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Dusk by Tim Lebbon
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The cover blurb from author Paul Kearney promised that “Dusk Is Fantasy For Grown-Ups… An Excellent Book.” I agree and cannot think of a better topline summary.

For Grown-Ups? Yes. Dusk is chock-full of: explicit gore, adult sexual situations, profane language, alluring drug trips, etc. This book is not for young adults. It is also not for adults looking for a light read.

Is it Fantasy? Yes. A brief summary (minus the “adults-only warning”) would even seem to describe a typical young adult fantasy book:
-Naïve Farm Boy: Rafe is a central character, an orphaned farm boy who singularly holds the keys to bringing hope to Noreela (read “world”). There is a loose prophecy associated with his existence.
-Fellowship: Also, there is a band (a.k.a. obligatory fellowship) of unlikely individuals with unique skill sets that resemble the expected motifs (thanks to Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons): 1) vulnerable, naive farm boy; 2) a human thief; 3) a Shantasi warrior (read “Elf”); 4) a human witch; 5) a drug-addicted, miner (read “Dwarf”); and lastly another empathetic girl, a human scholar.
-Series Worthy: Lastly, this is the first in a series of Novels (the others: “#2 Dawn” “#3After the War: Two Tales of Noreela” “#4 Fallen” “#5 Island” )

Cliché or not Cliché: But this is not a coming of age novel, nor is it common fantasy fare. It is the first in a series for the horror-fantasy sub-genre that stereotypically works best in short stories, novellas, or single novels. But Dusk works well as a series opener, perhaps because it employs the framework of common fantasy series.

Clarifying “Magic”: Lebbon presents a strange world, Noreela, that has lost its “magic”; but he defines magic differently than what you may expect. This is a problem for some readers since there are many arguably magical things present in this magic-devoid world. This could undermine the conflict in the book (i.e. who cares if Rafe can bring magic back to Noreela if it is still a fantastical place?). The success of the book hinges on a satisfying demonstration of what magical means. So let me clarify to set future reader’s expectations:

In Noreela, the baseline magicless assertion still allows for:
-Out-of-body mind trips, telepathy, and mind reading (if you take the drug called fledge, or are a Mage)
-Seeing/sensing wraiths (souls disembodied from their corpses)
-Communing speaking with animals (ravens) is doable with alchemy and practice
-Swords that hunger for blood (these are nearly sentient swords that cannot be sheathed until sated)
-Being butchered alive without being hindered, well beyond the limits of biology and physics (Red Monk capability)
-Living hundreds of years (for some humanoids, Shantasi, Red Monks, and a select undead Krote warrior)
-Creatures like giant-hawks and metallic-tumbleweeds exist

So what does “magic” encompass? What is missing that is so valuable? Magic is akin to the Star War's Force, it being a limitless potential of energy. Here, it is inextricably connected to the land’s health. Without it, humans have turned toward apathetic lifestyles, dependent on drugs, without hope of regaining civility. With magic present, select individuals can horde the power and become a god (a Mage): a mage can heal people, raise the dead for sure…but more impressively a mage can control the flow of rivers, animate stone/metal/vegetation to raise armies of golem-like machines, control the weather and even time (well probably).

Lebbon delivers on his strange promises: For every strange perspective presented, for every conflict of importance, he closes the loop. He does so with bizarre, horrific style, but the motivations and workings of Noreela remain consistent. Read this, and even if you consider yourself a veteran fantasy reader, you will be taken to appealing strange worlds. Below are several excerpts that serve as taste-testers. If you enjoy these terrifying and dreadful appetizers, then you will enjoy Dusk!:

Crazy creatures constantly harass our heroes:

-“The tumbler left an intermittent bloody track across the cleaned stone square as it rolled. Crushed into its plant-like hide was a second man, dead, pierced by the thing’s many natural spikes and hooks. One arm flipped free as the tumbler rolled, thumping the stone in a rhythm that gave that silent place a grotesque heartbeat.”

