Sunday, November 6, 2011

REVIEW: Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine

Dawn of Darkness (Daeva, #1) Dawn of Darkness by Daniel A. Kaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

At the time of writing this review, Dawn of Darkness combines the two most popular genres — Paranormal and Dystopian — of Young Adult fiction into one substantial read. This is the first time where I read a YA book that was both Paranormal and Dystopian, both genre that I read extensively of in my YA books.

DoD is told in the 1st POV from Mikhail's (or Mik as everyone calls him) perspective. The story follows Mik as he start off as a Daeva soldier-graduate of the city Rachat and becomes a resistance fighter against the dystopian government — the Silver Dawn.

The World of DoD

DoD is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the biggest supernatural danger are vampires. Pre-apocalypse, vampires revealed themselves and everything was going fine as vamps gained rights...until the plague came. Since the plague happened to suspiciously coincide with the vamp's "coming out of the coffin" event, humans blamed the vampires.

But too late, too bad, many people died — hence the apocalypse.

DoD begins in Rachat, a barrier-city, possibly the only city of humans left on Earth. (I assumed the Internet is down which only emphasize how horrible DoD's world is.) However, nothing is as it seem and there may be a danger inside Rachat greater than the ones outside.

Unexpected Expectation

DoD was not at all how I expected it to be...

1) Nowhere in the book blurb or on the cover-art did it mentioned that the book was LGBT, specifically that the protagonist was gay. I only found out because the author advertised the book in the M/M Romance Goodreads group.

I had other YA books to read, but no YA with a gay protagonist. So once I learned DoD had a gay protag, I immediately made it my next book to read. The fact that I was in the mood for a YA book helped greatly.

2) Reading as much YA books as I have, I expect romance in girl YA (YA books with a girl as the protag) but not in boy YA (YA books with a boy as the protag). I'm not saying boy YA don't have romance, but I am saying that most boy YA that I have read don't have romance. So after reading the first few chapters of DoD, I was pleasantly suprised to see a mm-romance plotline.

After finishing the book, I was satisfied with the romance plotline because usually the romance in YA are subprime. Yes, I do have a low opinion of romance found in YA, mostly in girl YA only because there are more girl YA than there are boy YA. Sometime those girls were simply TSTL — Too Stupid To Live, and the All Girls Want Bad Boys trope is so overused and overrated.

3) I recently read a few mainstream YA where the protag is a gay boy, and I was disappointed with them. The Archangel Academy series had poor writing, poor character development, overall poor everything. Witch Eyes for me wasn't exciting enough, its gay protag wasn't clever enough. So the fact that DoD is self-published (which has a stigma of poor editing/quality) and has a gay protag (which imo has a history of unsatisfactory writing), I didn't expect anything great from DoD.

Fortunately, DoD proved me wrong and turned out to be a solid book. DoD had great editing for being a self-pub book, and I will go as far as to say the editing rivals that of mainstream books. Moreover, the writing was good — the best from a gay boy YA that I've read so far.

4) The book was written in British English, and I'm American. Nonetheless, DoD not being localized for my region didn't bother me since the writing didn't contain anything unfamiliar.

5) DoD set place in France. I'm so used to reading YA books that take place in America and UK that the France setting in DoD took me for a surprise.

6) The vampires in DoD are, seriously, they are like the vampires in old horror films and old books like Dracula. These are not your sparkly vampires from the Twilight series.
"We found corpses... so many corpses. They were nailed to the walls of the save with iron spikes. Their eyes and mouths were sewn shut. Their bodies were naked and shaved. We couldn't see the cave walls for them. Even the ceiling was covered."
Though I like reading stories that romanticized vampires, I was very happy to find out that DoD returned the vampire to its horror origin. I was very happy that DoD even had a horror factor, period. This made DoD's post-apocalyptic world that much more frightening. A zombie apocalypse is bad, but a vampire apocalypse seem even worse.

7) I liked DoD's sexual content. YA, or at least mainstream YA, don't have graphic sex scenes but DoD does and I liked it. The sexual content consisted of kissing and mutual masturbation.

And it didn't took long for the sex scenes to occur either. Though those sex scenes were few and far, and weren't put there for readers' sexual gratification like in an erotica.

8) Though there was homophobia in the story, I was happy that it was mostly in the background. Ash, the protag's love interest, is the one character who gets flak for being bi from his parents. This occurred only in 2-3 short scenes, IIRC. Mik, on his part, seem to have more of an issue accepting love from a person in general than accepting love from a same-sex person. But basically, I like how there wasn't LGBT-related drama in DoD because that's not something I'd care for.

