For Tim Lebbon, multiple award-winning (Bram Stoker, Tombstone, Shocker, British Fantasy) author of numerous horror/supernatural-themed novels and short stories, the Dusk and Dawn duology marks the writer’s first attempt at a fully realized fantasy world with mixed results.
Before we get into the positives and negatives of the novels, it must be noted that Dawn is a direct sequel to Dusk, so it’s necessary to have read the one before the other, because basically we’re talking about a single story split into two volumes. For this review, I’ll be mainly looking at the duology as a whole.
First, the good: Far and away the most fascinating feature of Dusk and Dawn is the world of Noreela that Mr. Lebbon has fashioned. Rife with strange peoples (Red Monks, Shantasi, fledge miners, Breakers, Cantrass Angels) and even stranger creatures (the Nax, Tumblers, Mimics), Noreela is a character unto itself, defined by its bloody history, unique cultures/locales and a ton of little details (rotwine, rhellin, fodder) that give the world depth and personality. As far as fantasy worlds go, Noreela is among the most imaginative and absorbing that I’ve had the pleasure to explore, so it’s no surprise that I found those parts of the books that focused on Noreela the most interesting. Of course, Noreela is merely the setting for Dusk and Dawn and there is an actual story involved…
In Dusk, Noreela has been absent of magic for 300 years since the end of the Cataclysmic War and the banishment of the Mages. Into this dark and despairing time period, hope enters in the form of an ordinary farm boy named Rafe Baburn. Not surprisingly, there is much more to Rafe than there first seems, and the boy soon becomes caught up in a deadly adventure across Noreela that attracts an unlikely cast of misfits to his cause in saving the world. In other words, your standard fantasy tale right?
Well, that’s where Tim Lebbon comes into play as he makes it an effort to challenge such conventions, as evidenced by the shocking events at the end of Dusk. With Dawn, Mr. Lebbon continues to try and avoid various fantasy pitfalls, and for the most part does just that, though certain events that play out are still fairly predictable. Still, despite a little unevenness, the story that comprises Dusk and Dawn is an exciting one, driven by fast-paced action, inventive sorcery, interesting characters and explosive convergences.
As far as the actual characters of Dusk and Dawn, this is where the results are a bit varied. On the one hand, I loved the eclectic and vast cast of heroes and villains that we’re introduced to, especially since Tim Lebbon does such a magnificent job of establishing the various players, which include a thief (Kosar), a librarian (Alishia), the Shantasi warrior A’Meer Pott, a witch/whore (Hope), a fledge miner (Trey Barossa), a Red Monk (Lucien Malini) and their founder Jossua Elmantoz, and Lenora, a survivor from the Cataclysmic War and lieutenant of the Mages (Angel and S’Hivez). Unfortunately, despite possessing unique backgrounds, the characters’ personalities are mostly formulaic with decisions made throughout the books that are never that uncharacteristic. Additionally, with so many different viewpoints involved, their development as the story progresses is stunted, and for the most part I was never emotionally attached to any of the characters, and did not really care what happened to them, no matter how tragic or unexpected the events. Apart from these weaknesses though, the characters are mostly enjoyable to follow, most notably with such personal favorites as Trey or Alishia, while I felt that Lenora’s narrative was the weakest, especially since she was the link to the Mages (main antagonists) who were the most one-dimensional and stereotypical characters in the book.
As a whole the Dusk and Dawn duology was a series that I was more than happy to pick up. Sure, it’s rough around the edges with characters that are difficult to relate to and a story that can be predictable at times, but for anyone who likes their fantasy made of darker and more imaginative material, tinged with horror elements and aimed at adults, then this is it. Best of all, Mr. Lebbon concludes the Dusk and Dawn duology with an ending that leaves room for future exploration into the spellbinding world of Noreela with a couple of standalone prequels and a short story. Personally, I can’t wait to see what Mr. Lebbon comes up with next for the denizens of Noreela.
After reading about Dusk, I really thought I’d like it better than I did.
Dusk has some good things going for it. The villains were very interesting characters, and a couple of the heroes were too, and the world did have its intrigue. Also, I have to say, Tim Lebbon really knows how to keep the reader guessing. In fact, it was good enough to keep me reading till the end.
On the other hand, I felt kind of lost, or maybe ripped-off. I admit, I do lean more toward heroic fantasy but I can get into something like this too. (I thought Stephen King’s DARK TOWER was great after all.)
I read fantasy for the same reason that many fantasy readers do — escapism — and I just couldn’t lose myself in this story.
Is there some new school of writing out there that says leave it all up to the reader to imagine all the characters, creatures, devices, etc.. for themselves? Because so many new writers seem to be doing this. Lebbon would describe one character’s appearance in detail and tell you almost null about another. I spent the whole book trying to put together puzzle pieces of what some of the terrible monsters look like and I couldn’t even begin to get a concept of the derelict machines. They are part living, part stone, part mechanical, part magic? I felt like I missed a few pages somewhere. Could we even get a couple words telling us what a disc-sword is? On the other hand, we know what the slums of Noreela City smells like?!
And what’s up with the cuss-words and terms from the modern real world? Some dirty sex, cursing, and violence doesn’t make an “adult fantasy.” If you’re looking for so-called “adult fantasy,” give George R.R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE a read.
However, Dusk did manage to get 3 stars from me. Some of the character development was superb and I would’ve quit the book if it wasn’t for the parts with edge-of-your-seat action.
Noreela — (2006-2008) Fallen is a prequel and After the War is a collection of two novellas set in the Noreela world. Publisher: Kosar the thief senses that Rafe Baburn is no ordinary boy. After witnessing a madman plunder Rafe’s village and murder his parents, Kosar knows the boy needs his help. And now, for a reason he cannot fathom, others are seeking the boy’s destruction. Uncertain where to begin, Kosar turns to A’Meer, an ex-lover and Shantasi warrior whose people, unbeknownst to him, have been chosen to safeguard magic’s return. A’Meer knows instantly that it is Rafe who bears this miracle of magic. Now Kosar and a band of unexpected allies embark on a battle to protect one special boy. For dark forces are closing in–including the Mages, who have been plotting their own triumphant return.