-“A shape burst from the opening, a Red Monk, its decidedly feminine mouth wide open in a frozen grimace of agony and shock…its hood was snagged back by a spear of wood, and Kosar could see its bald head, veins standing out like worm-trail, red, leaking where they split the skin. Its eyes were wide and surely sightless, such was the rate of their expansion and the scarlet pooling of blood in their whites…”

Despair permeates the land of Noreela:

-"Few in Noreela had any inclination to even come in [the library] and read a book, let alone await the opportunity to slink in and steal one when her back was turned. Sometimes she wondered whether there was any intellect left in the world where famine also starved the mind, and dust and fading gods ate away at the tenacity of the people… nobody would notice, and if they did they wouldn’t say anything. And if they did it would not matter.”

-“[The machines] were all incorporated in some way, chopped and changed and altered as if those that had used them were frustrated at their lack of animation. The channels were there within these machines, the empty reservoirs and sacs and current routes that had given them the strange life they once lived, but they were dead. Dead as the sand beneath the dweller’s feet, dead as the air they exhaled, dead as the corpse Rafe saw in the gutter in one or two places. There was a fledger, his or her body twisted and ripped from whatever had killed it. There was something else, something that once could have been fodder because of its size, exposed ribs torn back and knotted by the accelerated growth, slabs of flesh and muscle ripped from its wet corpse…" ( )
  SELindberg | Jan 28, 2013 |
Very dark. The set pieces - weird beasts, strange cultures and people, and a depiction of a decaying land - all came together memorably. The actual characterization and plotting, however, didn't do that much for me. ( )
  mbg0312 | Feb 14, 2012 |
This is one of the best fantasy novels ever written.It is not the generic fantasy novel, with orcs, elves, and dwarfs. I recommend that anyone who likes fantasy, especially dark fantasy. ( )
  kagan | Jul 15, 2009 |
Great story, captivating imagery, and an interesting tale bringing so many differently abled individuals together in a story is enchanting. I look forward to the sequel.
  jcorrea | Mar 17, 2009 |
Last night I finished Dusk by Tim Lebbon. It took me about two weeks to finish, and some of that lag was due to a lower amount of reading time than normal. I've been relatively busy, and thus not able to commit as much time to reading. I just wanted to point out that it was not necessarily a reflection of the book.

Dusk starts out with a Red Monk, who you know nothing about coming into a small sleepy town, slaughtering the whole town trying to get to one person, who actually gets away. The Red Monk ends up dying in the town, after being shot a billion times (and after killing everyone but a thief and the boy he was after). The boy and the thief seperately make their way to the next town, Passive, where the thief (Kosar) meets an old flame (A'Meer), and the boy (Rafe) meets a witch(Hope). In this time, we meet a librarian named Alicia and a miner named Trey. Through the book, the six of them come together for form a travelling group. Many fantastic things happen to them along the way, usually magic induced.

Magic has left the land for the last 300 years, after the Mages took control of it, and used it for selfish gain. There was a large battle (Cataclysmic War), which drove the Mages to the furthest north as they could go, exiling them for the past three hundred centuries. Many people believed that the Mages were dead or never existed, and had little believe in magic anyway. The only proof that they had were the Red Monks (who lived to destroy magic), and the dead machines (a mixture of robot and bionic life). There were people who watched for the return of magic, like the Shantasi's who wanted to nurture the return of magic and protect it from the Mages. The miner's lived underground, mining the fledge drug that alters the consiousness of who ever takes it, causing them to travel on what would be known as the "astral plain", seeking other minds out. They live in nearly complete darkness, relying on their other senses to help them. Very few miners head top-side (out of the mine), until something horrible happens and forces them to leave.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book. I thought that the creatures were very interesting, as well as the take on magic. I found the corruption and decay of society to be intreguing, knowing that most of the decay was from the lack of magic. I also liked how the world was kind of having issues with magic returning (river flowing backwards, the forest without colours). I like that it wasn't all just peachy keen, and that there were problems with change. I like a few of the characters like Alicia, Kosar, and A'Meer. I thought that the over all plot was good, although a little bit recycled. It didn't bother me that it wasn't brand new, as I find very few books these days are.

