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Dawn of War (Blood War Trilogy) Paperback – April 12, 2012
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"There is a lot to like about this book and if you are fan of epic fantasy that has many levels of complexity and takes a more brutal approach to its story telling than most, then you will definitely enjoy Dawn of War. Bring on Book 2." ~ Ryan Lawler - Fantasy Book Review
From the Author
The action-packed conclusion to the Blood War Trilogy, Requiem, is out now!
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The stuff that kept me from giving it 5 stars:
I think a 5 should be reserved for near perfection anyway. Only one of a hundred or maybe even one of a thousand should get it. Other than this, I found the way you go back and forward in time because of new perspectives of other characters somewhat cumbersome. I thought the characters could use a little more depth, though I appreciate that action was favored with details thrown in at very prudent times. I would have appreciated a little more magic, or explanation of it, and also more depth on the religion that seemed central to both but was left very vague. I could pick out some other details, but it would be just nit-picking. I felt obligated to explain my sub 5 star rating. In addition, I like reviews that have "pros & cons."
What is most telling I think, is that when book 2 comes out, I will buy it and read it the moment I hear about it!
Pros: As far as epic fantasy goes, this book hits all the marks. Likeable characters, dislikeable characters, drama, and just enough to leave you hanging are all good points. I like the hanging points the author leaves you with, and I found all the characters enjoyable, from the lowest supporting character to the ones that were supposed to be more "prominent". It was engaging, and kept you interested from page 1 to the end. That being said, there were some cons.
Cons: At the beginning of the novel, I was confused as to what was going on - the author didn't do a whole lot to explain the world, or the types of people that lived there, unless you were actively reading the chapter about that character, and even then it sometimes left you hanging. that, really, the confusion between what the background was and where exactly the characters were in relation to everything, etc, is the primary reason I couldn't give this 5 stars. I think a map in the front, or a glossary, or both, would have done it justice.
What does this have to do with The Blood War Trilogy? These books are an attempt to analyze a somewhat typical fantasy premise (Orc-like Humanoids and their savage allies invade a Medieval fantasy kingdom) from multiple perspectives so we have a sense of their scope. Dawn of War begins by giving us the perspective of a border guard in love with a Princess and their doomed romance but moves to a farmer's son, a group of religious tribals, a pair of Not-Quite Elves, the Orc-like Humanoids themselves, some impoverished lower-class citizens, and even a group of 'civilized' members of their race who are disgusted by their kind's behavior.
If you were to do a story about World War One from the perspective of, say, a gentry-born officer then you'd have a very different one from a man recruited from South London. The same for German, French, or Italian troops. That's not even getting into the women, children, and other noncombatants in the story who still might have vitally important stories to tell. The event was huge and impacted countless lives. These books, basically, try to answer the question, "So, what would Sauron's invasion have looked like to people not in the Fellowship?" Well, not quite, since we get the start of a group of heroes not-too-disimilar from Tolkien's in their own way but a lot of time is spent getting their perspective on the events around them. They are not in control of the story but being swept up in the flow of events and that's an interesting angle to take.
So what is Dawn of War about?
On a purely superficial level, it's about an invasion of the kingdom of Lathah by the Grol who are a bunch of wolfmen who behave in a fashion similar to Tolkien's orcs. The Grol have armed themselves with a bunch of magical items they've (apparently) seized from the Sha'Ree (similar to elves) and have gained an insurmountable military advantage against humanity. The Grol are irredeemably one-dimensionally evil but Tim Marquitz is smart enough to make it clear it's not because of their race but because of their culture (with the Tolen being another nation of their race which considers them the murderous savages they are). The book follows a variety of characters as they struggle to deal with the horrors of war brought to their borders by a people they can't realistically fight.
Dawn of War thrives on its excellent characterization, its multiple viewpoints, and strong world-building. This is a living world and it had a lot of interwoven relationships before the Grol decided to kick over the game board and change everything. Fans of action sequences will love the gory but rousing action sequences which reminded me of the John Milinus Conan: The Barbarian. Killing people was nasty, brutish, and short but also all the cooler for the authentic detail. Enemies rarely become "just" targets in this book, even when fighting merciless invaders.
As my father was want to say, "war is incredibly heroic in movies but it forgets most people who fight are terrified of getting killed, which can happen at any time and any place." There's more going on, including a conspiracy related to how the Grol got the equivalent of magical V2 rockets, but it's really all about how shocking and terrible all of this is. The book isn't perfect, Tim Marquitz opens the story with its primary viewpoint character having a long and involved backstory involving a princess explained to us rather than showing it in text, but this is a small quibble over an otherwise excellent book. Once I figured out what he was doing, I became invested in understanding this world and everything going on. War is hell and that includes fantasy war, which the author beautifully brings to life in all its pathos as well as angst.
Also, this book has Orc-Werewolves, so what's not to like?
Most recent customer reviews
Very well defined characters. Short and to the point. No over dramatizations. Will definitely read the sequel