With some focus on intriguing fantasy races, a “superhero-like” magic system, and an ancient dark force creeping close from the shadows, Birth of the Dawnhawk by Z. Apollo and M.J. Northwood is probably what happens when two imaginative minds join together to tell a story.
|Series: The Blessed, book one||Genre: Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: 12 April, 2020||Publisher: Self-Published|
Avila Dawnhawk is one of the five Blessed.
For over a 1000 years the Mother’s Blessing has watched over Amasia, entrapping the Insanity, as it’s passed down from generation to generation in the form of the Blessed.
They’re powerful. They’re impossible, and they’re the world’s only hope.
The soft-hearted Avila is returning home from her years of studying and training in the mountains to attend her younger brother’s royal energy-binding. But there are monsters that Avila hasn’t trained to defeat. Monsters hiding in the shadows.
As Insanity grows stronger, will Avila Dawnhawk soar when she leaves the nest? Or will she plummet into the unknown?
“Take comfort in knowing we are all alone together.”
As I prepare to write this review, I find myself holding back a little, because Birth of the Dawnhawk proved to be one of those stories that the farther along you go, the more interesting details join in on the fun.
It’s not one of those novels that jumps straight into action, but instead takes some chapters to introduce its big climaxes, letting you accommodate the world and its characters first.
That is not to say this is not a fast-paced story. Even though it takes the time to establish its foundations, after the first climactic moment, the blows just keep on coming.
Birth of the Dawnhawk is the first in a trilogy that takes us across the world of Amasia. We ride with Avila Dawnhawk, daughter of the Lord Preserver of Hassun, the prosperous city of the desertic kingdom of Magena.
Avila has just come back from her training at the temple to celebrate her brother’s energy-binding. She has been honing her skills as a Blessed, someone whom the Mother (a presence akin to a goddess) has infused with magical markings, something like moving, glowing tattoos that don’t just look undeniably cool.
Intriguing magic system
Every Blessed has a particular aptitude connected to their gift, though they all share similar skills like, f.e., manipulating elements of nature such as fire, stone, water, etc. Though people who are not Blessed can also manipulate these elements, only the marked can display incredible amounts of power through other types of magic.
I saw this book being classified on Amazon under the “superhero” genre, and although it’s purely a fantasy story, I thought it shared many similarities with superhero stories through the use of its magic.
I love systems that allow for a distinct magical ability for each user; the way it seems to say that magic expresses itself differently in each of us. Yet this book managed to join two concepts: one of a distinctive magic and another of a magic shared, together in one cohesive system. It was interesting to see how that developed into a structural magic that had its limits and disadvantages.
Avila’s lateness in discovering her innate talent is still a source of insecurity, nonetheless she’s eager to come back home and reconnect with her family.
But what is to be a commemoration of the marriage between her brother and the daughter of a Tivaci chief, a bordering kingdom to Magena, soon turns into a relentless quest across inhospitable places far from home.
Exciting, ever-changing landscapes
I wouldn’t shy away from calling this a travel or adventure fantasy, as every moment takes you through a different landscape, each of them hiding unexpected dangers or surprises.
Though some conclusions to certain ambitions of the plot are expectable, the way they come to pass often catches you by surprise.
I found there were several moments I couldn’t stop myself from thinking “oh shit, that’s cool” and the further the journey moved along the more I got to swear my amazement away. I enjoy doing that like it’s a full-time job so I was pleasantly guided along the path by the writing.
You can almost hear the words on page as oral storytelling, something that didn’t fail to catch my attention and marvelled me from time to time.
I was often transported to nights lying beside my grandpa listening to his stories, or times sitting on my grandmother’s bed when she’d tell me tales of spiders until I fell asleep.
I have to admit there were some underwhelming climactic moments, where the writing just seemed to not have time to focus on the characters’ emotions.
Moments of intense action seem to get a bit lost in descriptions of placement instead of emotional writing. Since these were shocking plot-twists that added excitement to the story, I was expecting them to bring me into the scene more, but during some of them I could only do it partially, as the show quickly moved on.
This eventually placed a barrier between me and the characters; I was being told about them, at the same time distanced from feeling alongside them. Intense battle scenes often eclipsed moments of character development, taking the narrative by siege.
I’m someone that needs to linger on deeply transformative moments to a character’s development so a slower pace during those would have helped me connect more to the story itself.
My grandparents are probably to blame for my admiration for uncommon fantasy races. But damn if this book doesn’t poke that trait of mine.
Though Avila’s POV is clearly the center, we get one or two chapters of other races from Amasia. One of them is a constant companion in Avila’s journey and another, Roshenk, quickly climbed the latter to the mountaintop that is my appreciation.
I know mountaintops don’t have latters but this character was capable of incredible feats.
I will not linger here, as these races are a fun detail to discover by yourself, but I absolutely loved him and his POVs. I only wish he’d had more POVs, or rather, more detailed POVs, because Avila’s can get quite repetitive.
These viewpoints of distinct kingdoms would have been a fantastic addition. I’m aching for the possibility to see more of this in the next books of this trilogy.
Nothing lasts forever
Loss and longing is one of the main themes of this story, which are explored not only through Avila’s ambitions but also her anxiety.
Avila is incredibly powerful and because of this she has acquired a daunting sense of herself and her accomplishments. There’s a vulnerability in her strength that is just amazing to read, and the representation of her anxiety really hit home for me. I’ve never seen a character whose anxiety mirrored my own so much and right off the bat it helped me take a certain affinity to her.
As she gets closer to her goals, so do her insecurities catch up to her, culminating in a foreboding message about how fear, sorrow, and lingering in the past can consume us, and how a common goal can bring unlikely allies together and apart.
The ending goes beyond suppositions and leaves many doors open for thrilling explorations among the last two books of this trilogy.
In the end, I could not fully reach the emotional ties I enjoy during climactic scenes of a story, and felt there were details of this intriguing worldbuilding that needed to be further explored.
But I loved the magic system, the representation of anxiety, the exploration of themes of sorrow and anger, and the exciting trip through manifold landscapes with its unexpected happenings.
This made Birth of the Dawnhawk a solid introduction to a new world that left me wishing for the next installment in the series.