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Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Guns of the Dawn (2015)

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Guns of the Dawn
Series: ------
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 673
Format: Digital Edition


Denland and Lascanne, two countries, allies. Until Denland overthrows its King and begins to make war on Lascanne. Inspired by their King, the people of Lascanne give their all. They sacrifice and sacrifice and things end up with a draft of the women from each household, as all the men have already been taken.

We follow Emily, the middle daughter of a noble family which is now impoverished. A brother-in-law has gone, the only son drafted, food slowly disappearing, bandits appearing, no news from the front. And to make things even better, the man who drove her father to suicide many years ago is in charge of the town. But Emily is a fighter and she does what she can to keep her family together and functioning.

When Emily gets drafted, she is sent to the Front in the swamps. She learns about war, about the leaders of her country and in the process learns a lot about the Denlanders. What she learns shakes the foundations of everything she thought she knew and that knowledge will lead to make a decision that will affect both countries.

My Thoughts:

First, only ONE bug reference. Considering how much time we spend in a swamp, I was expecting a lot more.

If I had any doubts about Tchaikovsky's writing ability [and after 12 books, you'd think I'd have made up my mind. Go figure], this put them to rest. This was really, really, really well written. There were a couple of instances near the beginning of the book where I just didn't like ANY of the characters and I was wondering if I'd have to DNF the book. But what it did was make the characters deeper and fully fleshed out.

Tchaikovsky continues his little fight against authority. If someone is in authority, they're lying bags of excrement and what is Right is actually Wrong. Having read Spiderlight, I saw the whole Denlander/Lascanne thing coming from a mile away. I really hope he doesn't keep this up in future books because it's getting a bit tiresome. Sometimes Right actually is Right. Just accept it.

Emily was a great character to follow. Her romance with Cristain was such a slow burn, it reminded me of an Austen romance. Then when she has feelings for a Warlock, instead of being a love triangle that I hated, I actually liked it. You could totally see this happening in a war. Nothing is clean cut or easy. It's as messy as the mud the soldier wade through day after day. It made sense, it fit with the characters and it never felt forced or drama for drama's sake.

The ending, with Emily having to make a decision about continuing the war against Denland or to put her heroic role away, was great. I didn't know which way she was going to do, whether she would pull the trigger or not, until I read the sentence. Isn't that exactly what we're looking for as readers?

Great book, well written, lots of fun.

★★★★☆ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | May 15, 2017 |
This was nothing like the book I expected from the blurb. I had expected a fast-moving adventure, featuring a young woman who discovers that she isn't fighting the war she thought she was, and then having to do something about it. Although that description technically fits, it really doesn't convey the right impression.

Emily Marshwic is a young woman of a slightly-impoverished gentry family. She does the usual young-women things, including keeping alive a long-running feud with her father's enemy, who is unfortunately now the mayor of the local town. When neighbouring Denland kills its king and invades, the usual thing happens. First the volunteers go to the war, then the conscripts - first, male, and, finally, one woman from each household is required to go to war.

And so Emily ends up in the first tranche of female recruits, is given fairly minimal training, promoted to ensign, and arrives on the front equipped with musket, sabre, and her father's pistol.

It takes quite a long time for the book to get this far. Even more time is spent on Emily learning her business as a soldier and a junior officer. I found myself thinking that the story wasn't really about Emily - she was just the focus for it. The story is about the war, its progress, and what war does to those left at home and those involved in the fighting.

It also has much in common with a coming-of-age tale - Emily starts out as a fairly typical (though rather outspoken) young woman of good family; she ends up as a competent soldier and officer in the army. We get to watch the change in slow-time, as she grows into a new person with a different place in society.

So far, so good. However, nothing special. If you want to read about war from the soldier's perspective, try [b:All Quiet on the Western Front|355697|All Quiet on the Western Front|Erich Maria Remarque|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1441227765s/355697.jpg|2662852]. If you want to read about a woman soldier, read [b:The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars|1031687|The Cavalry Maiden Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars|Nadezhda Durova|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1383166361s/1031687.jpg|1017950].

