- A Mighty Dawn.
- Theodore Brun.
- 608 pages.
- Fiction / Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Historical Fantasy.
- My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
A gripping and brilliantly realized debut epic adventure set in eighth-century Denmark. This is the beginning of an ambitious new series in the vein of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.
Hakan, son of Haldan, chosen son of the Lord of the Northern Jutes, swears loyalty to his father in fire, in iron, and in blood. But there are always shadows that roam. When a terrible tragedy befalls Hakan’s household he is forced to leave his world behind. He must seek to pledge his sword to a new king. Nameless and alone, he embarks on a journey to escape the bonds of his past and fulfil his destiny as a great warrior.
Whispers of sinister forces in the north pull Hakan onwards to a kingdom plagued by mysterious and gruesome deaths. But does he have the strength to do battle with such dark foes? Or is death the only sane thing to seek in this world of blood and broken oaths?
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Taking place in 8th century Scandinavia A Mighty Dawn tells the tale of Hakan, the chosen son of Haldan of the Northern Jutes, after swearing an oath to his father Haldan, a terrible secret is unearthed and uncovered, it’s a shocking revelation and the immediate aftermath is devastating with heartbreaking consequences for Hakan. With no other option Hakan forsakes his birthright and his name leaving behind his people and all he has ever known, with Hakan gone he renames himself Erlan “stranger” and sets out on an arduous and perilous trek to find meaning, a purpose and a new master.
He still wondered what she meant by that. Now he would never know. The dead kept their secrets close.
For the most part A Mighty Dawn reads like standard historical fiction rather than a fantasy book. The fantasy aspects are few and far between, a glimpse at the beginning and a prophecy that is mentioned and alluded to during the story but, for the most part they are moved to the backseat and put on the back burner before finally coming into play and more to the forefront of the story near the end.
Leaving the fantasy element in the background works well for the story being told within the pages A Mighty Dawn. While there is the overarching story of mysterious disappearances, first alluded to in the prologue and then again when Erlan and Kai reach Svealand. For me, the book was Hakan’s journey and transformation through loss, pain and suffering, to Erlan and finally to acceptance of life and new beginnings.
It takes until near page 300 for another fantasy element to be mentioned, that of the earth-dwellers. Recounted by a Seidman, he tells the tale that the earth-dwellers are another name for ‘darklings’ the monsters told in nurses stories in an attempt to stop children misbehaving. The earth-dwellers are deemed by some to be the cause of mysterious deaths plaguing the country of Svealand, but for the most such rumours are classed as nonsense and those who think that derided, with the disappearances more than likely due to an invading party.
It’s then another 50 pages before we actually get our first glimpse of the sinister creatures roaming Svealand and finally at around the 430 page mark the evil force behind the mysterious killings is shown and the fantastical element revealed.
‘Hate is chaos. Wild as a wolf, she is. Loose her on the world, and blood will run just about anywhere.’
As a main character I really liked Hakan and then Erlan, he is a haunted yet captivating character for the story to focus around who you really feel for, fate screwed him over in an unexpected and shocking way and his journey to a new master and his redemption is one you really lose yourself in, you often find yourself questioning, is he searching for a new life or looking for his death?
When Kai is introduced he acts as the perfect foil to the wretched and tortured soul that is Erlan. Kai is the comic relief, adding the humour and together they make a great double act and as we follow them they become more than friends, they become brothers. Often you will find yourself sniggering at something Kai has said and his youthful exuberance makes him a very likeable character.
There’s plenty of well-developed secondary characters included too, Sviggar and Lilla are both very interesting characters that add depth to the story and Sviggar’s wife Saldas and his son Sigurd are two to watch out for (me thinks they will be getting up to mischief in the future books). We learn enough to be intrigued by them and their actions while also knowing that more is being kept back to be learnt about them in the upcoming books. The minor characters are also engaging too with their own personalities and traits.
The action is well written, brutal and visceral when it needs to be and there is plenty to be found in the pages to keep even the most action orientated and bloodthirsty reader happy.
Vengeance could drink of his blood.
The pacing overall is good, for the most Brun keeps the story moving forward and while it is slow-paced at times, A Mighty Dawn is never boring and the slower pacing aids in developing Erlan as a character.
When the fantasy element is incorporated more fully into the story, it doesn’t feel like it has been shoehorned in and thanks to the Norse legends, religion and superstitions that abounded at the time feels organic to the story.
The world building by Brun is stellar, it’s a cold, lonely and bleak road travelled by Erlan as he attempts to reach Svealand, it’s a desolate journey and Brun does a good job of depicting the despair felt by Erlan, you feel the solitude and isolation along with him. The snowy and barren wilderness is a treacherous landscape with the cold being a constant and dangerous foe as Erlan and then Erlan and Kai battle the elements to reach their destination.
Brun’s writing expertly balances description, dialogue and action alongside the quiet moments of reflection and inner torment crafting an epic tale. Weaving together history, fantasy and myth like the Norns twining the threads of fate in A Mighty Dawn, Brun has created an excellent debut and a top quality read.
On a personal note. On the cover (it’s a stunning looking cover) there is a graphic that states ‘for fans of Game of Thrones’. While there are a few vague similarities, I have to admit that overall I didn’t really see the comparison, feeling that it was detrimental to the book and I thought that the book itself would have been better without that label being emblazoned on the front.
I don’t understand why we feel the need to label things as ‘for fans of‘ or ‘if you liked, then you’ll love this‘ and even ‘the next‘. I get that it’s to help build the book and try to garner fans and interest, but part of me wishes that those sorts of labels weren’t everywhere. A lot of the time the books and authors deserve to stand on their own merits and A Mighty Dawn and Brun are one of them.
Follow The Tattooed Book Geek on: