If the name Ellen Simpson rings a bell, it’s for a good reason. Ellen is the editor and social media writer for Carmilla, and in addition to taking the intertubes by storm, she has been busy writing her second novel, the very queer and very good The Light of the World.
The novel leans heavily into the world of fantasy while also staying rooted in reality. Smart yet aimless Eva is grieving the loss of her beloved (and tough as nails grandmother) when she begins to unravel a huge mystery about the woman she thought she knew. Eva, who is bisexual, stumbles upon her grandmother Mary’s diaries from the ’20s when she was a girl filled with happiness and hope. How did Mary become the hardened woman Eva grew up knowing? As Eva finds out, Mary often wrote about a relationship with the mysterious Wren, a girl who holds the key to unraveling Mary’s past.
Finding out about her grandmother changes the course of Eva’s life, especially after she meets Olivia, a whip-smart and charismatic woman who works in a specialty bookshop. Discoveries in the diaries lead to even bigger mysteries hidden away in the tunnels under New York’s infrastructure. What once seemed like a mystery of the heart, turns into a much grander tale of magic, good vs evil, and the lengths those involved will go to protect and covet what they desire.
Simpson knocks it out of the park with her sophomore release, imbuing her characters with tremendous spirit and multidimensional arcs. While a hefty read at almost 400 pages, the story is so engaging and the mystery so compelling, it’s a hard one to put down. Four fearless queer women are at the center of this novel, which is an embarrassment of riches in the world of fantasy fiction. The book bounces back and forth between Eva in the present and the entries in Mary’s diary. As someone who is quite fond of period pieces, I loved this meshing of time periods. Mary’s 1920s writings feel just as vibrant and alive as the modern day elements, which is a real tribute to Simpson’s skill as a writer.
While there is romance in The Light of the World, it’s the struggles and stories of Eva, Olivia, Mary and Wren that will capture your heart. Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost Girl and of course, Carmilla, will likely find this book right up their alley. Adventure, sweet lady kisses, magic and mystery await!