The Savage Dawn

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for the earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

The Savage Dawn was written by Melissa Grey and first published in 2017. It is the final instalment of The Girl at Midnight Trilogy, following The Girl at Midnight (2015) and The Shadow Hour (2016). The novel carries on exactly where the previous instalments left off, so you really do have to read them in sequence if you want to have any idea of what’s going on.

Echo and the Avicen somehow managed to survive their first battle against Tanith’s dark forces, but their victory was at a terrible cost. Caius was taken by his insane sister, who now plans to torture him to allow the Kuçedra to feed off his magic. Just as Tanith was born with the ability to control flame, Caius’s gifts give him power over the in-between and this is exactly what the monster needs.

The loss of Caius rocks Echo’s confidence. Although she holds the power of the Firebird – the entity of pure light – she now realises that the battle against the Kuçedra is likely to cost the lives of the people that she loves. Still, before she can focus on the war, she knows that she must get Caius back and sets off with Dorian and Jasper in tow to do just that.

Meanwhile Ivy and Helios sneak into a human hospital, determined to use the bloodweed to heal the humans infected with the Kuçedra’s blight. However, they soon make a horrifying discovery. The Kuçedra is more insidious than they could ever have imagined, and is growing in power every moment. If they don’t find a way to defeat it quickly, it could mean the end of everything that they know.

If you’ve been following my reviews of this series, you’re probably aware that my general feelings towards it have been mixed to negative. The Girl at Midnight was far from perfect, suffering mainly from its lack of focus and similarity to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I did find it to be relatively entertaining on the whole. The Shadow Hour marked a downward turn that, unfortunately, the series never recovered from. The book was heavily padded and contained not one, but two love triangles. It was disappointing that The Savage Dawn was really just more of the same.

However, I should probably preface this review by saying that The Savage Dawn was not entirely without merit. Grey did manage to do away with the love triangles, which at least made this story a bit less angsty than the last. There were also a couple of exciting sequences that did manage to hook my attention. The best of these by far was Echo, Dorian and Jasper’s daring rescue mission, which managed to maintain tension well as it was unclear whether or not they would locate Caius, and what condition he would be in if they did.

Yet, on the whole, the novel was still a bit all over the place. It really did feel more like an early draft rather than a finished work. At 484 pages, it’s the longest instalment of the series by a long shot and there were sections were nothing really happened. This seemed a bit odd, as everything was building towards the final epic war against the Kuçedra, yet the characters don’t really face the entity until over 400 pages in. Up until this point it follows a pattern of long stretches of dialogue followed by a brief appearance and monologue from Tanith before she saunters away again. I’d like to say that these quieter scenes are used to develop character, but unfortunately that’s not the case either.

As with the other books of the series, The Savage Dawn spreads its narrative too thin. The book is told in third person yet it is split between Echo, Caius, Dorian, Jasper and Ivy, sometimes flitting between numerous focuses in the space of a chapter. This means that there is a lot of repetition. For example, three separate characters in the book feel the need to tell us that Drakharin have higher than average body temperatures.

In terms of character development, nothing has really moved on since the first book. This is seen most painfully in the relationship between Dorian and Jasper. I love these two, I really do. They’re by far the most fleshed out characters in the novel. Yet I also want to knock their heads together. They kiss, agonise over it, kiss, and agonise some more. This has been repeated over the last two books, and continues for most of this one. There is a time and place for relationship drama and on the eve of bloody war is not it. Fights frequently draw to a standstill just to give the characters enough time to consider their feelings for each other.

The plot also still felt a bit well-worn. If you have read any fantasy novel ever, you’ll be able to see the ending coming long before it happens. Occasionally a curious tangent would rear its head, such as the breaking of a magical seal and the not-so-surprising reveal of a traitor, but these were quickly brushed aside and never mentioned again. The climax of the story was also very cliché. While it did tie up the battle between the Firebird and the Kuçedra, it still didn’t feel greatly satisfying. It even wiped away some sacrifices that were sustained along the way, such as the blinding of a major character, which was very disappointing.

Though the biggest kick in the teeth came in the epilogue, when I realised that the fates of many of the protagonists were not going to be revealed. Some of them, like Dorian and Jasper, do get a brief mention, but others are not referred to again after the battle. This is most galling in respect of Ivy. Throughout this book, Ivy almost received character development. She was seen on couple of occasions to be trying to learn how to fight and even discovered that she possessed an amazing power of her own. Yet this all comes to nothing. Ivy is last seen trying to heal a human soldier during the final battle and then is never mentioned again. As she is one of the main voices in the series, this is particularly weak.

Even Echo, ultimately, does not do an awful lot. Despite being the vessel of the Firebird since the end of the first book, she doesn’t ever really develop in this role. She never learns much about her powers or really lives up to her position as the leader of the resistance. Even the final fight isn’t really about her. The battle really boils down to a showdown between Caius and Tanith – the two Dragon Princes. While Echo has her moments, it never truly feels like it’s her fight despite the fact that she’s the main protagonist of the series. It’s almost as though Grey got tired of her. At the end of the day, Echo is just human and doesn’t really stand out alongside the Avicen and Drakharin characters.

Anyhow, I think I’ve said enough. While I enjoyed the first book of this series, unfortunately subsequent instalments have failed to hold my interest. There are certainly things to like in here and it may well attract fans of urban fantasy, but it was a bit of a cliched mess on the whole. There are some fantastic YA fantasy series out there, but unfortunately this is not one of them.

The Savage Dawn can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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