I also liked the concept of the Red Monks. While it is unbelievable that madness could drive a person to live for hundreds of years, and sustain fatal wounds and still fight, the concept was well played out. I think that I have a stronger ability to suspend belief then a lot of other people, so that might be part of why I liked them. I enjoyed the sections where you would get a peek into their minds, and taste the madness that lived there. I enjoyed the meeting of the Nax with the head of the Red Monks. I enjoyed the scene in the library with the one old monk (even though I hated what he had done).

One thing that I didn't like about the book was the lack of description. I never got a real feeling for what many of the creatures looked like. What exactly are Tumblers? When he described the hawks, I got an image of flying octapus' with bird heads! The Nax felt very... bleak, like there was nothing to describe, and if that is physically the case, I think there should have been more information about the Nax supplied.

I disliked the language of the book. I felt that it was jarring to read, that no one in fantasy says "screw" for sex, or whatever. I felt like his lingo and slang was very current, and that it jarred with the tone of the book.

I didn't like how many of the characters seemed kind of flat, or undescribed. I know that it's the first part of a two part series (I am assuming - there could be more after Dawn comes out), and thus you have to save some character development for the second book. I guess that you have to find the balance between making a character believable and relatable, and retaining enough information to keep some development back for subsequent stories. I had problems with identifying an age for Rafe. It seemed that sometimes he was 12, and other times, he was on the cusp of manhood (closer to 16 or older). I found it hard to believe that 5 adults would just do what he said, that they would just instantly believe in magic and put all their faith in it. Maybe if Rafe had been a better character, it would have been more believable... but they was it was done was poor. I also dislike how the author treated Hope. He insinuated that she was mad in a couple of places, but didn't give enough behaviours of a person that wasn't all there.

All in all, I felt that it was a good story. It had a definite plot, there was movement in the story, and an interesting premise. Mr. Lebbon did a good job developing his world and introducing interesting points, even if I would have desired more description.

I give this book and R rating. While there wasn't much sex, there was frank discussion of it, often using crude terms. There is a lot of violence, even though it is unbelievable at times, it is still there.

I give it three stars out of five. It could have been better for the reasons I listed above, but it gets a three because it was still a good read. ( )
  Katiebear | May 30, 2006 |
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For Tracey, Ellie and Dan, with love
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When Kosar saw the horseman, the world began to end again.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553383647, Paperback)

Kosar the thief senses that Rafe Baburn is no ordinary boy. After witnessing a madman plunder Rafe's village and murder his parents, Kosar knows the boy needs his help. And now, for a reason he cannot fathom, others are seeking the boy's destruction.

Uncertain where to begin, Kosar turns to A'Meer, an ex-lover and Shantasi warrior whose people, unbeknownst to him, have been chosen to safeguard magic's return. A'Meer knows instantly that it is Rafe who bears this miracle of magic. Now Kosar and a band of unexpected allies embark on a battle to protect one special boy. For dark forces are closing in–including the Mages, who have been plotting their own triumphant return.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"It is the Year of the Black 2208, and magic has been dead for three centuries. Since the Cataclysmic War, which drove away the Mages, civilisation has regressed to a more savage time. But magic is about to be reborn." "Kosar the thief senses that Rafe Baburn is no ordinary boy. After witnessing a madman plunder Rafe's village and murder his parents, Kosar knows the boy needs his help. And now, for a reason he cannot fathom, others are seeking the boy's destruction." "Uncertain where to begin, Kosar turns to A'Meer, an ex-lover and Shantasi warrior whose people, unbeknownst to him, have been chosen to safeguard magic's return. A'Meer knows instantly that it is Rafe who bears the miracle of magic. Now Kosar and a band of unexpected allies embark on a battle to protect one special boy. For dark forces are closing in - including the Mages, who have been plotting their own triumphant return."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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