Oliver Johnson‘s The Lightbringer is a different sort of fantasy trilogy. For one thing, it involves vampires, and since vampire novels have spawned their own genre you rarely find them in true fantasy any more. However, this is not a vampire novel; it’s most definitely high fantasy. The next thing that makes The Lightbringer somewhat of a departure from the norm is that the hero is seriously disfigured and spends almost his entire time behind a mask designed to obscure his features. I actually quite liked the absence of physical attractiveness in the protagonist. Not only because it makes for a change, but also because it tests the writer’s ability to make you admire the character for less superficial reasons. It’s much harder for an author to do this well. There are all the usual elements of good stories here too: action, romance, intrigue, and so forth.
This is one of those stories where the characters grow as the books progress, rather than leaping fully-formed onto the page and staying that way until the end. So, personal discoveries are made, friendships develop and change, and even in the midst of the copious amounts of action there is always a lot of depth to the characters. The Lightbringer is quite a rare find in that respect.
The plot is very much a battle of good vs. evil, light vs. dark. You can tell that just from the book titles in the trilogy: The Forging of the Shadows, The Nations of the Night, and The Last Star at Dawn. The world the story is set in is suffering from a waning sun that is ruining crops and providing a haven for vampires and dark deeds. On the other side of the fence is an ancient sun-worshipping religion that believes someone called the Lightbringer will come and end their oppression. Pretty standard sort of plot, really, when I type it out like that, but it doesn’t stop the story from having real depth and originality to it. As I’ve said before, some of the best songs ever written are based on the same four chords and it’s how they are played that makes all the difference.
Unlike many current vampire novels, the vampires in this book are the bad guys. However, it’s really not that cut and dried. They have well-rounded personalities and motives and are, in that sense, very human and understandable.
The story takes place in a remarkably short period of time. In fact, the events in the first book transpire in a single night and are a bit of a chaotic scramble for answers and survival. I can’t remember any other fantasy series that has so much occur in such a short time. The action is fast-paced and well-described, yet Johnson never gets bogged down in the details. There are also quite a few introspective moments that allow you to glimpse the back-story of important characters as well.
The Last Star at Dawn(the last book) unfortunately loses some of the momentum of the first two. It feels a bit like Oliver Johnson lost heart between the second and third books. However, it is still a reasonably satisfying end to the trilogy. But, whatever you do, don’t read the first chapter of the last book! For some crazy reason, Johnson basically reveals most of the outcome of the story in that first chapter by doing one of those retrospective glances from the future through the eyes of a surviving character. Since there was quite a bit of suspense involved in who would survive and how the relationships would pan out (he gives all that away, too) it was terribly disappointing to have all this slammed in your face right at the beginning of the home stretch. The first chapter adds absolutely nothing to the story-line that isn’t revealed as you read anyway, so you can skip it without missing anything. I have no idea why the heck he put it in at all.
Overall, I really liked The Lightbringer and I’m surprised and disappointed to see the mediocre ratings these books have been given on Amazon.com, but I attribute those to people who were expecting something different than what they found. I’d rate the books at at least four stars each for The Forging of the Shadows and The Nations of Night and three-and-a-half stars for the last one, The Last Star at Dawn, for a final rating of four stars for the entire Lightbringer trilogy.
Mark Pawlyszyn, one of our earliest guest reviewers, has always tended toward the creative side of life and had careers in music and painting before settling into his current position as the owner of Unique Images Photography. Mark has visited and lived in twelve countries and can ask for directions to the bathroom in several languages. He currently lives in Canada with his wife, Sherri.
The Lightbringer — (1996-1999) Publisher: It is a time of great darkness where the sun has lost its brilliance. Mankind is divided into two warring factions — the worshippers of the God of Light and the servants of Eternal Night. It will take the courage of three people to embark on a quest to bring back the light.