Friday 11 October 2013

Dawnflight by Kim Headlee - Book Review

From the Blurb:

Gyanhumara Gyan nic Hymar is a Caledonian chieftainess by birth, a warrior and leader of warriors by training, and she is betrothed to Urien map Dumarec, a son of her clan's deadliest enemy, by right of Arthur the Pendragon's conquest of her people. For the sake of peace, Gyan is willing to sacrifice everything... perhaps even her very life, if her foreboding about Urien proves true.

Arthur map Uther is the bastard son of two worlds, Roman by his father and Brytoni by his mother. Denied hereditary rulership by the elders of Chieftainess Ygraine's clan, Arthur has followed Uther's path to become Dux Britanniarum, the Pendragon: supreme commander of the northern Brytoni army. The Caledonians, Scots, Saxons, and Angles keep him too busy to dwell upon his loneliness... most of the time.

When Gyan and Arthur meet, each recognize within the other their soul's mate. The treaty has preserved Gyan's ancient right to marry any man, providing he is a Brytoni nobleman - but Arthur does not qualify. And the ambitious Urien, Arthur's greatest political rival, shall not be so easily denied. If Gyan and Arthur cannot prevent Urien from plunging the Caledonians and Brytons back into war, their love will be doomed to remain unfulfilled forever.

The Review:

Gyan is a chieftainess and warrior, born to a culture that prizes powerful women, but when her clan is forced to sign a peace treaty that effectively forces her betrothal to Urien, a man who only just manages to conceal his disdain for her culture and women in general, her whole life changes. Gyan knows that she has no choice but to marry Urien, but when she meets Arthur she falls in love and seeks to find a way to allow them to be together.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this story. I really like Arthurian tales in general and this one had a somewhat unique take, being approached from the perspective of Guinevere (or in this case Gyan) as a warrior woman. However, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

The biggest issue for me was that the story took so long to get going. I nearly gave up a few times at the beginning, but determined to push on, mostly because I really do like Gyan as a character. She is a leader, but she is also a young woman. She is curious and excited to discover what the world, war, love, her life, might entail, but at her heart she is a caring and dedicated chieftainess who wants to protect her clan above all else... until, of course, she falls in love, then stuff gets complicated.

Unfortunately, Gyan does not even meet her love interest, Arthur until 4 hours into the audiobook. This first 4 hours I found quite tedious, made up of background and moralizing and no romance whatsoever. However, once we pass this rather long hurdle, the story really picks up. Not only do we have the increasing passion of Gyan and Arthur, but the action in the story also increases as Gyan is kidnapped by invading forces. Arthur and Urien both desire to save her as much as Gyan desires retribution on her kidnapper, and we finally get the clash of swords and hearts that the story promised.

Urien is a typically slimy character, but he is well written and perhaps the most interesting of the characters in this tale, contrasted with Arthur who is a delightful hero, if not all that developed.

It is worth noting that religion is a big part of this story. Perhaps this is understandable in an Arthurian tale, to a certain extent, though in this one Gyan's discovery and growing commitment to Christianity is an overarching aspect to the tale that will be appreciated by some readers, while irritating others.

All in all, this is a pretty good Arthurian romance-adventure if you can press on past the first 4 hours of the audiobook (or the equivalent of the book). Don't pick this one up if you are looking for developed or smouldering romance, but if you like strong female heroines surrounded by myth and battle action in your romance, and are willing to hold out for the story to pick up, give this one a try.

I read the Audiobook, so what about the Narrator?

Although there are some strange production issues in this audio (with the voice getting louder or shifting occasionally, especially in the first half), Dorothy Dickson is an impressive narrator of Dawnflight, if a little slow. I ended up listening to this on the 'faster' setting on my iPod which made it perfect. What most impressed me about her reading was her ability to maintain pronunciation of all the complex names with what seemed like ease. She also managed excellent accents for different characters and clans.

Dawnflight, written by Kim Headlee and read by Dorothy Dickson, was published by Kim Headlee in 2013 (first published in 1999) and is 17 hours and 21 minutes in length. It is available from Audible, Book Depository and Amazon.

This title was given to Love Reading Romance in exchange for an honest review.