Dawn of War by Tim Marquitz

Rating 7.5/10
Fans of epic fantasy will definitely enjoy Dawn of War.

For hundreds of years, the bestial Grol have clawed at the walls of Lathah without success. Now armed with O'hra, mystical weapons of great power, they have returned, to conquer.

Witness to the Grol advance, Arrin can abide his exile no longer. He returns to Lathah, in defiance of death, with hopes to save his beloved princess and the child born of their illicit affair. He finds her unwilling to abandon her people. At her behest, Arrin searches for a sanctuary for them only to be confronted by the Sha'ree, a powerful race long thought gone from the world. Through them, he learns it is not just the Grol that threaten the land.

Empowered by a magic never before seen, the savage nations spread chaos and ruin across the realm. With Lathah under siege, and the world on the brink of cataclysmic war, Arrin must strike a deal with the Sha'ree to take the fight to the Grol, or forever lose his one true love: his family.

Synopsis sourced from the authors website (http://www.tmarquitz.com/dow.html)

Here at Fantasy Book Review we have been giving Tim Marquitz quite a bit of love and publicity lately. For good reason too, this guy really knows how to write an entertaining story that appeals to a range of people on a number of different levels. This time around Marquitz has decided to move out of the Urban Fantasy / Horror genre to write epic fantasy, and while the the story is not without a few notable issues, this is his first attempt at the genre and on the whole it is an impressive one.

Dawn of War tells the story of a murderous and violent race called the Grol who have come into possession of some magical artefacts that have finally given them enough power to wage war on the entire world. We get to experience this story through many different viewpoints, from the plethora of characters whose cities and entire races are being threatened by this incursion, through to the monstrous aggressors of this war, and even the powerful race who have been embarrassed by the loss of their magical artefacts and are on a mission to get them back and in the process stop the war. The multiple viewpoints give us many unique insights into this story and do a lot to demonstrate the massive scope of this story, however, these viewpoints are also the source of most issues that I had with the book, in particular the sheer quantity of them.

The prologue and first six chapter contain six unique viewpoint changes, each with their own separate and distinct sub-plot which eventually tie in to the main story. This creates a very steep learning curve at the start of book which is then exacerbated by having 4 - 6 chapters before a viewpoint character is revisited. Unless you read in big chunks it can be quite hard at the start to keep track of every detail as the book progresses, but once you get through chaotic first third of the book, everything settles into a more natural rhythm with viewpoints starting to interweave and with a clear main plot becoming established. It is here where the book really starts to shine, and you can begin to appreciate the depth and breadth that Marquitz is striving to achieve in this story. Unfortunately the viewpoint issues rear their head again as we head towards the final chapters, with the persistent viewpoint rotation taking the reader away from the final battle to explore characters that are not involved.

Viewpoint issues aside, the rest of this book has been constructed to a very high standard that is hard to fault. The characters that Marquitz has created are unique, driven by their own motivations, troubled by some hideous inner demons, but always seem to retain some positive / realistic attitudes that make these characters relatable and interesting to read about. Arrin for me is a favourite character, his whole world view is slanted by a severe case of cynicism and it is fun to see the content of his inner monologues while he is presenting a far different exterior. While Arrin probably meets the definition of chief protagonist, these rest of the characters are far more than just a support cast with their own motivations driving a number of different sub-plots that are just as intricate as the main plot. It creates a story that is driven by both character and plot in equal parts, and introduces many layers of complexity that make this book more than just your stock standard epic fantasy.

Each scene, when treated independently, has been written with skill and finesse with Marquitz showing his trademark flair for writing beautiful yet brutal action sequences. The words just melt off the page with Marquitz achieving a balanced pacing that uses small climactic moments to punctuate some intricate lead up work. While these small climactic moment work great for each individual scene, the overall story seems to lack that big climactic moment, that one scene that wraps up a bunch of sub-plots and leaves you filling fulfilled. I know that this is the first in a trilogy, and the book does a great job of resolving a few plot threads and leaving enough to make you want to read the next book, but it does this by not resolving any of the bigger plot threads and this really impacts on that feeling of satisfaction.

