Mia and the Lightcasters – Janelle McCurdy

I have a complete soft spot for middle grade! On a sad day, there’s nothing better than devouring a book written for kids – they are usually incredibly immersive and captivating, and provide great escapism, so are wonderful for taking a mini-break from our own problems. And Mia and the Lightcasters is an exciting debut from a new voice that I’m sure we’ll hear much more from – I loved the world of the Umbra and I can’t wait for you all to read this wonderful book too.

Many thanks to Bethany at Faber for sending me an ARC. All opinions are my own.

RELEASE DATE: 04/08/2022


SUMMARY: Mia always dreamed of being an umbra tamer until she met the wild creature on the Nightmare Plains. Since that day, she prefers to stay safe within the walls of Nubis. Safe, that is, until a surprise attack. With her parents captured, Mia’s only hope is to travel to the City of Light to find help. But with only her little brother, two friends and one solitary tamed umbra, the journey feels impossible. Mia not only has to overcome her fears, she also has to learn to harness her umbra taming abilities if they are to complete the quest in time. (from Faber)

OPINIONS: This was such a fun read! Maybe it’s because I’m currently immersed in kids books all day, but I’m on such a children’s fiction roll. And a promising new middle grade series that doesn’t only come with cute creatures, but also interior illustrations? Count me in. Yes, I’m a sucker for pictures in books. For all ages. For the record, if it were up to me, every single book would have at least one piece of interior black and white art. Anyway. Mia and the Lightcasters. Janelle McCurdy has given us an impeccable debut, one that wouldn’t go amiss among the likes of Rick Riordan Presents. It is compelling, fast paced, and full of great characters and a world that the reader just wants to get stuck into.

The stars of the show in Mia and the Lightcasters are the Umbra. Beasts that can be tamed, but which can evolve between different forms – reminiscent of Pokémon in that respect – but very, very real to Mia and her world. Mia’s always dreamed of being a real-life Umbra tamer, but her first encounter one was quite different from what she imagined. And then Mia doesn’t have too much of a choice in facing her fears…

I loved seeing not just Mia, but also Jada, the older tamer, as Black girls who just did their thing and weren’t used as a narrative device, which unfortunately is something that isn’t too common in UK kidlit yet. This makes Mia and the Lightcasters an especially important book for the UK industry – it shows Faber’s commitment to diversity in actions, rather than just words, and I am thrilled for the kids for whom this is a milestone in representation – though I wish it was standard rather than something to single out… Initially I was sad that there wouldn’t be a pretty hardcover of the book, but the more I think about it, the happier I am that it is indeed a paperback original – making it all the more accessible to the children who need this book. More books like this please, publishing industry, put your money where your mouth is.

Add Mia and the Lightcasters to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy via Bookshop here.

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