Release date: 5 December 2023
Synopsis: What if erasing the past cost more than you were willing to pay?
Having narrowly escaped their enemies, Sephone, Dorian, and Cass continue their search for the elusive Silvertongue, the only one with knowledge of the Reliquary’s whereabouts. But time is running out for Sephone, and with Dorian accused of high treason, the quest takes on a new urgency.
As secrets from each of their pasts drive a wedge between them, Sephone invests all her hopes in finding her homeland, Lethe—where her family may yet be alive. But nothing about Lethe is as she expects, and disappointment, betrayal, and danger await her at every turn.
As the truth about the Reliquary’s curse comes to light, the fragile bonds between the unlikely companions are tested like never before. Meanwhile, Dorian faces a terrible choice: to save the life of one who is beginning to mean more to him than the past he’s so desperate to forget, or to save his beloved Caldera from dangers outside and within.
**Warning: This review contains some mild spoilers (none plot related) for Calor. Please proceed with caution.**
I always end books of this caliber grappling with a deep-seated resentment for the authors who abruptly end a story when I fully expect 3,000 more pages. Anyone who has experienced a “reader’s high” knows this devastating crash of dopamine intimately. Though I have felt it several times, including after finishing Lumen, I still adore the authors, despite their cruelty, and continue consuming their books with abandon. I am truly a glutton for punishment. Fischer’s second installment in The Nightingale Trilogy far exceeded my expectations; instead of it presenting a better or worse story than its predecessor, it performed as it should—to whet the appetite of readers for the last of the story to come. Run, do not walk, to read this series. Buy it. Get it from the library if you must. It must be read if you love anything fantasy.
The beauty of Fischer’s series lies in its reality, despite the fantastical. Fischer’s background in psychology really shines through in her characters. Each character has his or her own issues, and the group supports one another with those issues in such fantastic ways. Sephone simultaneously possesses a naïveté and experience that greatly complements the experience and age of her fellow travelers, each of whom has his own trauma to sort through. Neither trait in Sephone limits her ability to bring light to the group; her naïveté does not add immaturity, only innocence; and her experience, mostly gained through viewing the memories of those much older and wiser than she (along with her time as a slave) does not add hubris. She provides encouragement and rebuke in equal measure when those around her abuse their power or make rash choices. Sephone, after a fashion, is an exemplary main character.
Lumen is also a romance—no spice—with a burn so slow it’s like trying to start a fire with damp kindling. We get to see characters slowly fall in love with one another simply through close proximity and learning about the other. While I’m not against a quick spark of love, the characters in Fischer’s series fall deeper and more authentically in love, adding to the realism of the story, than in most romances. I found it very beautiful and endearing while simultaneously frustrating (you’ll see when you read it—you really should read it).
The action-packed plot holding these characters up and dragging them along their experiences should not be overlooked. The Nightingale Series is, after all, a post-apocalyptic science fantasy thriller full of political intrigue and danger. Sephone is no weakling, either. She, Adamo, Cass, Bear, and Bas (not to mention the incomparable Jewel) must navigate the danger of those who pursue them as well as those who host them when they are forced to seek refuge. Dreams that come true for the characters in Lumen may be more than what they bargained for, and they may find in the end that their dreams changed altogether while they weren’t paying attention…
I usually fully expect sequels to be nothing but filler. Few, precious and very few, do not impress me so much as the first book in the series. I can maybe count on two hands the amount of sequels that have not done so. Lumen has easily taken a spot on that list. Lumen does not, as many second books/sequels do, suffer from that second-book slump. It is just as amazing as the first in the series, Calor, and I cannot believe I got to read it early.
I’m so grateful to the author, J.J. Fischer, and Enclave Publishing (my favorite indie publishing house ever) for the ARC, for which I willingly and heartily give my own, honest opinion.