A review by tachyondecay
Destroyer of Light by Jennifer Marie Brissett

challenging dark sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


Sometimes you need some science fiction that’s just weird. That gets you to your bones. Jennifer Marie Brissett brings that energy to Destroyer of Light. With shades of the Oankali from Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy as well as Emma Newman’s Planetfall, this novel is about people on the brink. There’s ineffable aliens, unrepentant bad guys, and reluctant allies. Although the characterization is messier than I would like, I can’t deny that Destroyer of Light carries within it the seeds of a compelling story.

Brissett tells the story concurrently across three different time periods that are set in Dawn, Dusk, and Night on a planet tidally locked to its star. The remnants of humanity have settled here after fleeing an Earth being destroyed by the Kresge—and now some of the Kresge live among them, while the rest exist menacingly out beyond the stars. Not quite living on sufferance yet certainly lacking true independence, humanity seems diminished, scrabbling to survive. Into this vacuum of purpose has leached all our sins: wars over resources, sexual violence, posturing, cultural nihilism and xenophobia. It’s cyberpunk mixed with Afrofuturism mixed with New Wave weirdness, and I’m here for that.

The idea that the Kresge are four-dimensional beings and experience spacetime differently from us is a neat one. Brissett plays with it admirably throughout the book, though I feel like the full implications are never truly explored as deeply as I could have hoped. Nevertheless, it provides a good framework for the evolution of Cora, who isn’t always our protagonist but is certainly the main character. My main complaint about Cora—indeed about the plot itself—is that she doesn’t seem to have much agency. Such is a problem with a book with beings who exist outside of time—foreshadowing blurs into prophecy blurs into determinism. It feels like her fate was predetermined, and she sleepwalks towards the finale.

That isn’t to say that the characters don’t have compelling features to them. Cora’s mother is so fierce in her loyalty to her daughter, the twins in their moral dedication to saving kids who are like them—with humanity at the brink, Brissett shows us some of the worst examples our species has to offer but also the best.

In many ways, this is a story that I think would actually work better as a TV series or movie. It deserves the richness that set design and special effects can provide (at least, my aphantasic imagination cannot). In literary form, the story always seems to be bursting at the seams, confined by conventions of Western storytelling that don’t always work with how and when it’s trying to function.

So there are things about this novel that worked for me, and there’s a lot that didn’t. I liked it well enough to get through it, but I won’t be jumping at the chance to return to this universe any time soon. Brissett is a powerful storyteller and a skilled writer—yet these two aspects seem as often in conflict as they are in harmony.

Originally posted at Kara.Reviews.