Monday, 4 April 2016

Last Light Falling

Last Light Falling

by J.E. Plemons

3 out of 5

If your fate has already been chosen for you, would you change it? Fifteen-year-old Arena Power blindly accepts her destiny in a world filled with tragedy, chaos, and a lingering wickedness that will tempt every man's soul until the last days on Earth. Set in the United States in the year 2053, America, like most of the world, has undergone catastrophic earthquakes, famine, and an economic collapse, which has rendered the nation hopeless. It has turned to other nations, like Russia and China, to help restore what was once a world power. Unfortunately, the new America has grossly caused civil unrest that will eventually be the precursor to a much bigger war of biblical proportions.
Orphaned at the age of nine, Arena and her twin brother, Gabe, have learned to rely on each other through the toughest times. Not only do they share the same birthday and the tragic loss of their parents, they both have a birthmark on the back of their necks in the shape of a crucifix. This is only but a small sign of the destiny that will follow. On their fifteenth birthday, they receive a mystery letter and key from their estranged Uncle Finnegan. This key will unlock their fate, and it will be up to a priest, who has vowed to protect them since birth, to unfold the layers of their destiny-to undo the evil that has spoiled the world, and to help unleash God's wrath upon those who have turned from Him in the last days of history.
Last Light Falling weaves righteousness with evil, treachery with truth, and shows just how far the will of man can survive on faith alone. Arena and Gabriel's fate will determine that course of history for which has already been written. They were not born to save the world; they were chosen to prepare it for the final days.

After natural disasters and secret agendas, the world is broken beyond repair. Only twins Arena and Gabriel can step up and confront the evil and immoral people that crush the hopes of the population.

This was a difficult book to review. There are some fantastic sections, that pull you along on a brilliant adventure; and some issues that just made it stall.
First of all, in case anyone was wondering - despite the fact that the main characters are fifteen years old, and it does start with high school drama, this is not a YA read. In the same way you wouldn't let kids see Kickass, this is not suitable for younger readers. There is violence, rape, violence, bad language, oh and violence.
Which was all fine, and well-written. I enjoyed the action sequences, fighting for freedom and their lives; destroying one base after another as they work their way to the head of the snake.
It is all done with a brilliant creative flare and plenty of drama.

The main character Arena was pretty awesome. She has been doing weapon training and martial arts ever since she was a kid and she is now absolutely lethal. She is an efficient killer and unstoppable force against the General's soldiers. She does let her emotions cloud her judgement sometimes, but in the end she's only human.

What didn't work for me?
I thought it was a little slow to get going, as it dithers over a few stories that are less than subtle and tell you about this person's ability, or that person's ambition and drive. 
This gets better after the first couple of chapters, as the background is established and it is much smoother later on.

I felt that apart from Arena, the characters were all rather dull and there wasn't enough distinction between them. Even Gabriel, whom the prophecy is also about, is grey and in the background. This is definitely Arena's story.
I thought that the language used by Arena and Gabriel was archaic and unusual for teenagers. And I don't mean when they got preachy, but on the odd occasion they would use a particular phrase that stuck out like a sore thumb.

The major issue I had was the religious aspect.
I am not a religious person, and despite the fact that we British have a vague disapproval of being overly vocal about religion, I have nothing against it in literature. In reality, it does play a huge role for many individuals and nations.
I felt that the religious overtone was too preachy and too over-powering.

But mostly, I read it with that uncomfortable twist in my gut, which is not a good thing.
Before the bad guys are truly established as evil, for a good portion of the book they are nothing more than a general corrupt government - nothing new and nothing drastic.
Arena and Gabriel are told by a random priest that they are on a journey from God, and they must kill everyone who deviates from the path; and any innocent that die will be welcomed into heaven, and non-believers will be sent to hell.
Truthfully, all I could think whilst reading this, are all the current bombings, and the many people affected by religious conflicts. They all think their mass-murdering ways are sanctioned by God. Their actions are condemned by the rest of us.
It was very uncomfortable reading indeed, to have a bunch of these characters as the rogue heroes in this book.

It is so hypocritical - all lives have value, and Arena herself said that no matter their crime, a person can have redemption and forgiveness from God. But it is up to Arena herself which ones die and which she spares to have that chance, and she feels no remorse at all.
I was also a little miffed that everyone is either a God-fearing Christian, or the epitome of evil. Other religions don't exist in America in the future? OK.

It does get better in the second half of the book, when the General's soldiers perform all sorts of atrocities, and Arena's thoughts and actions get... put into perspective.

Goodreads link

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