Book Cover
Title Guns of Dawn
Series ---
Author Adrian Tchaikovsky
Cover Art ---
Publisher Tor - 2015
First Printing Tor - 2015
Category Gunpower/Flintlock Fantasy
Warnings None

Main Characters

Emily Marshwic, Cristan Northway, Tubal, Brocky, Mallen, Scavian

Main Elements Wizards, gunpowder

In a world of war, everyone must play their part.

Denland and Lascanne have been allies for generations, but now the Denlanders have assassinated their king, overthrown the monarchy and marched on their southern neighbour. The war rages at the border: Lascanne's brave redcoats against the bloodthirsty revolutionaries of Denland.

Emily Marshwic knows the war is going well. They said so when it took her brother-in-law, and when her brother marched away. Only venal Mr. Northway, the governor, says otherwise; a corrupt man who has always been her family's mortal enemy.

Then the call for more soldiers comes to a land already drained of husbands, fathers and sons. Every household must give up one woman to the army and Emily joins the ranks of young women marching to the front.

With just enough training to hold a musket, Emily is forced into the reality of warfare: hard life and sudden death in a savage country as hostile as the Denlanders themselves.

As the war worsens, Emily begins to doubt who the true enemy really is. Soon she finds herself in a position where her choices will make or destroy both her own future and that of her nation.

So far I haven't read a gunpowder fantasy I haven't liked. I was never a big fan of reading battle scenes, especially since I usually couldn't keep up with what was going on, but Adrian Tchaikovsky (along with Django Wexler and Brian McClellan) write the battle scenes masterfully. You are drawn into the action, but more than that, it's what happens in between.

Emily Marshwic is a gentlewoman living a life of idleness in her manorhouse with her two sisters. But though the news from the front continues to be positive ("We're almost there, just a few more recruits needed to finish it off!") things are obviously not going all that well when the king is forced to resort to drafting women.

Emily finds herself wearing an ill-fitting men's uniform and practicing firing a gun. Fortunately, she's a level-headed, practical woman and while she's not happy in her role, she proves herself competent. And then she's shipped off to the front, to hold the swamps from the invading enemy...and enemy who might not be everything she's been told...and she may not be as much on the right as she likes to think she she is. War is never simple, neither the fighting, nor the reason for the fighting. And the enemy may not be the monsters they've been made out to be (and turns out they have some outrageous ideas about your own side too).

If course no one fights alone and Emily finds herself in the company of her brother-in-law Tubal, her commanding officer. There's Giles Scavian a royal Warlock empowered (literally) by the King to summon fire. There's Mallen, a scholar who had been living in the swamps long before the war broke out, exploring it's depths and befriending the natives. And finally Brocky, the quartermaster who doesn't have to do any fighting really. They come together to try to keep their sanity, and to stay alive. Many don't, and the losses mount up. Friends, colleagues, rivals, and enemies on both sides. Tossed about by the whims of the incompetent commanders fighting a war for glory while the soldiers merely fight to try to stay alive. Some just give up.

And through it all the thought, how can you go back to the way things were. Can Emily pick up her embroidery after putting down her musket? Can she sit about the house when she's used to marching through the swamps? Where she lived every moment with the possibility of finding a lead ball in her head, can she really just pick up where she left off? Where she was just a woman without purpose?

And how is she going to choose between her two suitors? One handsome, dashing and glorious, the other dark, deceiving, manipulative, but for what it was worth, the only one who would ever tell her truth, when truth was not to be had.

Posted: August 2017


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