TITLE: Light & Dark: The Awakening of the Mageknight
AUTHOR: D. M. Fife
LENGTH: 312 pages
SUMMARY: (blurb from back of book) Danny Firoth is an average thirteen year0old who finds himself at the beginning of his eighth grade year, struggling with some of the more common concerns that plague a boy of his age: bullies, homework, and his mother. Sabrina Drake is the new girl. She is beautiful and spellbinding, but carries a fantastic secret.
Accepted into the White Rock Academy of Illumination, a school for young Squires destined to become Knights of the Light and battle the forced of the Dark with magical weapons called Bondeds, Danny joins his five closest friends in the training of their lives. Honed in the techniques of blade work by an Elvin swordmaster and educated by a colorful assortment of knightly instructors, Danny and his friends are placed on the path to becoming knighted members of the Light. However, the Dark may have other plans as they unveil a sinister plot in this fantastic tale of dragon-riding adventure, sword-wielding action, and coming of age drama.
REVIEW: Fife has made a valiant effort at a fantasy novel however, it falls just a bit short in the writing. The book is laden with excessive, mundane detail. In addition, despite the blurb’s assertion that Danny is an average 13 year-old, Danny does not speak like one. He uses words like “must” and phrases such as “he did as bid” – much too formal for a middle school boy. While it would make sense to have the teachers and knights of the White Rock Academy of Illumination use this formal diction, it doesn’t make sense that Danny would. Even allowing that Danny might adopt this formality once he has attended the school, he speaks this way before he even knows the school exists. Fife does a better job with Danny’s friends’ speech and they definitely act like eighth grade boys. The narration in its entirety is a little overblown; I fear Fife is trying too hard to “be a writer” instead of just writing the story he has to tell. The last criticism I have is purely cosmetic. There are quite a few grammatical and mechanical errors in the text. I would assume this is due to self-publishing the book but Fife could do with a professional editor.
Despite the issues with the writing, readers will enjoy the story in this book. Fife has taken an interesting stand in the perpetual story of good versus evil. In this story, there is not merely light and dark but also grey. Fife acknowledges that most issues are not just black and white and that there are individuals who play whichever side of the conflict will benefit them most. Because many middle grade books in particular present very cut and dried differences between good and evil, it was refreshing to see the lines blurred much as they are in real life. The use of the Bermuda Triangle as a pivotal location in this ages-old battle is an interesting twist. Fantasy fans will recognize elements from Tolkein and Rowling but it is an interesting blend of familiar fantasy stories. The story is engaging enough to keep readers turning pages and the issues with the writing would most likely be less noticeable when read by someone other than an English teacher.