Blog Tour | Daughters of Light series by Mary Jennifer Payne


Mary Jennifer Payne’s Daughters of Light trilogy is a timely story about climate change, the power of sisterhood and female friendships, and the role teenage girls can take in fighting for a better future. It features twin sisters Jade and Jasmine Guzman, who find they are among a group of superpowered teen girls with the ability to battle demons and greedy politicians whose actions can destroy the world.

Check out below my reviews of all three books, and an excerpt from Darkness Rising, the final book in the trilogy!

Literary Treats Reviews:

Excerpt: Prologue from Darkness Rising

September 12, 2032

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Jasmine Guzman. I’m sixteen years old (almost seventeen) and I live in Toronto, Canada. I have an identical twin sister named Jade. We live in the Regent Park neighbourhood with our mom. And, if you find this in my watch, I’m likely dead. The thing is, I’ve been told if I die, you will die as well. If you’re part of the human race, that is. Not exactly a win-win situation, is it? That’s because, apparently, I’ve been deemed to be the Chosen One in some ancient Dead Sea Scroll, and my job is to save the world. Who’s chosen me? I have no clue. I know what you’re thinking: What a cliché. Plus, I’m all of about five foot two and weigh less than a hundred pounds soaking wet. Well, I agree with you. Believe me, I often wish this whole situation were fiction. But it isn’t. And I need to tell the world the story of how my life has changed over the last two years, because it is pretty unbelievable. Everyone thinks I have a big mouth, anyway, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve decided to write this all down in a letter on my video watch. Let’s just say keeping secrets isn’t one of my strengths.

Our world is hugely at risk because of climate change. In fact, “at risk” is an understatement. Earth is dying, and humans are the cause. The pollution here in Toronto is so bad, it’s impossible to go outside most days without wearing an anti-pollution mask at least part of the time. But, really, we’ve got it lucky, don’t we? Countries like Australia, nearly the entire continent of Africa, and much of South Asia and South America, not to mention the Middle East, are barely habitable now. Oh, and I nearly forgot the state of California. Decades of drought, water and food shortages, and climate change–driven conflict have caused surges of desperate people to flee their homelands. All these climate change refugees were just trying to reach the areas of the world less impacted by environmental change and that still had an abundance of resources. They were trying to live. Literally. A case of stay where they were and die or leave (with a chance they might die trying). And when the politicians and a good amount of people in places like Canada, New Zealand, most of Europe, and the USA saw the waves of desperate people racing toward their countries, what did they do? Well, rather than help their fellow human beings, they closed their borders and started campaigns of fear against the refugees. Against the “other.” And that caused terrorism to spike everywhere, including Toronto.

But that isn’t the only thing going on in our world. There’s also the little problem we’ve got with demons. Yep, you heard me right. Demons. I know, now I sound totally crazy. Believe me, I used to think I was. Crazy, that is. But don’t stop reading. Because I’m not insane. Not in the least. I can explain everything, but I’ll have to go back quite a few years to my sister’s abduction in order to do so.

We were ten years old when it happened. When Jade was abducted. I tried to tell
everyone that the person who took her was actually some sort of monster with dead, flat black eyes and teeth like sharpened bits of ivory, but no one listened. Not one adult listened when I repeatedly insisted that Jade wasn’t taken by a human. Instead, I was sent to a long list of psychiatrists and psychologists who diagnosed me with PTSD and a host of other stress-related mental health issues. Eventually, I half believed the diagnoses myself and pushed the image of the teenaged boy with the demon eyes to the back of my consciousness.

Everything was relatively normal (if living with the loss of your twin sister can ever be called normal) until the day I was sent to Beaconsfield, a secondary school out of my district that is full of identical twin girls. That day was the beginning of my realization that I am a Seer, a Daughter of Light. We Seers, I was soon to discover, are identical twin girls descended from Lilith, Adam’s first wife, from the Old Testament. We also each have a Protector.

