Dawnthief by James Barclay
Every now and again you come across an author who manages to write unlike any other. This is not something that will happen often, and I’ve personally only ever come across a handful (Tolkien, Pratchett, Hobb and Erikson). But one author who manages to write such a compelling story that you never want to put the book down is James Barclay.
His first novel is Dawnthief, and it is first in the Chronicles of the Raven trilogy, which itself is the first of two trilogies (followed by Legends of the Raven). They are in essence a sextet, but are broken into their respective trilogies by Barclay.
Dawnthief tells the tale of the Raven, a band of mercenaries in Balaia, who are known and feared throughout the land. But that’s about where you can leave the vague and ambiguous descriptions, as Barclay quickly begins a journey that soon sees two characters killed off just as you were getting used to the idea of them bring around for at least a whole book.
New characters are drawn in, pulled in, and forced in, while others are killed, expelled, or willingly leave. It is nothing short of baffling as you try and wrap your mind around the sheer reality of what is going on.
That’s the difference in Barclay’s writing that many other fantasy authors fail to take heed of. In a world of mercenaries, swords and dragons (yep, there are dragons!), you aren’t actually likely to have a full and long life. You will get stabbed, slashed, cracked over the skull or murdered in your sleep. It’s a reality that many authors just ignore for the sake of having a group of characters who inevitably turn out to be semi-invulnerable.
One of the greatest characters I have ever read pops up in Barclay’s Raven books; Hirad Coldheart. The “barbarian warrior” of the Raven, and its heart, he is immediately likeable and you never stop cheering for him. He drags the Raven through every scrap, whether it is by strength of arms or strength of will. He’s not necessarily the smartest tool in the shed, but he always gets there in the end.
The story contained in Dawnthief is definitely a set up for the next 5 (soon to be 6) books to follow, but is in its own right a brilliant piece of fiction. It doesn’t leave you hanging (much), wrapping pretty much everything up by the end of the book.
Balaia is at risk from an ancient evil, and only the unleashing of a terrible spell can save them all. But the price is high, and by the end of the book everything is turned upside down. You see fantastic character development of the sort that you rarely find, and plead with the author to give you more insight into his leads.
Known as action fantasy Dawnthief lives up to the title with a realistic depiction of everything from full scale battles to one on one swordfights. Barclay delivers in Dawnthief a book you will love the moment you pick it up, and continues to deliver as he goes on.
This Dawnthief book review was written by Joshua S Hill
All reviews for: Chronicles of the Raven
Chronicles of the Raven: Book 1
Chronicles of the Raven: Book 2
Chronicles of the Raven: Book 3
Have you read Dawnthief?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Dawnthief reader reviews
ilkar from Asia
I've read all of the series. I agree with what you say that it is realistic that 'ou arenít actually likely to have a full and long life. You will get stabbed, slashed, cracked over the skull or murdered in your sleep' but fantasy is Supposed to be better and more ideal than reality! that's why i read... Best of all the volumes, not as heavy hearted as book 4. I love Ilkar! XDDD
B from India
Totally rocks!!! Though the thing I don't like is that ***SPOILER ALERT*** the main characters like Sirendor and the unknown warrior are killed! :( ***SPOILER ALERT END*** but it's still awesome!!! It's really complicated, but that's why I like it so much. One of the best books I've ever read!!! :)
Vijay Kumar from Malaysia
Ouch, as much as I hate to say it, but I'm disappointed with this book. While I actually had rather high hopes for Dawnthief, I'm halfway through and wondering if I should just give up and move on to another book. The thing is, it isn't the story that gets to you, but how the story is told. I could pick on the plotline, but I think the biggest grievance I have would be the movement of plotline, which is extremely stilted. Worse, the motivation the characters do not naturally grow from the movement of the plot. For most of the book (I haven't finished it, so I can't say this for the entire book), the characters remain 2 dimensional. Also, transition from chapter to chapter is disjointed, and sometimes even jarring, leaving you to wonder if you missed out on some pages earlier on. The book reads like an attempt to recreate something from Gemmel's pen, but falls short on delivering the 'against all odds' feeling.
James from Swindon
It wasn't a bad read, but the world, the magic and the action all seemed rather clunky and unbelievable to me (within the scope of fantasy, obviously). His characters weren't objectionable, but they were a bit static, and I don't think I'll be in a rush to read any more of his work. This sort of thing is done much better by Gemmell, Cook, Abercrombie and Erikson.
Shell from Winchester
Inspirational and compelling - where have all the heroes gone?
8.5/10 from 6 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen
Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discont...
Chronicles of the Black Company
Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophec...
On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a seldom-seen people of extraordinary ferocity and discipline whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of legend. For cen...
Shadow Ops series
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the d...
The Rigante Novels
Born in the storm that doomed his father, Connavar grows to manhood among the mist-covered mountains of Caer Druagh, where the Rigante tribe dwell in harmony with the land ...
The First Law
Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body...
The Drenai Novels
The Legend Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, hig...
The Aspect Emperor
R Scott Bakker
A score of years after he first walked into the histories of Men, Anasurimbor Kellhus rules all the Three Seas, the first true Aspect-Emperor in a thousand years. The masse...
Prince of Nothing
R Scott Bakker
A score of centuries has passed since the First Apocalypse and the thoughts of men have turned, inevitably, to more worldly concerns... A veteran sorcerer and spy seeks new...
The People of the Black Circle
Robert E Howard
Conan the Cimmerian: he rose from boy-thief and mercenary to become kingof Aquilonia. Neither supernatural fiends nor demonic sorcery could oppose the barbarian warrior as ...
A man wakes in the wilderness, amid scattered corpses and inquisitive crows. He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. The only clues to his former existenc...
They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to s...
The Thousand Names
The King of Vordan is dying, and his daughter, Raesinia, is destined to become the first Queen in centuries – and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to cont...
The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach
Set in the awe-inspiring world of the Malazan Empire, three tales of the enigmatic and eccentric necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach collected in a single, readily av...
Having risked their lives and souls to capture the fortress of Stormgard, a band of weary soldiers known as the Company witnesses their commander's descent into madness...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Ceda, now a Blade Maiden in service to the kings of Sharakhai, trains as one of their elite warriors, gleaning secrets even as they send her on covert missions to further their rule. She knows the dark history of the asirim--that hundreds of years ago they were enslaved to the kings against their will--but when she bonds with them as a Maiden, c...
Dead Men Naked
After the sudden death of his best friend Neil, involving a 6-foot giant crow and quite some Tequila, Lou’s life takes an unexpected turn towards the impossible. As L...
Age of Assassins
Girton Club-Foot, apprentice to the land's best assassin, still has much to learn about the art of taking lives. But their latest mission tasks him and his master with ...
A Conjuring of Light
The precarious equilibrium among the four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empi...
Sebastien de Castell
Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead King's dream: Aline is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once...
The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Edinburgh, 1874. On the coldest night the world has ever seen, Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation. But Dr Madeleine i...
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow...