Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw (The Wakening #1)

Dawn of Wonder is, at 710 pages, a big book and one that is undeniably a labour of love for its author Jonathan Renshaw. It's epic fantasy, but epic fantasy with a difference as this is more fantasy in the Robin Hobb and Patrick Rothfuss mould, where the 'hero' is not all-perfect and highly skilled at everything they set their mind too, Renshaw's hero Aedan is intelligent and talented, yes, but he is also flawed, emotionally damaged by his childhood and those scars shape his present and future life.

But first, before the review, a synopsis to whet the appetite:
When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems. The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation's royal academy - a whole world of secrets in itself. But this is only the beginning of his discoveries. Something is stirring in the land, something more ominous than the rising threat of hostile nations. Fearful travellers whisper of an ancient power breathing over Thirna, changing it, waking it. In the very heart of these stirrings, Aedan encounters that which defies belief, leaving him speechless with terror - and wonder.

Dawn of Wonder is many things that regular readers of the fantasy genre will both recognise and enjoy. It is a coming of age story and much of the narrative follows Aeden's training to become a Marshall at a military Academy. I know that this is something other readers will love as the schooling part of a fantasy book is, in my opinion, always a winner - think Roke from Le Guin's Earthsea, Hogwarts from Rowling's Harry Potter, the University from Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles. Although to be honest, Aeden's training and environment put me in mind most of the Cavella Academy featured in Robin Hobb's slightly lesser known work, The Soldier Son trilogy. These educational/military institutions are where the lead character meets good friends and good teachers, enemies and bad teachers, they get into scrapes, always risking expulsion, and all the while… coming of age. I have always loved this element of any fantasy story and will always continue to do so. Another impressive element within this story is painstaking research that must have gone into the making of swords and bows - the detail here is very impressive and I cannot think of any other book that explained the complex methods involved in creating these weapons so well.

And then, once training is completed, or interrupted, there comes the quest into danger with a motley assortment of comrades. Beset by danger our hero needs to win through while uncovering secrets of by-gone millennia.

My reading of Dawn of Wonder was almost universally positive. Some big books can lead to me wishing that parts had been edited a little more aggressively but never, not once, did things drag. The care and attention that was placed on the settings (the world and its villages, towns, cities, and especially Kulthum are very well described, allowing them to come to life) and the characterisation shone through and the narrative is perfectly paced. Yes, the path of a hero's journey may be well-trodden but, for me, it's what happens on the way that makes the a book unique. There is a pleasant lack of deus-ex-machina and the spelling and grammar are excellent, showcasing a very high standard of editing.

This is definitely a book that should be recommended reading within the epic fantasy genre and I am greatly looking forward to the second instalment.

As always, don't just take my word for things. Dawn of Wonder is a winner of these awards: the 2015 LYRA Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, 2015 CIPA EVVY awards for Fiction/Fantasy and the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards for Fantasy. And the reviews on Amazon are plain wonderful and you should definitely check them out.

9/10 Recommended reading within the epic fantasy genre.

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3 positive reader review(s) for Dawn of Wonder

Dawn of Wonder reader reviews

from United States

The best fantasy I’ve ever read.
10/10 ()

from USA

Very well written book!! This is great for avid readers! It has lots of adventure aspects to it but it’s not exactly fantasy at the same time. 10/10 would totally recommend!!
10/10 ()

from Canada

If you like Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks or Patrick Rothfuss then this is for you. I was surprised at how amazing this novel is.
10/10 ()

from USA

Incredible. I can't wait for the next book to come out. The story arcs are well thought out, the pacing is phenomenal. The themes this story explores are relatable and relevant. One of the best reading experiences I've ever had.
10/10 ()

from Australia

Tremendous book - just got better and better as it went on.. I would rate this a better debut than either Rothfus or Anthony Ryan..
9/10 ()

from Smith

Just stunning and touches many hard themes. I am extremely hopeful the story will find its end.
10/10 ()

9.7/10 from 7 reviews

All Jonathan Renshaw Reviews