The Light We Lost - Book Review

Murder mystery meets apocalypse in this riveting thriller.

I've read a lot of post-apocalyptic stories, but The Light We Lost by Kyla Stone (book one in the Lost Light series) was refreshingly different. It asks the question: What if you had to solve a murder while the world is collapsing around you? The story is a unique blend of genres, combining a police procedural with an apocalypse and then topping it all off with a cast of engaging characters.

Book Description:

When all lights fail, will you survive?
A catastrophic solar flare strikes Earth, plunging half the planet into darkness. Amid the chaos, Shiloh Easton awakens to a nightmare: a dead body beside her, her brother missing, and no recollection of what happened.

As she desperately searches for her brother, a killer is hot on her trail, determined to silence the only witness to the brutal crime.

Meanwhile, Undersheriff Jackson Cross races against time to catch the killer and save an innocent girl. But the more he uncovers, the deeper he is drawn into a dangerous darkness that threatens to consume him.

With law and order crumbling around him, Jackson's only hope may lie with Eli Pope, a ruthless ex-convict just released from prison. But Eli has a score to settle—he's hellbent on vengeance against the very sheriff who put him behind bars.

With the world on the brink of destruction, the struggle to survive is only the beginning.

I'll confess, the story almost lost me in the first chapter. Thirteen-year-old Shiloh Easton wakes up next to her murdered grandfather, unable to remember what happened before she blacked out. She immediately grabs her crossbow and survival supplies and bolts off into the forest, and I wondered if I'd accidentally picked up a YA novel.

(Nothing against YA, by the way—I've really enjoyed some YA series. A crossbow-toting survivalist teenager just seemed a bit over-the-top for what I thought was a grounded post-apocalyptic tale.)

I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because Shiloh turned out to be a wholly endearing character. She's tough and resourceful, but never superhumanly so. Apart from her wilderness skills (which do fit her background, once it's revealed), she comes across as a believable teenager. Even her flight into the forest turns out to be more a panicked impulse than a rehearsed prepper bug-out. She's just a traumatized girl with trust issues, determined to find out what happened to her grandfather and her missing brother.

Shiloh is one of four POV characters in the novel. Another is her estranged aunt, Lena, who decides to return home after learning that her niece and nephew are missing. A search-and-rescue tech with an awesome dog, Lena can hold her own in a crisis. She's also an insulin-dependent diabetic, which presents a whole new host of challenges in the middle of an apocalypse. I liked Lena, but she spent a big chunk of the book on her solo road trip, disconnected from the other characters and main storyline.

The third main character is Eli Pope. Fresh out of prison (on a technicality) for a murder he didn't commit, Eli returns home to a close-knit town that's convinced he's guilty. He's also an elite ex-soldier. It may be an overused trope in these kinds of stories, but at least it's not his sole defining characteristic.

Last but not least is Undersheriff Jackson Cross, a close friend of Shiloh's mother (Lily, who died years ago) and Eli's former BFF. With his strong sense of duty and righteousness, Jackson easily could have become a Dudley Do-Right type. Instead, a mix of insecurity, family drama, and past regrets makes him a well-rounded, engaging character.

The web of connections between the characters enriches the story, but it's Grandpa Easton's murder that brings it all together. As massive solar flares start disrupting the power grid, Jackson has to run the investigation without most of the modern conveniences. Internet crime databases? Down. The lab? Overwhelmed. Backup? Probably miles away and busy—if the radio doesn't flake out. It all gives the story an old-fashioned detective vibe.

One can wonder if focusing on one murder while the world falls apart around him is really the best use of Jackson's time, but the obsession fits his character.

The slow-burn apocalypse means that the novel lacks a lot of the usual post-apocalyptic trappings, and I'm not normally a fan of police procedurals. But the combination of the two worked for me, and I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.


  • Princess Power: 5 Stars
  • Overall: 5 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Pass

Learn about my Ratings System.

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Mom. Writer. Gamer. Geek.
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