Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am a major history nerd, so historical fiction is right up my alley. My favorite book is "Pearl Maiden" by Sir Rider Haggard, an author who wrote historical fiction that is both riveting and deep.
I mention Haggard, because "Behold the Dawn" very quickly brought his medieval book "The Brethren" to mind. Coming from me, considering BTD to be similar to one of his works is a huge compliment to Weiland.
The setting to BTD felt gritty and authentic. It was hot, sweaty, dusty, and bloody. I did occasionally have a hard time picturing the landscape, but the characters were often on the move, thus leading to ever-changing landscape.
The characters; such a fantastic cast of characters. Some grew more than others over the story (I fell in love with the sidekick), while others were consistent, providing a balance and steadiness that kept the others in line. The protagonists were appropriately human, they felt fear, anger, hurt, betrayal, guilt, etc. You felt what the characters felt very deeply.
The villains! Aha! One of the only things that can make a good set of protagonists even better is an equally well-written cast of villains. Weiland did a masterful job at this. I shivered and despised these villains more than I do for most writers. Well done!
This book was wonderfully lengthy, I appreciate it when a writer values their readers enough to give a very long book. There is just a depth of entering into the story that cannot happen in shorter titles. Also, there were moments in this book that could have been handled with far less class, but thankfully, Weiland is a classy writer. I appreciated the way she handled a few subjects with dignity and grace.
My one critique of this book was that during the fighting scenes, I was often confused as to who was standing where, and how the action went down. I had to reread those scenes and play them through in my mind. It is not a major hindrance however, and everything else was well done.
At one point in this book, Weiland put in a "plot twist" of sorts that angered and saddened me deeply. I took to social media to complain, and like the mature adult that I am, I took a break from reading the book. Before, I mentioned how much BTD reminded me of Sir Rider Haggard's "The Brethren". Amusingly enough, the same thing happened to me years ago when I read TB. I was convinced something terrible had happened. In agony, I threw the book down and began to cry. I had invested far too much of my soul into that story to see it end so. My brother picked up the source of my sorrow and read a few pages past where I had stopped. "Keep reading." He said. I did, and sheepishly discovered that all was in fact well, and I had merely thrown in the towel too early. I bring this story up, because I literally did the exact same thing with Behold the Dawn. That "plot twist" that left me outraged? Aha, ha, ahem....keep reading.
A satisfying ending, should Weiland ever do a follow-up book featuring the same characters, or perhaps starring the sidekick (I'm rooting for Option 2), I will eagerly devour it. I recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, sweet romances, and redemption.
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