Review: Arclight by Josin L. McQuein


No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be. The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it. When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

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I enjoyed Josin L. McQuein’s Arclight, but it took some time before it really grabbed me and there were many times throughout the novel when I just wanted answers instead of so much confusion! Arclight is a dystopian novel with strong hints of horror. 

Set in a future where, as far the reader knows, the remaining small population of humans live together in an enclosed settlement, which is appropriately named Arclight, as it is surrounded at all times by strong lights which create a protective arc meant to keep the darkness – and the monsters within it – at bay. These monsters, referred to collectively and individually as “the Fade” are said to be impossible to survive an encounter with… with one exception. The novel’s main character, Marina, was rescued from outside the settlement and, therefore, survived the Fade. This feat, which may seem impressive in its singularity, is met, for the most part, with fear, distrust, and anger regarding those lost during her rescue mission. Marina, who has no memory of her past, is left unsure of just where she fits in within the settlement and within the world as a whole. 

Overall, I liked the mysterious quality of Arclight. I was never quite sure what would happen next and the novel’s pace had a consistent ebb and flow. Things would be quite calm within the novel, then, without warning, everything would start happening at once. Alarms would sound, characters would panic, and the creepy Fade would attempt to breach Arclight. 

Things really started getting interesting when the Fade transitioned from strictly monsters to actual characters. This, however, is where the novel fell flat for me. It almost took too long for the Fade to become characters and, when they finally did, I wanted to know MORE about them. They stay a mystery throughout most of the novel and even the answers readers are finally given are very quick and without depth. I’m hoping McQuein has plans for a second novel that will answer some of my many questions! 

I do recommend Arclight – it has a unique enemy and protagonist – but I feel it requires a patient reader. The plot is slow to unfold and readers must be able to stick with the plot during the ebb between action scenes.

Greenwillow Books, April 2013,Hardcover, ISBN:9780062130143, 400 pgs.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Arclight by Josin L. McQuein

  1. This sounds delightfully unusual. I'm adding it to my to-read list. It sounds like the second book will be even better. Thanks for the review! P.S. Have you read AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky? I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it.

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