Of Starlight, by Dan Rix

I recently read, reviewed, and thoroughly enjoyed Translucent, the first book in this series. It was a great mixture of teen angst, mystery/thriller, science fiction (with enough actual science to satisfy this physics teacher), and symbolism. There was a strong character arc—Leona’s search for a way to absolve herself from guilt—that cleverly utilized the major plot device of the meteorite containing dark matter that can make things invisible. The cliffhanger was chilling and there were enough open mysteries to entice me to read the sequel, which starts immediately following the events of the first part.

I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free, but when reviewing a sequel, I may have to mention plot elements revealed in the previous book. You have been warned.

Leona and her friend Megan had used the dark matter for a variety of reasons in the first book, and Leona was convinced that it was somehow communicating with her. But what if they weren’t the only or the first people to wrap it around themselves? What if the military who had “decontaminated” Leona’s room to contain the dark matter were instead collecting it? What if the collection of dark matter could be connected to the family of Emory Lacroix, Leona’s crush?

Emory’s supposedly dead younger sister Ashley has mysteriously returned after three months, but she’s developed odd behavior. She’s not eating, not sleeping, and not liking her brother’s would-be girlfriend Leona, going so far as to demand he stay away from her. Naturally, Leona uses the dark matter to investigate, only to see that Ashley has some dark matter of her own.

It seems that the dark matter is affecting these characters in very different ways. Leona is convinced it’s communicating with her, and the more often and longer she wears it, it causes her not only to be invisible but occasionally intangible. Meanwhile, whenever Megan removes the dark matter from her body, it leaves marks on her skin—and I deduced what the marks were before her dermatologist did. And then there’s the effect that dark matter has had on Ashley…or whoever/whatever Ashley is. Creepy.

Where Translucent was primarily driven by Leona’s internal conflict dealing with her guilt, Of Starlight is primarily driven by the external conflict between Leona and Ashley. It’s a stark contrast to the first book because it establishes a very clear villain. There’s a fight scene between them while they’re both invisible—which would never work in a visual medium such as a movie or TV show—but it works extremely well here because of Rix’s choice to tell the story in Leona’s first person. The scene is gripping and vividly described.

Along with this shift in the conflict is a slight shift in the genre of the story from science fiction towards supernatural horror, and I missed the scientific discussions about refraction and such from the first book. When the dark matter “spoke” to Leona in Translucent, it served as a symbol of Leona’s inner voice trying to make her confront her guilt. In Of Starlight, when the dark matter “speaks,” the inference is that it’s a malevolent entity.

I also found it missing some of the intertwined mysteries and symbolism of the first book. There weren’t as many twists and turns, and Leona seemed to repeat certain thoughts a few too many times.

It was still an exciting page turner, and the primary story arc is sufficiently resolved to earn its cliffhanger, which was at least as shocking as how the first book ended. I’ve already downloaded the third part, Ash and Darkness, onto my Kindle and am looking forward to starting it. As good a book as the second part was, I felt the first book was just a little more tightly wrapped, so I’m giving the sequel a rating of FOUR AND A HALF Of Starlight.

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Of Starlight is available at Amazon.

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