Review: “Darkness Before Dawn” by JA London

Title: “Darkness Before Dawn”

Author: JA London

Genre: YA, dystopian, paranormal

Publication Date: May 29, 2012 (expected)

Summary: This electrifying new trilogy blends the best of paranormal and dystopian storytelling in a world where the war is over. And the vampires won.

Humans huddle in their walled cities, supplying blood in exchange for safety. But not even that is guaranteed. Dawn has lost her entire family and now reluctantly serves as the delegate to Lord Valentine, the most powerful vampire for miles. It isn’t until she meets Victor, Valentine’s son, that she realizes not all vampires are monsters….

☆: 3.5/5 stars – could have been better than it was, but still entertaining.

Review: Seems like we have another new dystopian sub-genre trend in YA now – paranormal dystopian, where humans have lost a war or otherwise have been conquered by a supernatural/paranormal race. Other books in this sub-genre would include “The Immortal Rules” and “The Hunt” – and unfortunately, I’m sad to say that those two far outdid this one. “Darkness Before Dawn” creates an interesting world with a very interesting problem (one of the Big Reveals in the latter half of the book), but the rest kind of felt sub-par. But I think that a lot of fans of the PNR genre will enjoy “Darkness Before Dawn”.

The war that the humans started (and lost) has left the US in shambles – walled cities that must donate blood as negotiated in the VampHu treated to give to the master vampires for each city to control their ranks. I thought that this was a very under-explored concept – Julie Kagawa goes far more in-depth into this idea in her own way in “The Immortal Rules”, and I felt like London here just kind of left it a little too open for my liking. Why don’t humans fight this? To protect their children, yes, and prevent further fighting with the vampires, but again, that just seemed too easy, and full of potential to explore. However, the idea of the Night Train – the train that is the only kind of mass transport that can go through the entire continental US that’s allowed by the vampires in the treaty was another fascinating idea that also could have been explored a little more. If anything, I might have based the book ON the train, and things might have been a little more interesting.

But that’s just me.

The romance felt a little flat to me – yet another love triangle (or maybe rectangle, if we bring Lila into it), and the betrayal at the end was something I kind of saw coming a mile away. Sin was just too good to be true – and if something/someone seems that way, they usually are. But even the romance between Tegan and Sin seemed flat, and maybe it’s me getting really tired of how YA’s been doing the genre with love triangles and such, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

However, the one big reveal that really had me interested was the Thirst – yet another thing I wish that London had gone into more in detail, but I guess, since this looks like it’s going to be more than one book, that I’m happy with what I got in this first book. I thought the idea of what pretty much amounts to a virus that makes you lose your mind because you’re cannibalizing your own species was really awesome, and I wanted more of that.

Dawn as a delegate was great, and I loved the scenes with Lord Valentine, and his ridiculous demands in keeping things with the Victorian age. Victor, Valentine, and Dawn were the most filled out characters of the bunch, and that was a shame, because even though there were quite a few characters in the cast, there was plenty of opportunity and potential to make sure they were all filled out to the point where they felt enough like real people. Tegan was done well as a sidekick/best friend, but we weren’t given a lot on the backstory between her and Dawn as BFFs, which was kind of disappointing and didn’t quite make Tegan real, but for now, is adequate. Michael was filled out far better than Tegan, but as the romantic focus shifts to Victor, we see less and less of him, and more and more chances to make him into a real person are lost.

But for a first effort as a mother-son team (which seems to be intriguingly rare in YA), this wasn’t a complete disappointment and definitely is worth the read for the entertainment factor alone. I hope there’s a next book coming, if just to answer all of my questions.

“Darkness Before Dawn” will be available through HarperTeen in the US on May 29, 2012. Be sure to check it out then, and explore this awesome new sub-genre of supernatural/paranormal dystopian books!


One thought on “Review: “Darkness Before Dawn” by JA London

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! « birth of a new witch.

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