K. M. Weiland writes incredibly helpful posts on writing at Helping Writers Become Authors and I couldn’t well pass up on the opportunity to get a FREE review copy from Story Cartel of her historical novel, Behold the Dawn.
I’ll dive right into the details. But first, check out the blurb.
Marcus Annan, a tourneyer famed for his prowess on the battlefield, thought he could keep the secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him find justice for the transgressions of sixteen years ago, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade.
Wounded in battle and hunted by enemies on every side, he rescues an English noblewoman from an infidel prison camp and flees to Constantinople. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.
Truth be told, I don’t know if I’d have read this book on the blurb alone. But the story proved to be excellent. I loved it! 5 stars.
The story is slow at first. The tourneyer Marcus Annan meets an old friend, Gethin, who wants him to get a certain Matthias Claidmore to kill the corrupt Bishop Roderic. Annan steadfastly refuses. I couldn’t get myself to like Annan initially or the fanatical Gethin. But I liked Annan’s indentured servant, Marek, from the beginning. He’s funny and good hearted and it was nice to see his relationship with Annan strengthen through the course of the novel.
It’s when the paths of Marcus Annan and the Lady Mairead collide that the pace quickens. From then on, I was hooked. The plot is unpredictable and I love the plot twists. I’d better move on before I give them away!
POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
Annan and Mairead fall in love. Not sure if that’s a spoiler but I thought I’d warn you since it’s not completely certain. It was when the romance started that I began to like Annan and I came to really ship the two. Weiland writes excellent romance scenes. That’s all I can say. If I try to describe it … I’m just going to end up tripping over adjectives. When they started to realize their feelings for each other, I may or may not have smiled wide. When Mairead finds him at the inn and they finally reveal the truth to one another – it’s hard to believe that I, of all people, love that scene so much but tis truth. They had to be together.
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The story is told in third person with multiple POVs. It worked well. I didn’t feel jarred and the pacing was good, after the first hurdle. I also love the moral ambiguity. As in all life, there are many gray areas. None of the characters are perfect – neither are they, despite their cruelty, monsters. They are human and it was interesting “seeing through their heads”.
I can’t be sure about the historical accuracy but I had a good picture of the times, while not being bored by the descriptions. There are just a few instances of unbelievable good fortune.
Marek is dropped from a balcony onto stone and he survives! What’s more, not long after (couldn’t have been near a week), he is up and sword fighting with guards! That’s the most unbelievable. But Annan’s good luck in all his fighting is rather surprising too.
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Christianity and Christian values play a large part in the story but a reader will, I think, also appreciate the story for its plot and scenes. The story covers topics like redemption, guilt, sin, and justice and Annan and Mairead’s story is a beautiful one.