Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson
Published by Scholastic, May 30, 2017. Jacketed hardcover of 320 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 12 and up, grades 7 and up. Also available as an ebook and an audio book.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: With red thorns surrounding it on the left and right, a crown that resembles a swan, with a violet jem at its front, begins to cover the title of the book. The author’s name is just below the title. An effective cover that combines a crown and a swan. I like this. The jacket art is by Chris Gibbs, with the jacket designed by Elizabeth B. Parisi. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the inside front cover: “After a thousand years of peace, the battle between Light and Dark has resumed. On her eighteenth birthday, Princess Evelayn of Éadrolan, the Light Kingdom, can finally access the full range of her magical powers. The light looks brighter, the air is sharper, and the energy she can draw while fighting feels almost limitless. But while her mother, the queen, remains busy at the war front, in the Dark Kingdom of Dorjhalon, the corrupt king is plotting. King Bain wants control of both kingdoms, and his plan will fling Evelayn onto the throne much sooner than she expected. In order to defeat Bain and his two sons, Evelayn will quickly have to come into her ability to shape-shift, and rely on the alluring, but mysterious Lord Tanvir. Not everyone is what they seem, and balance between the Light and the Dark comes at a steep price. In the first book of a remarkable new duology, Sara B. Larson sets the stage for her reimagining of Swan Lake — a lush, haunting romance packed with betrayal, intrigue, and magic.” I know nothing about the ballet and hope that doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the story. Overall grade: B
The characters: Evelayn begins the book using her new ability, as it is her birthday, to channel the power of the sun into a powerful energy blast. Her power increases significantly as the book progresses. She also should have the ability to shape shift, but it does not come to her as quickly. She would like to have a life free of royal responsibilities, but she has been raised by her mother, Queen Ilaria, to do the right thing. Her mother cares for her greatly, but she is always needed on the front line to defend the kingdom. Lord Tanvir is new to kingdom, and new to Evelayn, who is instantly attracted to the young man, and he to her. He creates feelings within her she’s not felt before and they complicate her life when she has to ascend the throne early. The villain of the novel is King Bain who is instantly shown to be a killer when he kills a general who disagrees with him in his war room. He treats his sons, Lothar and Lorcan, terribly, forcing them to fight one another with knives for his amusement. Lothar is much more suited to battle than the bookish Lorcan, but this may prove to be an advantage for the latter. These are the main characters of the novel, though there are others who support their respective sides during the conflicts. Initially, Evelayn was the typical rebel princess who did what one would expect of a royal who’s not comfortable with his or her position. Author Larson changes her slowly into a capable who ruler who must balance her kingdom and her heart — the character was very strong and sympathetic. Tanvir was an excellent character because he left the reader always wondering if he had an ulterior motive for wooing Evelayn; a question that’s not answered until just before the climax. The villains are vicious, with the reveal of the true villain by the end of the book particularly merciless. Overall grade: A
The settings: The expected settings of the forest, including a lake, and the castles of the respective sides make up the settings of this book. All are described well, with the forest being particularly good. Overall grade: A
The action: There’s not much action in this book until the last third of the novel. The individual that Evelayn needs to get an item from is thrilling, because of its deadly possibilities, the battle with Bain good, and the last chapter a jaw dropper. It takes a while to get there, but when it arrives it’s good. Overall grade: B
The conclusion: I avoid reading all press material until I’m done with a book, so discovering that this book had no conclusion was frustrating. Seeing that it was stated as being so in the premise lessened my disappointment. This is the perfect cliffhanger, as it left me wanting Larsen to explain what happens next to Evelayn. As long as reader knows this going into the book, there shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Overall grade: B+
The final line: A princess becomes a queen and has to place her people before her heart. I was so taken by the lead character, the cliffhanger left me disappointed. However, I do want to read the concluding book as soon as it’s published. Overall grade: A-