Protectors are hard to describe. They’re kind of like retired Seers who are now
responsible for guiding and watching over young Seers of their own. Our powers develop around the time we hit puberty, and from what I’ve been told, they sort of dwindle away as we reach adulthood. My protector is Mr. Khan. Though I hated him when we first met at Beaconsfield, I now can’t imagine my life without him. He is kind of a father figure to me. Jade and I lost our dad to cancer when we were just little. Mom developed lupus shortly after that, and then Jade disappeared. So life was pretty tough, to say the least. Mr. Khan means a lot to me. Not only does he look out for me, he challenges me. I’m basically a better person now because of him. And, as crazy as it sounds, we Seers are tasked with saving the world from demons, climate change, and other nasties like corrupt politicians. We don’t have powers in the superhero sense, but we can read minds and have the strength and speed of elite athletes. The bond Jade and I have as twins even allowed me to travel to the Place-in-Between nearly two years ago to bring her back. Oh, I forgot to mention the Place-in-Between. It’s basically a reflection of London, England, that exists on a lower plane. Demons and lost souls populate the Place-in-Between, where they relive the most violent and bloody periods of the city’s history. Apparently, all of this apocalyptic stuff, according to some obscure Dead Sea Scroll, is supposed to come to a head really soon in a Final Battle between good and evil, light and darkness. I guess saving humanity is sort of on our shoulders — no pressure.

On top of all of that, I’m kind of wheeling with an angel. Yeah, that’s right. His name is Raphael and he’s not just any angel, but an Archangel, and he can heal people. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Things are kind of weird between us at times because he disappears when I feel like I really need him around. Totally annoying, obviously. I can’t stay angry with him for long, though, and earlier today he healed Lily, my friend and fellow Seer, and then put himself at risk with London’s terrorism squad so that we wouldn’t be caught. Apparently, everyone in the UK is microchipped for identification, and since Lily, her sister Cassandra, and I are all from Toronto and don’t have microchips, we’ll be arrested if we’re scanned. And that’s not good, because we’re currently wanted as terrorists. We’re the prime suspects in a terrorist attack on Toronto’s water supply. The thing is, we’re innocent (you’re just going to have to believe me on this one) and being framed by the city’s mayor, Sandra Smith.

At the moment, Lily, Cassandra, and I are being hidden in a safe house in London (the real London, in 2032) by members of the group called the CCT and some Protectors. The official line is that CCT is a terrorist group — that’s according to many of the world’s governments. But the other side of the story is that they’re not responsible for any of the atrocities being pinned on them; rather, they want to help support the world as it transitions during this time of extreme change and ensure social justice prevails. It’s a tall order because I know some governments, most notably Toronto’s, are pretty corrupt. I’m choosing to believe the latter explanation for the CCT at the moment, especially as they seem to be offering us sanctuary.

Which brings me back to right now. The three of us are in London because we got split up from the others — Amara and Jade — when we transitioned from the Place-in-Between. That’s another one of our abilities: we’re able to travel to the Place-in-Between. We can’t stay there long, though, as being on that plane seems to drain us of our energy. I actually think it’s draining our life force because we’re travelling to a place inhabited by the dead. We had to go back to return Solomon’s Ring, this ring that allows humans to control demons, to the Roman wall in London. It was Jade’s first time back to the Place-in-Between since we rescued her from there, and things got really weird. First off, there was this guy down there who was about our age, and somehow Jade knew him. Not only did she know him, she lied to me about knowing him. I don’t think he was a lost soul. And he definitely wasn’t a Seer. Which means he would have to be a supernatural being of some kind. My gut tells me he’s not one of the good kind. But I’m hoping I’m wrong about that.

I’ve got to go. The others will be wondering what I’ve been doing in the bathroom for this long. I guess the real reason I’ve written all of this down is not only to let people know what’s happening in our world — I mean, what’s really happening — but also to say that I feel scared. Really scared. It’s not something I can really express to anyone, mainly because I’m the Chosen One.

And I’m not just scared for me. I’m scared for all of us. For the whole human race.

With love and in solidarity,
Jasmine Guzman

Excerpt from Darkness Rising by Mary Jennifer Payne © 2019. All rights reserved. Published by Dundurn Press Limited.

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Thank you to Dundurn Press for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

Review | Bringing Down the Duke, Evie Dunmore

BringingDownTheDukeBringing Down the Duke is a steamy historical romance about a suffragette / Oxford student struggling to make ends meet and a duke who agrees to support the Tory agenda (including suppressing the women’s vote) in exchange for the Queen giving him back his ancestral estate. It’s a fun read overall, with a bit of a Pride and Prejudice feel, as the chemistry between Annabelle and Sebastian is very much rooted in a meeting of their minds. The attraction between them is undeniable, as is the differences in their social strata, and both understand from the beginning that, as a duke, the best Sebastian can offer Annabelle is a place as his mistress. (Fortunately, unlike Darcy, he’s never mean about it; rather, they both have an honest conversation about the realities of where anything between them could lead.)

