Review: LAST LIGHT FALLING by J.E. Plemons

41UGn5Ah-uL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_LAST LIGHT FALLING BOOK 1 THE COVENANT by J.E. Plemons

Dog Ear Publishing, March 2014 ~ 3 Stars

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.

51Q0vrx30eL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_LAST LIGHT FALLING BOOK 2 INTO THE DARKNESS by J.E. Plemons

Dog Ear Publishing, May 2015 ~ 3 Stars

Arena has left the nation’s administration with a dead president and a weakened military, and while the tragic memories continue to scar her, the government struggles to regroup without its leader. For the people who still remain in hiding, it’s evident the country is all but lost, and with Russian operatives taking over, the nation’s hope of recovering is grim. After months in hiding, Arena and her brother, Gabriel, fight to survive the aftermath while they trudge through unkindly terrain across the country to rejoin their friends, but what they soon discover may staunch their journey. The government’s failed attempt to rebirth a broken nation has caused civil unrest like no other. After reuniting with their friends, Arena’s decision to stay changes when she discovers the secrets of a refugee camp behind a clandestine group of rebels, known as the Southern Resistance. With an opportunity to escape to a permanent safe haven, Arena risks her life to lead the new fellowship. But the darkest days are upon them, and with a new war brewing, Arena’s path will take a dark turn as her survival is in jeopardy. Into The Darkness captures the cruel truth behind our darkest secrets which may often cause us to question our faith. In this graphic second installment of the LAST LIGHT FALLING series, J.E. Plemons continues the grim story of Arena Power’s fate, testing her faith while she and her brother search for an answer to their survival in a brooding world filled with chaos.

Review: The LAST LIGHT FALLING series introduces the reader to fifteen-year-old twins, Arena and Gabriel Power destined to lead the fight not to save the world and its inhabitants, but to prepare it for the apocalyptic end of days as foretold in the Old Testament. A master of all weapons, Arena accepts her role a little too easily while her brother has more difficulty accepting their supposed destiny. This makes him more likeable as a character and a person at the beginning of the story. He’s willing to do what needs to be done to change his world, but unlike his sister doesn’t see most people as expendable. Virginia Roth in the Divergent series showed how making just one choice changes lives not only that of the heroine’s when she opted for a new faction rather than remaining with the one where she was born. However, Arena Power isn’t a Tris Prior and obviously doesn’t share the other girl’s ability to empathize with those around her.

Meanwhile Arena does get along fairly well with him and their foster parents, but looks for trouble when she’s at school. Her behavior and motivations remain inconsistent much of the time. She isn’t sure what she wants other than to kill pretty much everyone who annoys her and the list of these folks continues to grow as time passes. Of course, then there are the days when she actually finds someone she likes such as Jacob, a shy teen from school. Their initial, mutual attraction escalates far too quickly into a lifelong passion. The same thing happens with Gabriel and his first girlfriend, Juliana. These two couples may meet nearly as soon as school starts, but this kind of romance generally needs time to flourish. In addition to the rapid fire romance and Arena beating up bullies, little of an educational nature occurs at school. It isn’t clear if this is a symptom of the disintegration of their society or just the way of life in 2053.

Arena barely connects to most of the other students or any of the teachers which is probably good since they are all destined to die horribly and she doesn’t seem to particularly care. Neither will most readers. Only a few of these characters have names and the majority of these people are mere place-holders. The urban setting of a town that is supposedly ‘poor’ also lacks credibility. In The Hunger Games, readers love Peeta because he burns the bread, then throws the damaged loaves to Katniss who in turn uses them to feed her little sister. Here, the foster parents manage to not only provide nourishing meals for Arena and her brother, they also have enough food to feed guests despite the severe economic downturns. Everyone subsists on credits provided by the government, but it isn’t clear if their foster parents are paid to care for Arena and Gabriel or somehow manage on their own.

Arena displays yet another flaw in the way she holds other girls in contempt. Again, there is little to choose from between these stereotypical teens and their interests, i.e. clothes, make-up, boys. It is a bit of a stretch because if everyone truly struggles with everyday survival and their town continues to crumble to pieces, how can anyone afford to buy anything new, much less flaunt it? The soldiers who maintain order and represent the totalitarian government are a different set of placeholders. As a brutal mob, they rape women and children, pillage through the town, slaughtering the men and teens. Their horrendous abuses become more difficult to believe when the story continues, especially when this fictional American military would rather torture and kill their own citizens before defending their country from the attacking Russians.

Often dystopian fiction portrays a battle between good and evil. In the Last Light Falling series, it becomes a case of evil versus evil. There is little to choose from between Arena and her allies as the civilized world slowly dies. The measured pacing of each book emphasizes the hopelessness of the situation. Mr. Plemons definitely knows the Biblical story of Armageddon, but Arena’s constant harangues of how terrible America has become will exhaust many readers and her lectures often slow the action, although since this has numerous, gruesome scenes of rape, torture and slaughter, that’s not all bad. In addition her lack of compassion and inability to show mercy as well as the constant episodes of violence and gore may prove difficult to overcome.

Reviews provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in the Jan 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.

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