Monday, May 15, 2017

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson, 2017

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On her eighteenth birthday, Princess Evelayn of Eadrolan, 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 when 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 sons, Evelayn will quickly have to come into her ability to shapeshift, and rely on the alluring Lord Tanvir. But not everyone is what they seem, and the balance between the Light and Dark comes at a steep price.

(320 pages)

Basically: I love everything to do with Swan Lake. Always have, always will. So when Dark Breaks the Dawn showed up on my doorstep with a swan on the cover and a reference to Swan Lake in the cover letter, I was thrilled.

And I was right to be. I loved seeing the old familiar tale being told in an entirely new light. I may just be imagining it, but I also sensed hints of Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl and even Gail Carson Levin's The Two Princesses of Bamarre in the story as well, and it was very cool to see how the author also made the story her own. The magic system is very intriguing and original, with a balance of magic between the "Light" and "Dark" kingdoms. The monarchs are kind of like the lodestones for the magic of their kingdoms, channeling the power given to them by the ancient tree of magic and into all of their people. When they die, their successor must go through a ritual of claiming all the magic within a few days or otherwise they lose all of their power and the new monarch must make a long trek to the tree to somehow get the magic back and restore the balance between the two kingdoms.

Very intriguing, isn't it? I love it, this whole magic system and the world Larson has created for the old tale. What I don't love quite so much boils down to, well, the romance. I feel like there are so many amazing ways the story could have gone, so many aspects of the world-building it could have focused on or side plots it could have included, but instead we spend a significant amount of time watching Evelayn and her insta-love romance interest. Don't get me wrong, Tanvir seems like a nice enough character (and more principled than a lot of love interests!), but I just didn't really . . . well, care about his attachment to Evelayn. Whenever they had a romance scene, I would read through it quickly to get back to the good stuff. Evelayn's awesome best friend Ceren more than made up for the gooey stuff with Tanvir, though, so everything's good.

Except for that ending. The ending is not good. Why? Because it really gets into the juicy Swan Lake stuff . . . and then it's over! I can't wait to see what happens in the second book of the duology!

Disclaimer: I received an unsolicited complementary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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