Black Dawn Paperback
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MAGGIE NEELY - a young girl trying to find her brother Miles when she is kidnapped by his girlfriend and made a slave in a Night World kingdom cut off from the rest of the world. Escaping with three other slaves into the wilderness, she is chased by two bloodthirsty shapeshifters, mets a Night World Prince, is identified as the Deliverer - liberator of the slaves, and uncovers a conspiracy in the castle Black Dawn.
DELOS REDFERN - the second discovered Wild Power, with a powerful blue magic in his blood which will one day be needed to safe the world. He struggles to find out who he can trust and which side to be on - his great, great grandfather Hunter who is speaking his language (the survival of the fittest, kill or be killed) or the human Maggie who tries to teach him that ALL human beings are worth something, and all have the right to live.
SYLVIA WEALD - a spellcaster excluded from the witch circles because she does not bear the 'Hearth-Woman' name. She has grown bitter and joined forces with Hunter Redfern, against her former sisters, and uses her magic as she pleases. When she decided to bring her boyfriend Miles into the Night World she unintentially got Maggie involved, and is the reason Maggie is in the Dark Kingdom in the first place.
JEANNE McCARTNEY - a slave who escaped but was re-captured and tortured. When she makes her next bid for freedom she comes across Maggie, whom she has never seen the likes of before. She desparatly wants to escape, and knows her best chance is to abandon the others, but something compels her to help out...and keep helping out until she finds herself about to be hunted down by a mob of Night People.
HUNTER REDFERN - the powerful vampire lord who has only recently discovered the kingdom of his great, great grandson and is eager for himself to exercise his dominance over the young prince, close down the kingdom, kill the slaves, and prepare for the coming apocalypse.
ARADIA - the Maiden of all the Witches who was travelling to the Dark Kingdom as a diplomat, attempting to sway Delos to join Circle Daybreak. But when she is found and kidnapped by Sylvia, she is quickly transported to the kingdom in the back of a slave cart instead. Destined to face Hunter, she escapes with the help of Maggie who thinks she is merely a human girl called 'Cady'. However, she becomes very ill, and the human healer-slaves aren't that keen on helping a witch.
MILES NEELY - Maggie's brother and the object of her search. Sylvia claims he was killed while mountain climbing, but Maggie isn't convinced. But then where is he? No one in the Dark Kingdom seem to have seen him.
P.J. PENOBSCOT - a nine year old girl who was captured by slave traders on Halloween when trick-or-treating with her friend Aaron, and thrown together with Maggie, Jeanne and Cady.
GAVIN and BERN - Sylvia's lackeys, slave-traders and shapeshifters, they hunt the escaped girls through the Dark Kingdom. But one of them may just have a clue as to what's happened to Miles.
THE SLAVES: LAUNDRESS, SOAKER, FOLDER, FALCONER, CURRIER, OLD MENDER, SWEEPER, CHAMBER-POT EMPTIER - live their barren lives with as much dignity as they can muster, till the day 'The Deliverer' comes - one who is clothed in flowers, shod in blue and scarlet and speaks of freedom. But is Maggie in her pyjama top and mismatched socks really their saviour?
Black Dawn: Good Points
-a strong, well-developed heroine in Maggie
-multiple, detailed plot lines on varying scales
-an array of interesting, unique characters
Black Dawn: Bad Points
-the time-travelling dream doesn't quite make sense
-the whole concept of a castle in the mountains is a bit unbelievable
-the first few chapters are quite rushed, and the sequence of chapters on Sylvia's apartment, Maggie's dream and her waking up in the slave cart leave us as confused and disorientated as Maggie was.
The second thing that makes this the best book is the number of sub-plots and characters that are ultimately all linked. Within the Night World there is a kingdom in the mountains called the Dark Kingdom where Night People reside, served by human slaves, and relatively un-touched by the outside world. They are so un-touched that they are all still living in a castle known as Black Dawn, and have their own monarchy (L.J. obviously wanted to go medievial). But this kingdom is soon to be over-run by many different characters, each with their own adjendas. Delos the Prince, is the second Wild Power, and struggling to know who he can trust, and what he should use his power for. Hunter Redfern has just found the kingdom, and eagar to exercise dominance over his great grandson in a subtle but cruel mind-game. Jeanne McCartney and P.J. Penobscot are two young slaves, desparate to escape captivity, and Aradia, the Maiden of all the Witches is on a diplomatic mission to the kingdom when disaster strikes. Maggie herself, is brought to the kingdom against her will by her brother's girlfriend, Sylvia Weald who claims her brother Miles is dead. Maggie doesn't believe her, and is desparately searching for him, but before she can get far, she is kidnapped by the Night People. All of these plotlines are weaved up, along with the elements of political upheaval in the Night World when the witches leave the Joint Council, a prophesy concerning Maggie as the Deliverer of the slaves, and the impending battle between the forces of good and evil.
Black Dawn leaves the rest of the Night World books in the dust, so make sure you read this one!
With me so far? This is a so so title in the series, it has some very good ideas and quirks that make it stand out. The idea of a hidden vampire kingdom remote from humans for a hundred years was cool and reminded me oddly of Brigadoon. I like Maggie and Delos both are well drawn characters but they don't have the same immediacy of other couples in the series like Jez and Morgead, or Quinn and Rashel, so I forgot all about them when I finished the book. It's good to see L J Smith move away from her archetypes by deliberatley making Maggie quite plain in comparison with previous heroines, so she seems more normal. The slavery idea and an introduction to more of Night World history was especially welcome as the books move away from the romance angle. In short its a good stand alone book that only seems a little dull when compared to the rest of an exceptionally good series.