Book Review: Guns of the Dawn

Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their northern neighbour. At the border, the war rages; Lascanne's brave redcoats against the revolutionaries of Denland.

Emily Marshwic has watched the war take her brother-in-law and now her young brother. Then comes the call for more soldiers, to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily has no choice but to join the ranks of young women marching to the front.

In the midst of warfare, with just enough training to hold a musket, Emily comes face to face with the reality: the senseless slaughter; the weary cynicism of the Survivor's Club; the swamp's own natives hiding from the conflict.

As the war worsens, and Emily begins to have doubts about the justice of Lascanne's cause, she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.


Last year Adrian Tchaikovsky completed his famous Shadows of the Apt series ( I will try not to compare it with this book), with a stunning 10 volumes, news already came out that he was working on some new books one of them being Guns of the Dawn. Me and I think most of his fans were very excited by this news; his Shadows of the Apt series was hard to part with, it ran for six steady years. Now with Guns of the Dawn Adrian Tchaikovsky explores something completely different, no Kinden to be found here. Changing from a steakpunk setting to a different genre on the rise: Flintlock fantasy, where Brian McClellan and Django Wexler started with two years ago. Adrian Tchaikovsky makes a very impressive entry here, too bad that this is a standalone... would have loved to see it being followed up!

The story of Guns of the Dawn follows a single perspective, that of Emily Marschwic, a young girl of established means. She comes from a wealthy family and lives the life of luxury but all this is about to change, for the worse. Denland the neighboring country of Lascanne, where Emily lives, has committed on the the most gruesome of acts. They have overthrown their king, not without harm, they killed him in cold blood turning it into a republic and naming everyone their enemy. Denland breaks the long lasting alliance with Lascanne by marching upon them and trying to conquer it. Now Lascanne has to rally it's troop to fight of the strong Denlander armies, every able hand is required in this cause and effectively taking every husband, father,  brother and son along with it. This is where the story starts. With Emily living in a husband- , father-, brother- and sonless land. Eventhough without many male hand around everyone is coping, women taking over the jobs of men. Soon Emily receives terrible news in two fold. Her brother is killed in the frontlines and the men aren't in supply anymore to battle against the Denlanders, a new decree is called which states that every family has to give one women up to fight against the Denlanders. And thus Emily finds herself at the frontline of battle. Of course many things happen along the way, this is only the start up of the book. But as it is with the book of Adrian Tchaikovsky, a lot of things follow up on each other and thus explaining more would spoil the surprise. The road from being a women of noble stature to the eventual battle hardened on is long and this precisely why this book clocks in over 700. Exposition to the fullest. As I already said events follow up on each other readily taking the story further with each page. 

Some of my favorite scenes of Guns of the Dawn were the first encounter with Mr. Northway and how Emily was swayed, but also the letter correspondence, it's very special. Above I said that not everything happens in a day, Adrian Tchaikovsky shows a very gradual transition from Emily into a young girl who lived an easy life to a girl who has to kill to stay alive, this transition was done in a very nice way, showing all the hardships accompanied by it. Hardships that had to do with personal issues and moral issues. There is also a scene where Emily is captured and when I read what I was really gaping with my mouth open, wait what? After this the story picked up pace for me as I really wanted to found just what the heck was going on... And of course lets not forget the moments of action when the fighting takes place though it is a lot of muskets firing it's still intense, probably owing to the fact of Warlocks, yes those spellcasting guys are present! I really have to give it to Adrian Tchaikovsky and his writing, it's easy to get into and get lost in, even with some tough subjects, this book doesn't drone on and on, doesn't stall in his speed, the 700 pages feel more like only half of it. 

Since Guns of the Dawn has the only perspective of Emily this offers and in depth exploration of her character. If you compare Emily's character in the beginning of the book and they way she ends it, it is a world of difference. She goes from a "high society" girl to a battle hardened and scarred young woman. This all begins when she is in bootcamp where her regiment is trained in the way that the man were drilled into (one thing that springs to mind was the revelation the drill sergeant had, drilling the women as men jsut doesn't work). However Emily has a goal, she wants to revenge her brother and brother-in-law and is thus most determined to reach her goal. Prior to all this Emily was the strong factor in the family that kept everything OK when her father killed himself. She already had a very strong and perserverant personality that only comes to show further as the story progress, with such a strong personality do also come promotions and she soon finds herself more than just a soldier, people rely on her giving her a chance to develop and lead a lot of things in good paths. But this is all on the battlefront, yes it does also shape her personality more and more. What is also an important factor is that she is tied in somewhat of a precarious situation when it comes down to her emotions and feelings towards several man. It was high enjoyable to read on this level what she thought about certain people and how she on one hand didn't really know how to go about with it. Emily is nicely layered character, in many ways as women can be, complex. 

Now just lastly I want to mention the world building that Adrian Tchaikovsky does in Guns of the Dawn. I already mentioned that this is Flintlock fantasy. Imagine a world inspired by a regency napoleonic time frame. The soldiers all have have the Red and the Grey of their respective country. Adrian Tchaikovsky gives a very strong focus on the current events of the story the war, but also has some "flashback" moments to when Lascanne and Denland were still allies, even at one time they Lascanne soldiers sing a song about it. These small bit really complete a world for me. Added to this comes all the descriptions of the surroundings: the camps, weapons, parts in the swamp, all so very livid, exactly what I came to appreciate of Adrian Tchaikovsky's writing. 

With Guns of the Dawn Adrian Tchaikovsky proves that after his Shadows of the Apt series he still has enough big and cool ideas for many cool books. Guns of the Dawn is something completely different than what he has wrote before but just as great and perhaps even better. I have become a big fan of his writing, it's easy, natural but loaded with details. He tackles some heavy subjects in Guns of the Dawn but doesn't make them feel like a ton. I do have to be honest, I haven't read Jane Austen so all those references were missed by me. All I can say in the end is that I thoroughly enjoyed Guns of the Dawn. The aspect of neighboring countries at war is the biggest one but as expected of Adrian Tchaikovsky he address this in full details, showing a war effort and how it effect each and every one and at the heart a coming of age story of a very strong and likable protagonist: Emily. I so wish this wasn't a standalone!

 

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