DARK BREAKS THE DAWN, by Sara B. Larson, Scholastic Press, May 30, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
Sara B. Larson’s Dark Breaks the Dawn is being called a reimagining of Swan Lake, which in and of itself is exciting, but truthfully, as I read the story, Swan Lake never crossed my mind.
Dark Breaks the Dawn opens on Princess Evelayn’s 18th birthday. Her 18th birthday marks the day when the princess of Eadrolan, the Light Kingdom, can finally access the full range of her magical powers. And when she gains that access, her senses become sharper, and the energy that she draws upon feels infinite.
As much as Evelayn would like to celebrate, the princess can’t help but worry. Her mother, the queen, is on the warfront, battling King Bain and the Dark Kingdom of Dorjhalon. Bain wants control of both light and dark kingdoms, and he’ll stop at nothing until he reaches his goal.
While Bain’s plot works in part, forcing Evelayn to ascend the throne immediately, he fails to keep her from regaining the Light Kingdom’s full power. Evelayn has one chance to end this war, but to do it, she must master her magic, including her ability to shapeshift.
Again, Dark Breaks the Dawn didn’t read as a Swan Lake story. If anything, I would say it could work as an origin story. I think more of Swan Lake will come in the second book of this duology. It doesn’t need to, though.
Dark Breaks the Dawn stands on its own. Sara B. Larson has created a complex and compelling world that should be applauded for its nuances. Sara’s prose refined and her pacing well balanced.
Dark Breaks the Dawn offers adventure, magic, love, fairy tale and fantasy all mixed into one. But all that wouldn’t work if not for her well-developed characters, which make the novel worth reading.
Despite its strengths, Dark Breaks the Dawn isn’t perfect. If you’re looking for high fantasy, this is not your novel. I found Sara’s world building sufficient, but a little more attention to this could have made it fully immersive. While I found Sara’s pacing strong, ebbing and flowing where needed, some readers may find some places too slow. There were also a few predictable moments but nothing that would keep me from recommending Dark Breaks the Dawn.