A Turn of Light is the story of Marrowdell, a small community at the edge of the kingdom of Mellynne. It’s also the story of Jenn Nalynn, a young woman born in Marrowdell who wants nothing more than to leave home and explore the world, and of the arrival of a series of visitors that threaten to interrupt Jenn’s plans.
At first glance, A Turn of Light appears to be a rather standard telling of the hero’s journey – the character of Jenn, especially, feels reminiscent of a Luke Skywalker or Taran character, desperately waiting for the chance to explore the kingdom. When we learn of a curse placed on Jenn, preventing her from leaving, it seems like the next step of the story is going to be obvious – that she was going to defy the curse, and go on a grand adventure with Wil to the far corners of the kingdom.
What happens instead is a fascinating examination of the hero’s journey that is accomplished by inverting it – Jenn stays in Marrowdell, and instead the hero’s journey comes to her. All of the hallmarks of those classic adventure stories are there, including a dragon, a knight, and a quest; what makes A Turn of Light different, though, is that it removes the actual journeying from the story. This allows for a greater examination of the characters involved, rather than just describing a series of events, and Czernada manages to keep true to the emotional core of those stories throughout this tale. The conflict and threat faced by Jenn and the other main characters feels real, their choices feel meaningful, and the plot moves uniquely while also feeling familiar.
In addition to the plot and characters, A Turn of Light is worth reading just for the pure pleasure of Czernada’s luxurious prose. At over 800 pages, it’s not what one could consider a quick or light read, but a reader willing to stay dedicated to the story will be well-rewarded for doing so.
Some readers might find A Turn of Light difficult to get into, as the book opens at leisurely-enough pace that some might find it off-putting. As one continues to read, however, it becomes clear that this pacing was not only a conscious choice on Czernada’s part, but a necessary one. Marrowdell is an idyllic, pastoral environment, and the pacing of the storytelling does an impeccable job of illustrating that in a way that creates an emotional connection for readers – a connection that makes the eventual conflict of the novel much more resonant for readers than it would have been otherwise.
A Turn of Light is a wonderfully-written novel that takes the oft-told story of the hero’s journey and retells it in an innovative and novel way. Author Julie Czernada manages to do so without turning the story into an academic exercise, keeping a strong emotional and thematic core to the story that makes it an enjoyable read as well.