A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelley York & Rowan Altwood
Published: x-potion designs (June 1st 2018)
Genre: ya; historical fiction, ghost story, romance
LGBT rep: gay MC, bisexual LI
Rating: 3.5/5 🍑
James Spencer is hardly the typical “troubled youth” who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends and indulging in his love of writing, while contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.
The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years. Rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts… James is the only one who believes him.
James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.
Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’s determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding… Especially if it means keeping William and himself from becoming the next victims.
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
There are three main points one has to make about A Light Amongst Shadows, when describing it: 1) it’s historical fiction, 2) it’s a ghost story & 3) it’s gay. Now, for me personally, that was already enough to make me wanna read the book. So I’m easy to entertain, so what.
The whole things takes place at a boarding school for boys and it’s a very creepy one right from the start. Which is great because this is ultimately a ghost story & building up the atmosphere is a key component of that, isn’t it. So we hear murmurs about stories but no one in the whole school is willing to tell the actual stories, we get weird sightings & even weirder disappearances… Overall what we get is an ever-present feeling of something being very, very Wrong™, a slowly unraveling mystery of ghosts & death. And James & the boy he’s starting to like are thrown in the middle of that.
Because yes, the romance is a very big & important arc in this story. James is basically a walking, talking Gay Disaster. His idea of subtle flirting is reciting love poetry to a boy he fancies & has NEVER spoken to before… The relationship isn’t just some added footnote that makes no sense, either. No, being gay is an integral part of James as a person and it’s always there, in every single thing he says and does. It never feels like the romance is somehow apart from the general plot, like it runs its own course despite everything else that’s happening. Instead, the romance & the paranormal puzzle are woven perfectly together and the balance between them is honestly superb. And the relationship evolves in such a slow, beautiful and – most importantly – natural way. Give me more of that!!
I would recommend A Light Amongst Shadows to anyone who likes soft boys falling in love and also ghosts. Please don’t forget this is a ghost story and a creepy & sometimes honestly gruesome one at that. So maybe don’t read it in the middle of the night like I have…
(tw some homophobia, drugs, torture, blood, death, mentions of past rape)