Dawn of Wonder

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Dawn of Wonder is about a teen boy, Aedan, whose capricious, adventurous nature is tempered by his cowardice in peril and overwhelming cultural prejudice. After losing his friend, Kalry, to slave traders from Lekrau, Aedan and his mother and father, Clauman and Nessa, leave their home in the Mistyvales to live in the sprawling city of Castath. Along the way, they pick up a married couple, Borr and Harriet. Shortly after arriving in Castath, Clauman abandons Aedan and his mother. Overbearing Harriet takes it upon herself to mold Aedan into a subservient young man, but, against her wishes, Aedan joins the marshals and begins his training at the academy there. In time, Aedan makes friends, begins learning, and gets into trouble at the academy. He has a keen mind for battle tactics and a way of seeing possibilities in the most hopeless situations. The prince and war counsel soon call upon him to give advice on fortifying the city.

While Aedan is a sharp tactician and is gifted in many ways, he is not some sort of prophetic juggernaut most trotted out fantasy heroes end up being. He still has human flaws. Aedan suffers from crippling cowardice because of his father’s brutal physical and emotional abuse. He bears strong prejudice against Lekrau, to the point of refusing to learn anything about the country in his studies. Aedan isn’t a great handsome hunk, either. He’s awkward, and, after jumping off a cliff to save Kalry, is crippled for a good stretch of the book. When his family gets to Castath, their apartment catches fire, and Aedan escapes with a noticeable, disfiguring scar.

Dawn of Wonder has a neverending cast of minor characters, but they’re distinctive enough to make an impression, beginning with Emroy, a bully from Aedan’s village in the Mistyvales to Osric, a stoic general who acts as a father figure to Aedan. Aedan also belongs to a pack of goofball miscreants during his time at the academy, who all make a show of scheming and adventuring with him. My favorite among the boys was Peashot, a mischievous firebrand of a character who enjoyed “tenderizing” various members of the academy faculty and students with a small peashooter and a few pebbles.

The book has a woeful shortage of female characters, though the women who did make an appearance get credit for being more than just the one-dimensional love interest. Dawn of Wonder spans years, but Jonathan Renshaw takes time to hone in on the minutiae. Whole chapters are dedicated to the making of bows and swords and to Aedan’s studies at the academy. For readers who want more action, patience is required to get through these slower parts, but it’s completely worth it.

This book is one of the best books I’ve read all year. Its medieval setting is simply a backdrop for themes and lessons that stand the test of time. Readers will learn what it means to be a friend, how it feels to be bullied, a sense of right and wrong, and how to overcome fear and loss. Most importantly, readers will know what it’s like to be transported to a magical, compelling world within a book.

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Star Count 5/5
Format eBook
Page Count 638 pages
Publisher Jonathan Renshaw
Publish Date
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue August 2015
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy


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