Both Annabelle and Sebastian are complex, multi-layered characters. I love Sebastian’s struggle to uphold his family name, and I love Annabelle’s struggle to break out of the mold that her financial situation imposes upon her. Both have been burned in love before, and this influences how they approach each other, both equally cognizant of the attraction between them yet also wary of once again making the wrong decision in romance.

I love how Dunmore portrays the delicate balance Annabelle must maintain in her society. She’s super smart — because of the circumstances of her scholarship, also obligated to participate in suffragette gatherings, and because of her intelligence, she ends up taking a leadership role in the cause. At the same time, she’s not of the upper class, and must therefore talk to socialites with deference. There’s a wonderful scene where a wealthy man, upon learning that Annabelle is a suffragette, baits her at a dinner party by citing a woman writer who says that women’s brains are suited for homemaking and cannot be trusted for weightier subjects like politics. When he demands to know what Annabelle thinks, she responds that if women’s brains are not to be trusted, then why should anyone trust this writer? She says it mildly enough that it’s not an outright insult, but her point is also so accurate that the man is humiliated. I love that Annabelle is fiery enough to answer back, but also cognizant enough of her own social station to temper her emotions.

I also love how honest Annabelle and Sebastian are with each other. Despite differences in their opinions, and differences in their social standings, they have wonderfully frank conversations about politics, family and the potential futures for their relationship. It’s like they can be most fully themselves with each other, and that to me is always the necessary ingredient for a successful happily ever after.

Overall, this is a fun, flirty book full of witty banter and genteel elements of wealth in the Victorian era. It’s the first in a series, and given how much I liked meeting the other women in Annabelle’s suffragette circle, I look forward to future novels.


Thank you Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Review | Our Wayward Fate, Gloria Chao

Our_Wayward_Fate_CoverOur Wayward Fate is a much angrier, more frustrated, book than Gloria Chao’s earlier novel American PandaIts protagonist Ali Chu, the only Asian-American student in her mostly white school, has lived her entire life dealing with racist microaggressions — and, quite frankly, horrifically overt aggressions — from teachers and friends. The emotional toll this takes on Ali practically pulses off the page. We can feel her seethe as she smiles silently at another racist joke. We can sense her shame as she prepares a PB&J sandwich for lunch, because her classmates think congee is ‘gross.’ It’s difficult to read at times, but important, and one wonders how much of this behaviour (even from teachers who should behave better!) goes unchallenged across North America.

Even Ali’s conflict with her mother, also a major plot point in American Panda, feels more fraught here. Whereas Mei’s mother was hyper-critical, Ali’s mother outright keeps a major secret from a daughter, one that potentially has a major impact on Ali’s future. While her actions are definitely wrong, I did find the mother a sympathetic figure, and couldn’t quite work up as much righteous outrage as Ali and her friends did upon finding out. I love the scenes where we learn a bit more about Ali’s mother’s history, how she felt about the choices she made, how she dealt with the racism she experienced in America, and how her own experiences led to the decisions she made about Ali’s future. I felt for her, and while I understand the perspective the narrator took, I wish Ali’s mother had been treated with a bit more sympathy.

There is a romance — between Ali and new student / fellow Taiwanese-American Chase Yu — but it feels almost secondary to the story. There are some cute moments — I love the flirting over kung fu (where their idea of a dream date involves a rooftop sparring session), and their text messages are filled with puns about their names (which honestly got old for me pretty quickly, but I can imagine a couple in love getting giddy over teasing each other that way). There’s also an angsty conflict — Chase’s family has a troubled history, and Ali’s mother doesn’t approve of the relationship.

But overall, Ali and Chase’s connection felt less like teenagers in love and more like a pair of Taiwanese-American teenagers finally finding someone who helps them be more fully themselves. Unlike Ali, who had learned to sublimate her Taiwanese background in order to fit in, Chase enters the school utterly refusing to follow suit. He calls out racist behaviour in the classroom, advocates for classmates to pronounce Ali’s name properly (‘Āh-lěe’, after a mountain in Taiwan, rather than the more Americanized ‘Allie’), and eats Chinese food with chopsticks in the cafeteria. With his friendship and support, Ali becomes braver about standing up for herself and for who she is, and while it’s disheartening to see the responses of some of her so-called friends, it’s thrilling to see Ali grow.

I personally preferred the more light-hearted American Panda, probably because I related more to Mei than I did to Ali. But I think a lot of Ali’s experiences at school will resonate with Asian-American teens. I hope those teens find this book, and, like Ali, understand that their voices matter.


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.