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Reviewed by Dan M. Kalin for Readers' Favorite
Reno Ursal has produced a rare type of tale with Enlightenment, one with a fictional story line told over historical details which teach the reader things they didn't previously know. The story is told mostly from the perspective of two people; Dorothy Dizon, a high school senior soon to graduate, and Adrian Rosario, the mysterious new student from the Philippines who is much more than he appears. Drawn inexorably to Adrian and his first-hand knowledge of their shared Filipino heritage, Dorothy must decide whom she can trust. Other forces want Dorothy for their own purposes and will stop at nothing to attain them. At each stage there are historical and cultural references to explain the antecedents to the coming crisis, putting the entire situation into the larger context of good versus evil.
I found the best parts of the story to be the cultural wrappings Reno Ursal sprinkled so generously throughout the tale. Being able to learn something of Filipino cultural history while reading a tale of the paranormal was a real treat for me. A new (or perhaps an old) version of the vampire legend is told against that backdrop. Enlightenment builds multiple story threads and tension to a crescendo before resolving some of the mysteries presented. The print book is beautifully formatted, with ancient Filipino text and references in the event a reader wants to learn more. The two primary characters are well developed and, by the end of the book, completely familiar to the reader. I'm looking forward to the next installments of the Bathala Series.