Dawn of Night

If books were drugs, Dawn of Night would be the latest fix that keeps you hooked for more. In this chapter of the Erevis Cale saga, our favorite assassin-turned-hero ventures forth out of a gloomy gray abyss into the notorious Underdark to do battle with shady hoodlums, flaming skulls, and shape shifters. Dawn of Night continues the strong characterization presented in Twilight Falling, but tosses in a few change-ups that improve the overall story. In the end, like most drugs, the story ensnares the reader for one more dose while leaving some very big questions open for the future.

For having such dark environments, Dawn of Night does a good job of not dwelling too long in the gloom. Picking up where things left off in Twilight Falling, the heroes find themselves in the shadow plane where everything is gray and gloomy. This section of the novel is rather dark and just a tad depressing both because of the environment and the way it affects Jak and Magadon. Kemp presents the atmosphere as an oppressing blanket that saps the life out of the characters. Only Cale, and to a lesser extent Riven, are immune to the affects. Yet the bleak shadow planes are surprisingly offset by the second environment which dominates the latter half of the book: Skullport. Skullport has a somber name and is located in the Underdark which sounds even more dismal. Located completely underground and often in darkness, Yet Skullport provides some nice action for the characters. Here the characters seem to have a chance. Riven and Cale are in their element among the criminals and petty thugs. Their control of the situation offers hope to the reader that they will succeed whereas in the shadow plane their chances seemed very slim. Also the villains they encounter in Skullport are nowhere near as daunting as the villains were in the previous book, but that is not the only change between the novels.

Shifting between Twilight Falling and Dawn of Night felt like a change-up in the story telling. First off there was a strong philosophical bent in this novel. The Sojourner kicks things right off with some deep thoughts and engrossing prose…

There, below the cottony clouds, he fancied he could see the island that he had chosen to house the focus for the greatest spell he would ever cast. Thousands would die, he knew. Perhaps tens of thousands. So be it, he thought. He willed what he willed, and so it would be. With that he decided that it was time to cross the threshold, to begin the after. The before was boring him.

…and as a villain he delivers a strong presence that is simultaneously engaging and terrifying. Having lived for over 10,000 years, the Sojourner welds power unlike any other. It becomes immediately evident that the heroes are at the mercy of this being’s will unless the tides of fortune somehow drastically change in their favor.

But philosophy is not the only change-up Kemp brings to the table. Numerous species also show up in this book since Skullport is ripe with all sorts of nefarious beings. Trolls, goblins, duergar, gnomes, zombies, orcs, ogres and illithids plus many others get roles and mentions throughout the story. There are also a couple pages that explain how magic work which I found very helpful since I’m not familiar with the Forgotten Realms books. The biggest curve ball is the ending which, like Twilight Falling, leaves the reader craving the answers to how this will all work out.

Nevertheless, one of the biggest hooks in this story are the characters themselves. The love hate dynamic between Cale and Riven generates some delightful dialog…

(Riven) “Dead in the dirt. That’s my rule when I pull steel.”

(Cale) “Not mine.”

(Riven) “I wonder if the Shadowlord knows that his First is as soft as an old woman.”

…and it also helps illustrate both characters more vividly. Although both of them are deadly assassins, Cale is prepared to show mercy whereas Riven’s character shows very little. One moment they work very well together fighting ruthlessly and skillfully; then the next moment they horribly oppose each other. The shifting between them keeps the story fluid. It also allows the characters to stick together. In reality most people will find qualities in a person that they find annoying or that they disapprove of, yet they will also find admiring traits. This dose of reality helps make the characters believable. The fact that Kemp can make a merciless killer like Riven into a genuinely likable being shows just how much attention he brings to each character. There are barely any throw away characters in the novel. Every villain and hero becomes an individual with a vested interest. The reader may come to love and hate them, but in all cases the characters spark some kind of emotion.

If there is one lesson to be learned in this book, it’s that Riven is always right. Though Cale takes the spotlight, I find myself invariably attached to Riven. His character serves as a good symbol of this story. Both are dark and changing with much more going on than what is initially presented. They embrace violence and motivation, yet they are intelligent and insightful. Like Kemp states earlier in the book “All things, when taken too far, become self-destructive and lead to failure.” In Dawn of Night Kemp balances action and plot; elements of good, evil, and gray; and scope both grand and small. The beginning snags the reader with some very strong prose. The slowest most difficult part of the book is the struggle through the shadow lands, yet there are just enough breaks in the gloom to get the reader through it. Afterwards the story zooms along with the action in Skullport until it crashes into an entertaining battle that flows right into the end.

As a reader, the ending had me so engrossed that I found it extremely difficult to stop, especially when I had the next book readily available. Because of this I have to give it five out of five metal bikinis. Not only was it a fun book to read, but it has completely sold me on the entire series and the characters involved. There is no longer any choice for me but to continue reading and that’s always the sign of a great saga.

Reviewed By: Skuldren

1 Comment »

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  1. Just wait until you finish the third one… it took me about an hour of staring at the ceiling to wrap my brain around it!

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