Review: Guns of the Dawn
The secret of gunpowder is that anyone—a man, a woman, a child, a cripple—can kill with it.
I think the above quote perfectly sets the tone for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s stand-alone, gunpowder fantasy novel, GUNS OF THE DAWN (Amazon). I’ve been a big fan of Tchaikovsky’s for a while now, with his Shadows of the Apt series being one of my favorite Fantasy series out there.
Here’s your description:
“Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbor. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne’s brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland. Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.”
GUNS OF THE DAWN is a terrific stand-alone novel, and I think it really showcases Tchaikovsky’s greatest strength – bringing characters to life. To me, this novel was like I was watching the movie Glory, but transplanted into a 2nd World fantasy. That alone should be enough to make you want to read it. But let me say this: that premise doesn’t work without strong characters. The entire plot and story progression is 100% reliant on Tchaikovsky’s ability to make the reader interested in the stars in the play. First and foremost among them is Emily Marshwic.
The story jumps around a bit in the beginning, giving us a juxtaposition of two timelines. The present—the front-lines of a war—contrasted against the past—an almost Civil War era story about a country in the midst of a war that is claiming the lives of so many. It is in this early contrast that Tchaikovsky shows the reader how to love the characters of the novel. By showing us their strengths and weaknesses, and the fragility of their lives.
I was struck by how effortlessly I bought into the story. A seemingly endless war that takes more and more. The men. Then the boys. Then finally the women. That progression was natural and believable, and it showed—I repeat, it SHOWED—just how far the two opposing countries had fallen. Additionally, the progression of Emily’s character was absolutely a pleasure to read. I completely loved her mix of pragmatism, vulnerability, and proactiveness. What’s more was her impact on the other characters in the drama. In much the same way a star athlete can make those around him/her better, Marshwic does likewise with all the other characters.
GUNS OF THE DAWN is a novel where war pervades all aspects of life. Thankfully, Tchaikovsky is exceptionally skilled at showing this, and he doesn’t take the easy way out. People die. Or, they suffer tragedies that are worse than death. The two sides of the war are shown both with prejudice and without. And of course, Tchaikovsky deals with the evolution of warfare to a small degree. We even get some magic, and I loved the way in which it is imbued and limited in the story.
GUNS OF THE DAWN is absolutely fantastic. I could write for pages about further aspects of the story, the incredible cast of characters, and the magnificent storytelling…but that would deprive you of the magic of having it revealed to you as you read. And you should read GUNS OF THE DAWN. You should read Adrian Tchaikovsky. He’s one of the best in the business, and this is one of his best novels.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: Hardly any
- Violence: Get's pretty violent in some places. On par with what you'd expect to see in a Civil War era film or novel.
- Sex: Some threats of rape, and then one scene with no detail.