Reading this book creates a bitter-sweet feeling for me. I really liked each individual scene but I just have to wonder what could have been if Marquitz had just managed to get the viewpoint rotation and structure right. While there are a number of plot threads left hanging, this book is obviously trying to establish a solid foundation for the events to come in the rest of the series. There is a lot to like about this book and if you are fan of epic fantasy that has many levels of complexity and takes a more brutal approach to its story telling than most, then you will definitely enjoy Dawn of War. Bring on Book 2.
Ryan Lawler, 7.5/10

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For hundreds of years, the bestial Grol have clawed at the walls of Lathah without success. Now armed with O'hra, mystical weapons of great power, they have returned, to conquer.

Witness to the Grol advance, Arrin can abide his exile no longer. He returns to Lathah, in defiance of death, with hopes to save his beloved princess and the child born of their illicit affair. He finds her unwilling to abandon her people. At her behest, Arrin searches for a sanctuary for them only to be confronted by the Sha'ree, a powerful race long thought gone from the world. Through them, he learns it is not just the Grol that threaten the land.

Empowered by a magic never before seen, the savage nations spread chaos and ruin across the realm. With Lathah under siege, and the world on the brink of cataclysmic war, Arrin must strike a deal with the Sha'ree to take the fight to the Grol, or forever lose his one true love: his family.

Ryan approached me late last year and asked if I would be willing to take a look at the books by Tim Marquitz, starting with Dawn of War. I must say that it has not slipped my attention that Ryan is a huge fan of Tim Marquitz’s works and that his reviews have been really positive. I have already had some great reads based on other reviews posted on Fantasy Book Review so immediately I said yes.

Dawn of War is a really fitting title for this book, and from the first pages you see that every action is aimed towards gearing up for the impending war. You are quickly introduced to several of the key-characters in the story - there are actually quite to meet. The most pronounced voice in Dawn of War is that of Arrin, exiled from the kingdom of Lathah. He witnesses the destruction of Fhenahe people by the advancing Grol army (vicious wolf-like warriors). Arrin, though exiled, throws every rule aside and rushes to warn the Lathah Empire about the advancing Grol army. This is a key element in the storyline that sets a lot of events in motion, but it did seem to fall it bit short in the early chapters of the book - there was at first not enough reasoning behind Arrin’s actions, but thankfully later we learn much more about Arrin and the reasons why he risked his life for the people who outcast him.

Next to Arrin there are many other characters that make an appearance. The introduction of these characters and giving each character a viewpoint added more depth to the story - it was good to read on how each individual character perceived the advancing of the Grol army, and actions these characters would take towards stopping them. One small issue was that due to the amount of characters with viewpoints, they were only shown at a superficial level. I hope to learn more and more about each character as the story continues.

When I started reading Dawn of War the chapters just flew by. The pacing is great but there is really a lot of information to digest in the beginning. It did feel overwhelming for me at the start, but that could have been due to the book I read before being focused only on a single character. It felt like the book struggled to get going - the switching from character to character felt a bit rough and also the time spent with each character felt at times to be a bit to lengthy. I was wondering when I would revisit my favourite characters again. Halfway into Dawn of War there is a nice shift in the storyline - several storylines coalesce into one and this provides a greater reading experience. When I really got into the story I found it easier to recall what happened prior and was able to link everything together.

Dawn of War directly places you in the action, which is fun, but for me a bit more background information about several aspects of the book could have been provided. For example I really want to know more about the O’hra and the other ancients. That said, what we get to know about the world within Dawn of War is very interesting. There are several races, going from standard humans to felines and wolves. The races have alliances or are at war with each other. In this small volume you do learn a lot about several of the races like the Velen, Grol, Korme and the Sha’ree, though again, similar to the characters, it really is a lot to digest. These 200 pages could have easily been turned into double that amount with just a tad more building up of everything.

Dawn of War is a great start to a new series, showing a very dedicated and eager author who is willing to share his own creativeness. Though some parts of the book felt a bit short and could use a bit polishing (like the characters and the history of the world itself), it does not take away from the large universe and the sheer amount of ideas that Tim Marquitz wanted to fit into this book. Dawn of War is a fairly short read that you can finish in an afternoon, so why wait?
Jasper de Joode, 7.5/10

This Dawn of War book review was written by and Jasper de Joode

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