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Monday, 30 November 2015

Black Dawn by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires, #12) - Book Review

4.5/5 Stars

Unless Claire and her friends can find an antidote to save Amelie and overcome the draug,

Morganville's future looks bleak...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 507
Chapters: 24 (Plus an introduction and epilogue.)
Publisher: Allison & Busby

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

People not this far in the series, or those that haven't started it yet, look away!

Black Dawn, or, really, Last Breath Part Two, sees the human and vampire populations fighting a foe stronger than both. Picking up not long after the previous book, Caine treats us to a ferocious and action-packed battle for survival. And learning from Bishop (the big bad of a few predecessors), the author keeps the enigmatic draug contained in two novels so they don't outstay their welcome. 

As we race ever closer to the end of the series, things become more severe, more ominous, and despite victories, it won't end well for everybody...

SPOILER WARNING

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

The battle against the unstoppable draug continues.
Morganville is a pale shadow of its former self, with both humans and vampires largely evacuated, and the streets are less safe than they've ever been, and that's saying something.
But the remaining living and undead have been thrown together, reluctantly.
And only with cooperation do they stand a chance to succeed.
With Amelie dying, and the draug winning, it falls to Claire with her mysterious ability to see the enemy's master when no one else can.
She's already died once for this 'gift'.
She refuses to die for the same reason again...

Plot - 4.5/5 Stars

Black Dawn adopts an apocalyptic feel reminiscent of Kiss of Death's. Only now that kind of situation is occurring in Morganville. I love the isolation experienced by the cast and the reader, especially when the author has built such a great villain to face them off against. The draug (the creatures who hunt vampires) retain their horror-inducing aura, and Caine wisely brings things to a conclusive head in this entry. 

In a way, this novel nails some things far better than any of its predecessors. The only con being the length and iffy second quarter. Black Dawn definitely emits a long-winded feel.

The second quarter sees a rescue mission for Shane, and while it's interesting and an action bonanza, I'm shocked by how indifferent I am to it. Part of me thinks it's because it's very been there, done that, and when I say that, I mean, Last Breath just gave us a huge rescue. On the plus side, the consequences it pertains for Shane's psyche are breathtakingly superb (so I guess it's not a complete waste). More on that below.

Caine also goes for the jugular by offing two major (kind of) cast members. Both are a punch to the gut and quite apt for the situation. It'd be too unrealistic for everyone to survive a foe that's described as practically invincible. 

The planning and development of the plot, especially the latter half, is perfect. It's smart and gives the reader a satisfaction when everything comes together. The epic battle at the end between Amelie and Magnus (the top draug) is just what the doctor ordered for the closing scenes. 

And those scenes are ominous... With Caine throwing in some elements that are sure to pop up again in the future (Jason becoming a vampire, and Naomi vying for Morganville's throne), nothing comes close to the fracture that splits the humans and vampires further apart than they've ever been. As a team, they accomplished what the vampires failed at for centuries, but with such a huge cloud removed from the picture, the undead now fear absolutely nothing.

And they intend to keep it that way, probably by destroying all human independence and spirit...

Pace - 4.5/5 Stars

Aside from the dodgy second quarter, Black Dawn flows in the same style as its predecessors. Better even, thanks to Caine's continued use of multiple character viewpoints, which, while they do split up the story somewhat, remarkably make it feel more whole.

Quick and engaging, just the way I like them.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

Everyone changes. The characters still alive at this point in the series are of course major badasses, in their own special ways. Romantic and platonic relationships also take a hit, and progress, whether it be to a deeper place, or a ravenous rift.

Surprisingly, I won't start with Claire. Jumping back to what I mentioned about Shane, he's probably my favourite character from this entry. During his captivity with the draug, Shane is subjected to a special psychological torture: They make him dream, of the perfect life. They twist his perceptions of reality that, even when he's saved, Shane is lost in a sea of deception, with no idea what's real and what isn't. It just adds more to his character: More insight and depth.

Claire? Well, she's seriously overcoming her fears. Amelie needs to watch, because Claire is smarter and more capable than the Founder gives her credit for, and with Amelie's health returned to her, and her colder, more ruthless nature in place of her kindness, it might bite her in the ass.

Michael and Eve's engagement hits a rough spot thanks to the former's attack on the latter in Last Breath. The danger of their coupling really strikes the two of them hard, but thankfully, Caine uses this to make them stronger rather than weaker. Plus, wedding!

Did I mention there are two major deaths? Well, Richard Morrell is one of them. The tough and kind mayor dies in such a horrific and heartbreaking manor, sending shock waves throughout the cast. Then poor psychic Miranda gets gobbled up by Magnus, and disintegrated. Her death is probably the most vicious Caine has ever depicted, and I love it!

Miranda, however, comes back. As a ghost... I'm not sure how I feel about that. Definitely conflicted. There's no explanation as to why or how, so I'll withhold a lot of judgement until I'm further along. 

Overall, Caine's cast is family. If you're this far, then you'll know just how vast and varied they are. Even if the story doesn't always get it right, our pool of characters always admirably hold it up.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

The multiple character viewpoints continue to amaze. Black Dawn is the best so far with their execution. The way they break up the plot and give us different threads to follow is mesmerising. Caine imbues it with a divide-and-conquer feel that capitalises on the battles by showing us each character fulfilling their parts in a plan. 

Overall - 4.5/5 Stars

The quality throughout this series is insane.


Previous Instalment: Last Breath
Next Instalment: Bitter Blood


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