Mia and the Lightcasters

Mia lives in Nubis, a city plunged into a forever night by the menacing Reaper King. After a scary encounter with a wild umbra, a shadow creature, in the Nightmare Plains, Mia decides she no longer wants to follow her dream of being an umbra tamer.

Since that day, she has stayed safely within the city walls. But, when the Reaper King’s followers attack, Mia is forced to make a dangerous journey across the Plains along with her little brother, best friend TJ, trainer Jada and her umbra Ruby, to the City of Light to find help and save her captured parents. Can she overcome her fears, use her umbra training, and harness the magic inside her to complete her quest?

Janelle McCurdy’s debut middle-grade fantasy novel, clearly influenced by the author’s love of video games, is full of adventure, magic, and rich world-building and the premise lends itself well to a series. The immersive illustrations by Ana Latese not only bring the world of Mia and the Lightcasters to life, but also help young Black readers to (quite literally) see someone like them in the story – an important detail in today’s publishing landscape. Although the writing in Mia can feel repetitive and the plot a little bloated at times, overall this is an enjoyable read with an important message: be courageous in the face of hardship and, most importantly, believe in yourself.