Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Review

Published: November 1, 2016

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Pages: 672 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0


The first casualty of war is truth . . .

First, Denland’s revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed
after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour,
pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict.

Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family’s young men. But
then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none
left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines.

With barely enough training to hold a musket, Emily braves the savage reality of warfare.
But she begins to doubt her country’s cause, and those doubts become critical. For her
choices will determine her own future and that of two nations locked in battle.”

Adrian Tchaikovsky is another of those authors that I’ve been wanting to check out for several years. Guns of the Dawn was just recently released in audio format and that provided the perfect opportunity for me to dig in. I’m so glad I did because this may be one of my favorite reads of 2017. I’ll try my best to explain why exactly this book appealed to me so much, but honestly not sure if I can!

Guns of the Dawn is a military fantasy, almost leaning more towards historical fiction because there’s little magic and it’s not necessarily central to the plot. The country of Lascanne is at war with its neighbor and former ally, Denland because they’ve murdered their king and turned into a Republic. Or at least that’s the story told to the people of Lascanne. Subtext reigns supreme here – this book wouldn’t exist in the excellent capacity that it does without the reader’s knowledge that the people of Lascanne are being lied to by those in power and their loved ones are forced to omit the truth when they write home. This is a fantasy whose aspects are closely rooted in the real or at the very least, the possible and I think perhaps that’s part of the reason I enjoyed this so much. It makes you think without telling you what to think.

The second and most obvious reason I loved this book is the quality of not only the main character, but many of the secondary characters as well. Emily Marshwic is a superb character from beginning to end. She begins as a righteous, argumentative woman of gentle birth stoically, but not passively watching the men of her family go off to war. Men are drafted with the promise that the Denlanders are nearly beaten, the age range is broadened and more men are drafted with the same promise, finally women are drafted and the story remains the same – if only we had more soldiers we could beat the Denlanders. Emily volunteers to be the draftee from her household and is sent off to war with a scant 40 days of training under her belt to the worst front of the war – the Levant. The Levant front is hot, soupy swampland full of deadly beasts, unsettling natives, and a plethora of ways to die. Emily endures, with much help from the Survivors club – made up of her brother-in-law Tubal, a young mage named Giles, Quartermaster Brocky, and Master Sargeant Mallen. These five, plus a few more make this story stand out from the crowd and they got me absolutely hooked.

This is my favorite kind of fantasy – sympathetic characters, blazing guns, battles, and fraught with life or death situations. I can’t get enough of this stuff and it’s why I blazed through other military fantasies like The Black Company, The Powder Mage trilogy, and The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This is my jam and it’s often where I find the most impactful and memorable books that I return to over and over. Guns of the Dawn was beautifully written, but not in the way of purple prose filled books – it was sharp and unforgiving and I can’t recommend it enough.

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