Genre Literary Fiction Reviews Thriller

A Single Light by Tosca Lee

17 September 2019
A Single Light Book Cover A Single Light
Tosca Lee
Howard Books
September 17, 2019

In this gripping sequel to The Line Between, which New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava calls “everything you want in a thriller,” cult escapee Wynter Roth and ex-soldier Chase Miller emerge from their bunker to find a country ravaged by disease, and Wynter is the only one who can save it. Six months after vanishing into an underground silo with sixty others, Wynter and Chase emerge to find the area abandoned. There is no sign of Noah and the rest of the group that was supposed to greet them when they emerged—the same people Wynter was counting on to help her locate the IV antibiotics her gravely ill friend, Julie, needs in order to live. As the clock ticks down on Julie’s life, Wynter and Chase embark on a desperate search for medicine and answers. But what they find is not a nation on the cusp of recovery thanks to the promising new vaccine Wynter herself had a hand in creating, but one decimated by disease. What happened while they were underground? With food and water in limited supply and their own survival in question, Chase and Wynter must venture further and further from the silo. Aided by an enigmatic mute named Otto, they come face-to-face with a society radically changed by global pandemic, where communities scrabble to survive under rogue leaders and cities are war zones. As hope fades by the hour and Wynter learns the terrible truth of the last six months, she is called upon once again to help save the nation she no longer recognizes—a place so dark she’s no longer sure it can even survive. Fast-paced and taut, A Single Light is a breathless thriller of nonstop suspense about the risks of living in a world outside the safe confines of our closely-held beliefs and the relationships and lives that inspire us.

Tosca Lee and her team behind her, have honored me again. The team sent me an advanced reader copy through NetGalley of “A Single Light,” and I want to take a moment to thank everyone involved for their generosity; it means a lot to receive such a treat.

“A Single Light” is the sequel to “The Line Between” that I reviewed earlier this year. The story is a dystopian fiction set in the not-too-distant future. Readers have a real sense of what happens to people pushed to the brink of discomfort and chaos, and how they deal with it. Tosca spoiled me like an eight-year-old locked in a toy store, with a sequel that is worthy of the initial outing in this series.

I am heading into my first impressions I have for “A Single Light.” the great news is that it grabs you as the first book does. I found that the recap of the previous book perfectly executed. Sometimes when you get to the second book, there is this giant info dump that explains what the first book was about, in case you missed reading it. I always have felt info dump summaries on previous books are a pain. The point of the first book is to read it. Thankfully Tosca fully embraces that and manages to blend in this beautiful way to briefly summarize the first book, in some well-worked and straightforward exposition for the continuation. Additionally, she adds in color of characters and setting that are the foundation of this story and had me hooked immediately.

As I often am asked, “Do I need to read the first book to understand the second,” and the answer is, no. But that said, why? The series is outstanding, and though both books could be one-off books on their own, I can say it’s better when you read them in order.

I am heading into the critiquing portion of my review, and I start in the category of “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation.” In this case, my specific nit-pick is from “Story Structure,” and it has to do with “asked” versus “said.” I’m not a reviewer who picks on an author for using “said” for declarative statements, and I don’t think that should take away from a book. I am, however, someone who will notice if a character is asking a question, and the writer puts the words “Said” after the characters name. If someone asks a problem, it should be “Steven asked” or if they say something, it should be “Steven said” and not the reverse. I found several examples, especially in the second act, where dialogue had questions asked, and the character was declaring them not asking them.

Now I move into the portion of the review where I let you all know what I truly enjoyed about “A Single Light.” In my category of “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation,” I am going from the “Foundation” portion of my category, and I’m happy with how the pacing and tension move in the book. The book proceeds to many locations with the character but never does a reader feel dizzy from the changes where scenes take place. Though much is going on and it is intense, the good news is that it’s paced well enough to maximize the tension and release that come with the story. I am so pleased with how well the story laid out because I loved that new characters were introduced and given proper care to the narrative. Tosca gave every one of them attention even when some characters weren’t around for a long time or moved to another area. This foundation work that Tosca did in the story was wonderful because of how much work she put into it. The reader can feel everything in the immersion due to the richness of the background and world we are transported to.

My next glowing praise goes to the “Whole Story” category, and that is explicitly in both the overall series story and the whole story of “A Single Light.” Tosca did a fantastic job creating a book that is self-encapsulated with the narrative and story structure. It reads as five acts, and in the five acts, every bit of it has the proper beginning, middle and ending. Transitions merge well, and the secondary story is thrilling in the horror of the circumstances at the end. But, there is more to this glowing praise, because Tosca also kept the main structure of her overall series story going as well. Things that were important in the first book still are essential in the second book. The overall story felt a continuation that made it more of the middle act or perhaps second act in what is to come. I felt the ending was gripping, both to this second encapsulated story, and the overall story. If the series stops here, I’m satisfied as a reader that I read a great tale. If however, the series continues, as I hope it does, I will be ready for more later. It’s rare to read series stories that can do what Tosca did, and I think it needs to be called out.

Next, I want to take a moment to bask in the beauty that is the Kindle edition of “A Single Light.” Unlike “The Thin Line” where I was hitting “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation” due to the issues with the spacing, that was not the case here. Paragraph spacing on Kindle on default was beautiful to read. The margins are perfect, the spelling and grammar are excellent, and the overall presentation with the actual text is exceptional. My praise here is a change from the critique I found in “The Thin Line,” as I mentioned, and I am happy to see it. I love books that do not hurt my eyes with eyestrain or large walls of text, and this one did not hurt my eyes.

My last significant praise goes to character growth. I never felt that any character was forgotten or secondary. Though we meet new characters and say goodbye to others, the overall story takes these characters to new perspectives and places they had been. We learn a lot about how each character handles stress and can see the growth of even background characters as well as the primary ones. Tosca took us on a journey not only of places, but people, and we learn so much about how people handle unimaginable challenges. Everyone is different, and every character has a moment. I especially loved that the very stoic secretary character from the last book, even she was given a bump of some growth, and I was happy to see it.

Overall, “A Single Light” is a beautiful story, that takes us through some horrible scenarios and gives us an idea that anyone can change. People can become who they are in any situation, and it is in diversity; we can see who is or is not up for the challenge. I enjoyed this book, and if you love dystopian fiction, you likely will too.


Upon all of my scoring and work here, I’m giving “A Single Light” a score of 95/100 which is a Five Star Review on Goodreads and Amazon. Pick this up on September 17, 2019. It is worth it, and the hype is real!

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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