Published by Scholastic Press on May 30th 2017
Source: Author Review Copy
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Young Adult
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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.
Dark, intense, and tantalizing, Dark Breaks the Dawn shows us a lush, colorful fantasy world and complex characters with intriguing powers that you can’t get enough of. With Larson’s attention to court politics and character growth, this fantasy brings to light a new world as a vague retelling of Swan Lake. While this book was a quick and fun read (barely 300 pages), I feel like I couldn’t connect to the characters as much as I wanted to. Yet despite that, I will definitely be continuing.
The story starts with Princess Evalyn’s 18th birthday, where her full powers of Light have manifested. In the world, the Light kingdom of Eadrolan and the Dark kingdom of Dorjhalon are going to war with each other. We see the death of Evalyn’s mom, the Queen, early on in the story and the ascension of Evalyn as the leader of her people. I call this fantasy world colorful, not only because of the picturesque setting (imagine the typical fantasy with grand fields and foliage), but also because of the people. We have skin, hair, and eye colors that range throughout the rainbow. Although there’s a “Dark” and “Light” kingdom, people from both sides have varying body tones, which was pretty cool to see. Another aspect of the magic is that the citizens of each kingdom draws force the magic from their leader, which Evalyn soon learns how to yield. The politics was quite simple and direct, while Larson keeps up with the action. Essentially, Evalyn’s mission is to defeat the evil Dark kingdom’s king, Bain. However, his sons may show betrayal or hidden strength, further expanding on their character.
Evalyn was a badass character, sometimes OverPowered but not without her flaws. It was interesting to see her place a mask over herself and her emotions in front of other people, while keeping everything else hidden. I really liked her complex character, initiative to get things done, and motivation to protect her people and loved ones. Readers will definitely have a blast reading from mostly her limited third person POV. Sometimes the book switches limited perspectives to other characters, but not that often.
This was the Evalyn she knew and loved – the one that no one else ever saw. When other Draíolon were around, she was demure, collected; she tried to be the perfect princess everyone expected her to be. But in private, she was still the same girl Ceren had grown up with.
There’s an awesome girl friendship with Ceren, who also lives at court with Evalyn. She’s supportive, loyal, and by Evalyn’s side all the way. I hope her character gets more important roles in the sequel, as for now she’s just a steady rock to Evalyn’s constantly changing emotions while she deals with such stress and change in her life.
There’s a light romance that doesn’t get too deep, but acts as great development for Evalyn’s character still. Tanvir is a mysterious lord who just came from the battlegrounds of war after inheriting his title. He develops feelings for Evalyn quickly, and same with her, yet she must be cautious of people trying to get close to her for favors. It’s definitely a slower progression as she learns to open her heart and feelings to someone else she can trust, especially since most people are hesitant that she can protect the kingdom since she’s so young. I can’t really say much about him other than that he’s stubborn with his goals, loyal to Evalyn and his country, and really dependable and supportive.
‘Stop telling me that you know better than I do what would make me happy or not. My whole life, everyone has always told me what I can or can’t do – what will make me happy or not. Or rather, what will make my people happy or not. Can’t I just have this? This one thing, with you, that’s just for me?’
Although the book tops at 320 pages, lots of things are going on. Yet despite that, I never really fully connected to the characters. Evalyn definitely had doubts and growth to go through, but it was rather predictable to me that she would be successful in her endeavors. Her friend Ceren felt more like a “check” for a check box than anyone that important. And as sweet as the romance was, my heart was never into it or Tanvir. I get why they would develop an attraction and trust for each other, but I was a bit apathetic and – more importantly – unconcerned. Which is big, with the rather inconclusive ending.
Set in a glorious and lush setting with a myriad of colors – as characters’ skin and hair colors range from rich cerulean to pitch black – this retelling of Swan Lake fulfills the chase for a passionate adventure for fantasy readers. There’s powerful magic, a battle between light and dark, a journey to somewhere dangerous, and a smoldering romance with a mysterious suitor. Although some parts are predictable, with a “been-there-done-that” attitude, the execution and context of it was unique enough to keep those elements enjoyable to read in the long run.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you Scholastic for the review copy!
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YES! Finally a YA fantasy that has varied humans with different skin colours! You would think we would see more of that. Evalyn sounds like a fascinating character and definitely relatable with how she only shows a side to everyone else. I love the sound of the friendship and how the romance progresses slowly too. A shame to hear you didn't fully connect with it. Lovely review Aila!
Looking back, I see readers saying that the only dark-skinned characters were the antagonists so I'm not sure how I feel about that anymore. I would love it if the skin colors were more varied, but now that someone brought that up I feel a lot more "meh" about it. :\ Not cool, book.
Aw, darn. I have been seeing a lot of mixed reviews for this one, usually leaning toward the middle. I'l go in to it with middle expectations. 🙂 Thanks for the review!
Definitely go in with middle expectations – you'll probably find yourself enjoying it a lot more!
I've never heard of Dark Breaks the Dawn. At first, I thought it was a Heartless spinoff because the cover edges are red thorny…plant things. But I guess not hahaa.
I think I would be interested in this, but it does sound a bit generic, and a bit like all the other fantasy books I've read (which is why I burned out!). But this is the first Swan Lake retelling I've heard about though!
Awesome review Aila! Glad you liked this 😀
It totally is generic, looking back, Val. I actually wouldn't rec it that much not only because of the short length, but because the characters never really got fleshed out. BUT, it was still minorly enjoyable while reading. 🙂