Book Review: Dark Breaks the Dawn, a Romantic YA Read

I have to apologize. A couple of days ago, in this post, I said that Sara B. Larson’s book Dark Breaks the Dawn was all about power. I was wrong. While most of the story’s direct conflict revolves around the main character’s struggles to defeat the despotic ruler of a neighboring kingdom, it is actually the romance that develops between the main character and a member of her court that becomes the true underpinning of the book, making it more of a romance than anything. That being said, though, the ending brings the theme back around solidly to power, so if you like speculative books with both romance and battles, you’ll like Dark Breaks the Dawn.

It’s important for me to determine what genre a book is so that I read it with the right expectations. If one reads an adult contemporary thriller with the expectation that it’ll have the magic of a fantasy romance, for instance, one will be disappointed, but not by the fault of the book. I mentioned this in this post about Jenna Welch’s book Love and GelatoIf one reads Dark Breaks the Dawn knowing it’s mostly a romance, then one won’t be disappointed by the lack of detailed battle scenes.

What Dark Breaks the Dawn is About

Most books about queens and kings and magic that I’ve read don’t have much romance in them because the assumption or rule is that monarchs have to marry to form alliances, not for love. That rule is not brought up in this book, presumably because both of the main character Queen Evelayn’s parents were killed in battle trying to fight the aforementioned despotic ruler, and no one else cares who she marries. The young queen’s main conflict is learning to wield the power that only she has, and that she just came into, in time to defeat ruler Bayne, and sort out whether the young lord chosen to help train her likes her for herself or is being compelled to. She thinks he might be wooing her to force a wedding and the production of an heir who can carry on the line of power should she fail.

Who Might Like This Book, And Why

In that this romance is the focus of the book, and the queen is only 18, that makes this a YA speculative book, putting it in the same category as books like Cinder by Marissa Mayer, Unearthed by Amie Kaufman, and Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater. It has the slightly quicker pacing of a YA book, as well as a coming-into-one’s-own feeling, and characters who mature in their understandings and misunderstandings of what truly wielding power, both political and magical, means. Evelayne is less of a fighter than Alexa Hollen, the main character of Larson’s Defy series, which I really enjoyed, but she acts with resolve and benevolence, still making her worthy of respect as a main character and figment of Larson’s imagination.

But…

So, young adults, and adults who consider themselves to be young-at-heart (like me), will like this book…unless they don’t like cliffhanger endings, because this book has one. What is it with the cliffhanger endings? I’ve read a string of them lately, unwittingly, and I’m bugged! I hate cliffhanger endings!

No sex, violence, or profanity. Six stars out of ten. I bought and listened to this book on Audible, where it was narrated by Amy Schiels. Amy has a gentle Scottish brogue that really fits the story, and heightened my enjoyment of it.

 

Book Reviews: Willowkeep and Winner’s Curse

I read three books this past week, and wrote the first 4,000 words of another one of mine.  So, forgive me if I review more than one book in this post: Willowkeep by Julie Daines and Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

What Is Willowkeep About?

Willowkeep

It’s a Regency romance about a young woman who inherits a large estate, which pulls her and her little sister out of poverty. At the estate, she meets its steward, a young man. He helps her transition into her new role, and she grows to care for him, and he for her. But they’re restrained by their disparate situations, his being worse than hers was. Worse, they’re besieged by those who plot to get Charlotte’s newfound fortune.

In some ways, Willowkeep is a typical Regency romance, showing people fighting against the societal rules of the time. But in more important ways, it is not typical. The setting, for instance, includes Charlotte’s hometown of Hull.  It is a harsh place, not only because of the trade upon which it is based (fishing), but because of the things that happened to Charlotte’s parents and siblings there. The depictions of those events give the setting and story more depth, even a darker element, than many other modern-published Regency books.

More importantly, though, the characters of Charlotte and Henry seemed particularly fresh to me. Charlotte never loses her cockney accent and never really tries to adopt the protocols of elite society. These omissions are not done out of any kind of spite; they just seem to be a natural effect of her general naivete and fierce love for her sister, who is developmentally disabled. Henry shows himself to be more than a proper steward when he develops a special knack for helping Charlotte’s sister, which ends up playing a crucial part in transitioning the plot from routine Regency to a sophisticated, emotion-driven saga. It is for that reason that I found this book to be a delight.

What’s The Deal?

Kindle copies of Willowkeep are available on Amazon for $4.99.

Who Would Like Willowkeep, And Why?

Anyone who likes Jane Austen’s works or those of the Bronte sisters, as will those who enjoyed Havencross, also by Julie Daines, or Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.

What Is Winner’s Curse About?

Winner's Curse coverAfter Willowkeep, I immediately started Winner’s Curse, and finished it within a couple of days. It was quite different from Willowkeep, but I loved it as well. It is a speculative fiction novel based on the purchase of a slave by the main character, Kestrel, and the development of an unexpected, ill-fated relationship between her and the slave. Though it “ended” with a total cliffhanger, it was beautifully-written, well-imagined, and intense. That’s one of my favorite words to use when describing books. I love for them to be intense.

If you’re thinking of reading this book, be warned: don’t buy or check it out without also checking out or buying its sequels Winner’s Crime and Winner’s Kiss because the story doesn’t end at the end of book one. And you’ll want to read this one all the way through, as I have.

Now, I’m reading Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s Regency magic. It’s Regency romance and magic–two elements that I’ve never seen combined in one book before! I’m enjoying it very much, and can’t wait to finish it and tell you about it.

What’s The Deal?

You can get a like-new used copy for $3.79 through Thriftbooks.com.

Who Would Like Winner’s Curse, And Why?

This is YA speculative, meaning the main character is teenager-ish, so I would compare it to books like Traitorborn by Amy Bartol or Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson. It’s got romance and intrigue. Awesome, right? By the way, Dark Breaks the Dawn is available for $3.99 from Thriftbooks.com. It’s sequel just came out in May.

 

What books have you been reading or writing this week? Tell me about them!