Dawnbringer by Samantha Henderson
Posted by travizzt on July 2, 2011
Dawnbringer is a stand-alone novel set in the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. This is Samantha Henderson’s second full length novel, her first is titled Heaven’s Bones and is set in the Ravenloft setting of Dungeons and Dragons. She has written a vast amount of short fiction, along with a vast amount of poems published in various anthologies, collections, and magazines. Dawnbringer was released May 2011 and is published by Wizards of the Coast, LLC.
After two pirates, Gareth Jadaren and Ivor Beguine, escape the pirate life, they sought out to make a name for themselves as merchants. However before they escaped, a raid on a merchant ship left Gareth with an unusual piece of jewelry. After trying to find out if it was magical, a woman named Jandi, tries to warn them that the item is powerful and other forces my try to take it. The trio, Jandi joining the two, head out and arrive at a spot of land that Gareth claims as his own, with the help of Jandi and the mysterious jewelry. However, before the trio can celebrate, tragedy strikes. Centuries pass by and the Beguine family and Jadaren family are bitter rivals, ever since that tragic day. Thankfully, a compromise has been made with a marriage between the houses to try to put a stop to the hatred. But hatred runs deep and the families turn to two deva protectors, Lakini and Lusk, to help ensure no harm comes from the union. Unfortunately, hate can even twist angelic beings.
1) Flow. Dawnbringer has a horrible problem with its flow and how the story is told. There are a lot of contributing factors to this problem, but it’s mostly due to the sudden spurts of background and description. Dawnbringer felt like a story that had no exact direction until well into the novel. Aside from the short story at the beginning of the novel and the few chapters towards the end of the novel, most of the story has this choppy, disorganized feel to it. There are long stretches of description that don’t really add to the overall story, but instead seem to pad it out. These stretches come up out of nowhere and interrupts the story, giving it that choppy, disorganized feeling. It’s understandable to give some description of various locations, but these bits do last too long and actually feel like an interruption. The choppy feeling extends past these interruptions as well. Every once in a while, there’s a scene that happens either forward or backward in time, be it in a flashback or having some event expanded upon. While these scenes don’t have that much impact on the flow, they do add to this choppy feeling, and at some points it felt incomplete. These problems make Dawnbringer somewhat hard to follow.
2) Characters. There are quite a few problems with the characters in Dawnbringer. The two main draws of the story, the devas Lakini and Lusk, were good, but they were the only developed characters. Even so, they were still hard to understand and like. It seemed as though there were a lot of things left unsaid and there was a lot left out that could have helped readers like them more. Still, they were good characters and surprisingly deep when all was said and done. However, everyone else was just figments and hardly anymore than that. Aside from the three characters we meet at the beginning of the book, the rest just never seemed to have that big of an impact. The members of the Beguine family; Kestral, Ciari, Vorsha, Nicol, and Sanwar, never seemed that important. The novel does spend most of its time on this family, but the characters seemed shallow and interchangeable. The two daughters, Ciari and Kestral, didn’t seem different from each other. They were so alike that they were mixed up multiple times throughout the story. There was even a time were I thought that Ciari, the older daughter, was the one that was going to be married, even though I knew it was Kestral. The father of the family, Nicol, was barely present and didn’t have impact on the story. With Vorsha, the wife, and Sanwar, the uncle, they were a bit more complex, but still didn’t seem to really be there. The other family, was non-existent except for the soon-to-be husband, Arna. But he only was present for a chapter and was written off and forgotten. The main problem with the characters is that, while there were interesting concepts, none of them felt fully developed. It was hard to remember who was who, because they all acted alike, aside from a few characters. It didn’t help that throughout the story, a lot of characters seemed to be other characters. It could have been simple editing mistakes, but more often than not, I found myself wondering if this character was saying this or if it was that character. The majority of Dawnbringer‘s characters were not developed, and not unique enough to tell apart.
1) Beginning. Dawnbringer starts out with a short story setting up the actual story. The beginning shows what happened to cause this rivalry. However, when first reading Dawnbringer, it is odd to have this kind of story start a novel about rival houses. The characters were interesting and were developed. They were likable and actually had personalities. The story was direct and to the point, there wasn’t any useless padding or descriptions that took up too much time. The beginning of Dawnbringer was a good way to introduce the basic elements of story along with having a nice short story element to it.
2) Dark. Dawnbringer had a lot of dark elements and disturbing things happen that weren’t expected. It’s one of the darker Forgotten Realms novels that have been released. Some of the images were graphic and disturbing. For example, the two devas come across some halflings late in the story, and what they see is just wrong. It was gory and disturbing. Then there are a few things that happen later that will leave you speechless. Also, Dawnbringer is incredibly adult in some of the situations that happen. It’s something totally unexpected. Dawnbringer is one of the darker, more adult oriented, and more disturbing Forgotten Realms novels to date with some of the disturbing images.
1) Time Jumps. There are quite a few time jumps throughout this novel. It does make it hard to follow and relate to the characters, because they are suddenly gone and you don’t really get the chance to really like them.
2) Romeo and Juliet. When reading the back of Dawnbringer, it seems like it does have connections to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. These connections are just on the surface, but the story as the whole barely has anything to do with Romeo and Juliet.
3) Cover Art. Dawnbringer‘s cover art is different, but generic. The colors are bright and really eye catching, but everything else is generic and unoriginal. The two faces on the cover look just unoriginal and the whole premise of the cover has that ‘overdone’ look to it. It’s not really unique, but it is different from the past few recent Forgotten Realms releases.
Dawnbringer has quite a few problems that really hamper the story, starting with how the story flows. It’s choppy and is interrupted by descriptions and flashbacks, making it hard to follow what was going on. The characters also had a problem. They weren’t distinctive enough to really be memorable, aside from a few characters. There were times when some characters blended into the other ones, and were mixed up. Aside from that, Dawnbringer had quite few things going for it. The beginning was a nice way to set up the problems that happen later in the story, and it felt like an included short story. In fact, the whole novel feels like it’s just a short story that someone wanted to make longer. Also, there’s a lot of dark, twisted, and disturbing images and things that happen in the story that weren’t expected. It’s seriously one of the more darker Forgotten Realms novels that have been recently released. Dawnbringer is one of those story’s that a die-hard Forgotten Realm fan would love, but would leave most newcomers in the dark.