For me, what took this book from a solid four-star tale - competent, entertaining, well-written and so on, but without that special something - to five stars, was the very end. I saw the events of the final scene coming, but that did not make them any more satisfying, or any less what the book needed to acquire that special something.

And I wonder how much the author has read of the English Civil War - King Luthrian reminded me very much of Charles I, particularly at the end. ( )
  T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
So, there's exactly 4 weeks left of 2015.. Which means there's only 4 weeks left to topple Guns of the Dawn as my pick of best of 2015.. Rtc ( )
  BookFrivolity | Apr 23, 2016 |
When I went to Octocon this year one of the people there was Adrian Tchikovsky, I hadn't seen him listed as a guest but any panel he was on he was interesting so I decided to try at least one of his books. There will be more.

This is pretty much a standalone. There could be more books afterwards but in and of itself it is a complete story.

Emily Marshwic believes the stories that tell her that the war is going well, however almost all the men in their country are fighting this war, and now they want the women to serve. She goes and finds herself face to face with war and the reality that it is and she realises that she may have been told lies. The only person who understands is the man she blames for her father's death, but he's an ear she can use and he seems to care.

It's a world that's somewhat reminiscent of World War I, a war where the leaders are willing to keep throwing people at the battles, a world where magic is the big guns, but a war where winning may not be the best thing for everyone and even when you're defeated things might not be good.

The Author says it's more of a Regency era but it felt more modern to me, your mileage may vary.

I'm looking forward to more by this author.
  wyvernfriend | Nov 12, 2015 |
Emily Marchwic, middle sister of a noble family, lives in Lascanne who are pursuing a bitter war against their neighbour Denland. The war was started when the Denlanders committed regicide and instituted a republic, a direct danger to Lascanne's monarchy. The war has emptied the country of men, Emily's brother and brother-in-law being part of the draft and the sisters try to get on with their life in a country where the old and young and the women are the only ones immune to the draft. Due to family history the Marshwics consider the local governor, a Mr Northway, as an enemy.

The first third of the book builds a very clear picture of what the country is like without men, with scarcity, the impact of brigands and the very human desire to carry on as if everything were normal. This part of the book is well observed. Emily and her younger sister attend a ball held by the king, and get to meet Giles Scavian, a warlock. The warlocks are key to the war. There is an immediate attraction between them but Scavian must leave for the front.

Then comes the news that more soldiers are needed and that the draft requires one woman from each household and it is obvious that Emily must go to war. The war is being fought on two main fronts, the Couchant and the Levant. The new recruits all wish to go to the Couchant for it's wide open plains favour the glorious cavalry of Lascanne but Emily is sent to the Levant, a swamp requiring jungle warfare.

This middle section has a healthy mix of exciting warfare, weary cynicism and a battle for the soul of Emily between the dashing warlock Scavian and the difficult Mr Northway with whom she has an illicit exchange of letters.

As things get worse Emily begins to have doubts about the cause, he country and her enemy and she is thrust into a position to make decisions that will affect everything.

Tchaikovsky has built a world that is supremely focused, with only hints of the wider world outside the story, a function of the close POV. The small hints of a swamp civilization and the wider world left me wanting more. The story itself is well made, I was impressed with Tchaikovsky's storytelling abilities and his command of the reader's emotions. This is a big book but doesn't read like one, it propels you forward effortlessly. I enjoyed the middle section the best, the brilliant survivor's club, the creeping claustrophobia of the swamp, the slow revelations. But the ending was also very satisfying too..

Overall - Large but very readable book, if you ever wondered what it'd be like for one of Austen's heroines to go to war then this is the book for you! ( )
  psutto | Feb 21, 2015 |
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"If I should fall in far-off battle,
Cannons roar and rifles rattle,
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Love Farewell."
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"Emily Marshwie 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 and venal 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."--Dust jacket.… (more)

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