive. Inexplicably drawn to the woman, the friends attempt to heal her.
Rolland, Seb, Jack, Matt, Brad, and Gerry learn that Kia is an Ayran from Mid Arch. Kia has been infected by the Swarm, a dark force that threatens all living things on Gaia. The Swarm has already infected most of the men, leaving them trapped on Gaia without any memories of their former lives. Not only must the friends heal Kia’s body, but heal her mind of the Swarm’s effects, which will eventually leave her without any recollection of who she is or where she comes from.
As Kia recovers from her injuries, the friends realize that she is more powerful than all of them combined. Furthermore, her strength will soon attract the attention of evil beings that seek to destroy her. If that happens, Kia, like the men, may never see her homeland again.
In Pursuit of Light is a dystopian fantasy that will leave readers wondering about Kia’s past and future. Sarah B. Meadows addresses the challenge of having several main characters by telling the story through the male characters’ individual perspectives. Meadows uses this technique to develop her characters and provide insight into each of the men’s personalities and thoughts. This strategy is very useful in understanding Jack, the only one who has memories of his past, but hesitates to share them with his friends. The reader learns more about his backstory than they could have from Jack’s interactions with the others.
Meadows’ uncommon choice to exclude Kia’s point of view from the novel was a wise one: the reader understands her only through the lens of the other characters. This enhances Kia’s enigma and intrigue. However, the friends’ understanding of Kia isn’t exactly limited: Jack can probe her mind and Rolland can share in her emotions. Their combined knowledge is sufficient to give Kia enough substance as a main character.
Another highlight of the book is Meadows’ dedication to her characters’ emotions. Rolland is especially aware of Kia’s feelings, which are very strong and well-described in the book. The male characters’ feelings are diverse and realistic. Meadows does a great job portraying Kia’s often extreme feelings, and the blurriness between her emotional and physical pain.
The focus on the characters’ emotions is appreciated but compromises the storyline at times. The plot is driven by multiple attempts to heal Kia and the feelings the men experience while in her presence. Extensive descriptions of these feelings sometimes slows the story’s pace. Though scarred, Kia is physically very beautiful, leading many of the men to develop sexual feelings for her. The book contains multiple references to physical arousal and a couple of sex scenes. Though the scenes are brief, In Pursuit of Light is not recommended for children or adult readers who wish to avoid sexual content.
This note of caution aside, In Pursuit of Light contains the right elements for an enjoyable read: detailed world building, an enigmatic protagonist, and a planet on the brink of destruction. This book is recommended for both fantasy and dystopian fiction readers who prefer strong, interesting, and well-developed characters. The book’s strongest merits are the questions left unanswered by the end of the book: what happened to Kia, and why was she targeted? Will the Swarm consume all of Gaia? Will Kia and her new friends ever make it home? These and more questions make for a strong start to what will make an interesting book series.