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REVIEW: Dawn’s Light – Shannon Blair

Dawn's Light - Shannon Blair

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Reviewer: Dan

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About The Book

Moranthus is an elf who has lost everything. With his lover dead and his career stagnating, he jumps at a chance to redeem himself by rescuing a human prince from the goblins hunting him—even if failure means death or eternal exile from his homeland.

Gerrick, a human soldier who bears an uncanny resemblance to his prince, has always chosen duty over desire. As the sole parent of his young daughter, he needs the extra coin that working as the prince’s body double provides—even if it may one day cost him his life.

When a case of mistaken identity puts the prince in the hands of a goblin raiding party, Moranthus’s and Gerrick’s paths collide. With winter closing in and miles of hostile goblin lands ahead, they must set aside their differences and work together to bring the prince home safely.

Their deepening connection comes with a growing certainty that rescuing the prince may be fatal. Moranthus and Gerrick must each find a way to reconcile his heart’s desires with his homeland’s needs—or die trying.

The Review

As a fantasy book, this is a competent work. There are things that could use more fleshing out. As a fantasy, it has room to be longer to make room for those extra world and character building details.

That’s the good thing about fantasy – the readers are in it for the long haul. The author could have given more about their world and races.

The details we are given are incorporated into the book naturalistically. However, there was a section that started with ‘after a month of following him through the woods’ and it felt like we could have been shown more about what happened during that month, especially since it is a romance as well.

The romance was okay. It felt abrupt. I only knew that Moranthus and Gerrick were love interests because the blurb said so. Up until nearly the end of the book, they didn’t show much interest in each other as anything more than reluctant companions. I think the author meant this as an enemies-to-lovers slowburn, which it could have been if we’d gotten to spend more time with them and had seen more about how they wormed their ways into each other’s hearts.

Toward the end of the book, they declare their love for each other and intentions to become a family unit, which feels too sudden. I don’t think Gerrick and Moranthus are a bad match or uninteresting characters by any means, but I want to know them better before I’m asked to care about their relationship.

Unfortunately, this book also played heavily into a handful of common tropes that I don’t enjoy. The author chose to keep humans as a race with homophobia (elves and goblins are more enlightened) with casual mentions of burning queer people to death in the past, written off with ‘but we haven’t done that for a century’ or ‘no one would do more than give you a nasty look these days.’ I understand the impulse, and sometimes necessary coping mechanism, to use fantasy to address current cultural problems but there’s a way to do it more subtly and without feeling like such a departure from the story. A few mentions or discussions here or there would have been fine and well within the scope of the story, but this book brings it up often.

Another trope is tied into this, and that’s the ‘all homophobes are secretly gay’ trope, to the point that someone with whom one of the main characters had previously had a ‘confused’ sexual encounter ends up attacking our heroes over their sexuality. This is followed up with ‘cis male who’s only slept with cis women has sex with a man and compares and contrasts how soft and submissive women are with how firm and dominant men are’ (that last one is a mouthful for sure, but it detracts from the couple’s first love scene).

Overall, I think the author has a lot of potential and room to grow into their voice. I love books that tackle cultural issues, but I like to see them better blended into the story. I’d be interested in the next book in the series. Apart from the issues above, it really was, overall, a good fantasy.

The Reviewer

Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema. Currently, Dan is studying for a second MA in ABA and works in a center school for students with a variety of intellectual, developmental, or multiple disabilities. In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming. 

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