Dawnbreaker: Perfectly fine book

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book review Jocelynn Drake DawnbreakerDawnbreaker by Jocelynn Drake

“And where does that leave us?” Jabari demanded.

To my surprise, a half smile tweaked one corner of her mouth as she looked from me to Jabari. “On hold.”

This bit of dialogue, taken from one of the final chapters of Dawnbreaker, sums up my experience with the Dark Days series a little too well.

There’s nothing wrong with Dawnbreaker. It’s a perfectly fine book. Jocelynn Drake’s prose is competent and vivid, and there are several interesting surprises tucked into the storyline. Mira uncovers an unpleasant clue to the origin of her powers, Danaus struggles with his own humanity, and a family feud among the naturi comes to light.

The narrative begins in Savannah, Mira’s home, to which she has returned after the events of Dayhunter. We watch as Mira attempts to shore up her power base and prepare for the imminent showdown with the naturi. Later, Mira and her band of uneasy allies travel to Machu Picchu, hoping to stop the naturi from opening a gate there, even if it means their own deaths. It’s an exciting story, yet at Dawnbreaker’s end, I found myself disappointed with the series as a whole.

I spent some time collecting my thoughts and trying to figure out why. What I’ve finally come up with is this: Dark Days either needed to end here and be a trilogy, or it needs more subplots. I’ve found that the most successful fantasy series fall into one of two categories: either they run for a predetermined number of books and then end, or they run indefinitely but explore a large number of plots and subplots. (For example, many urban fantasy series feature a protagonist who works as an investigator, and the character’s job generates an endless supply of plot hooks. While each book advances the metaplot, it also introduces and resolves a smaller plot.)

In Dark Days, we’ve been focused almost solely on the conflict between nightwalkers and naturi for three books now, and Dawnbreaker ends in a stalemate of sorts. The only other prominent thread is the romantic tension between Mira and Danaus, and that plot doesn’t move much either. It makes me worry about future books in the series. If they consist of “Mira has several small conflicts, Mira banters a little with Danaus, Mira travels to an ancient monument and has an indecisive fight against the naturi, The End,” it’s going to get tired.

However, there are hints that the next book, Pray for Dawn, may not deal much with the naturi at all. It may explore nightwalker politics, and definitely has something to do with the Themis Society, so I’m curious enough to read it and find out.

Dark Days — (2008-2012) Publisher: For centuries Mira has been a nightwalker — an unstoppable enforcer for a mysterious organization that manipulates earth-shaking events from the darkest shadows. But elemental mastery over fire sets her apart from others of her night-prowling breed… and may be all that prevents her doom. The foe she now faces is human: the vampire hunter called Danaus, who has already destroyed so many undead. For Mira, the time has come to hunt… or be hunted.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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