Strong Characters

Mik is an orphan and have abandonment issues, which essentially makes him an emo character. I dislike emo character because they mostly just mope and play a passive role in the plot. Fortunately, Mik wasn't anything like that because he took actions when actions needed to be taken and he didn't let his situation, no matter how bad, get him down...most of the time anyway.

Initially Mik has trouble being with Ash after their the first sex scene, but I was glad to see him overcoming his issues and just enjoy being with Ash. I was even more glad to see their relationship quickly changed from a "friends with benefits" thing to that of actual lovers.

I like how Mik questioned everything once he learned Daevas and vampires were connected. I like how Mik kept wanting to save Ash from the Silver Dawn even when Ash didn't believe in Mik. I like how Mik continued to work on his power even though he knew how dangerous his power could be. In short, Mik had countless opportunity to wuss out and act like your typical emo from high school but fortunately he wasn't. Mik didn't show flashy strength, but he did show a resilient will.

Beside Mik, the author showed great skill for developing all of his characters. Whether that character was main or minor or mentioned in reference, there wasn't a single one I would have considered as weak or flat. For everyone, readers can catch a glimpse of their personal history that the author wrote into the story so seamlessly.

My favorite minor characters were Anna and Violet.
"Because when a vampire says it's a long story, we're usually talking a few hundred years. It would take several nights to explain the history betwen myself [Anna] and Violet."
With the way the author writes, I wouldn't mind reading that and I'm confident he could condense it into a short story. If DoD was not YA but an adult UF book (think Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Richelle Mead), I would have expected there to be such a story in a novella or an anthology of UF stories.

Plot Twists and Turns

Pretty much every YA have a Love Triangle trope. I thought Nate as a character served that function until he proved me wrong when he ended up being one of the villains. The author really have me believing Nate as a boy who has been betrayed by the Silver Dawn, more severely than Mik. I was both sad and angry at Nate's betrayal.

I didn't expect Russell to die in DoD. I was sure he would have been one of the villains in future stories.

I was sad to see Ash died near the end...until I read the cliffhanger at the very end, and I blew a "WTF" fuse. I don't know what will happen next but I do know that love between a vampire and a human usually don't work out so well. I'm not into the whole "I'm aging but you're immortal and young forever" deal so I really hope the author will do something about it in the next book.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn Rachat only survived as a city because a crazy-ass, damn-evil vampire lord gather a bunch of anti-supernatural bigots and deceived them under the guise of the self-righteous, dystopian Silver Dawn government. Ha!

Some Small Gripes

These gripes didn't detract me from enjoying DoD but it did stop me from giving a 5-star rating.

1) I'm American, but I'm pretty sure the term "no one" should not have a hyphen in between even in British English. There's nothing wrong using "room-mate" but I'm really used to reading it as "roommate." Chalk it up to OCD. =P

2) On my epub,
page 20/275, [Any fond memories I had had of Mrs Rosseau were long]
should be [Any fond memories I had had of Mrs. Rosseau were long] Nevermind. British grammar. =P

Page 240/275, [He either plans to win your over by then]
should be [He either plans to win you over by then]

Page 128/275, ["Sorry. Animal instinct, and all that," Daniel, grinning.] was in a different font-type and font-size.

*DoD is still well edited.

3) I didn't like how Mik accepted to sharing blood with Russell. Russell is a bad guy and there's nothing to actually stop him from reneging on his "promise" and tattle-tell to Marcus.

4) I wished Mik and company had a better plan or a fail-safe in their attempt to take down the Silver Dawn. After all, they going up against one of the most powerful vampires in the world — ancient, pureblood, and damn evil.

5) Readers never learn who Katiya dated... though I had a pretty good hunch it was Lucas.

6) Anna owes a favor to Marcus, Marcus used that favor on Mik so that Anna can teach Mik how to be a competent Siren. What was in it for Marcus that he would use — waste? — a favor on Mik? Marcus doesn't come across to me as a vampire who's just a nice guy.

In Conclusion

DoD had good pacing, good amount of action, emo characters that didn't act emo-y, and depth. Especially depth. One of my favorite scenes that showed depth was when Daniel and Mik were talking about the plan to take down the Silver Dawn and get revenge. Daniel, who have more reasons than Mik to get revenge, try to convince Mik that revenge hurts more than just the targeted bad guys. And Mik began to re-evaluate his motives and think about the possible consequences of his action.

So another reason I like Mik is because he actually think things through which not many YA protags — gay, straight, girl, boy, human or not — does this.

I'm looking forward to reading the sequel and I greatly hope the series keep up its game. DoD gets a four-stars rating for a really-liked-it.

If you like DoD, you may like...

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)
is a boy YA (not LGBT) with a strong snarky protag and a horror factor in ghosts.

Amazon GoodReads

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