I finished this book a few weeks ago, and I have to say, it's one of my favorite books that I've read over the last year. I thought I'd share my thoughts about it in a sort of bullet-point style...
Title: Behold the Dawn
Author: K. M. Weiland
Genre: Novel, historical fiction
Setting: Europe / Holy Land during the King's Crusade
* It has a gripping beginning; one that doesn't just capture you in the first sentence, but continues to draw you in during the remaining paragraph (and the paragraphs that follow it). As soon as I read the beginning, I was hooked. Here's the first paragraph so you can see for yourself:
"Marcus Annan had killed before. He had killed so many times he could no longer remember them all... so many times he had become inured to the ache of sorrow as he stared into the faces of the dead."
* The book "brings history to life", as the common saying goes. For me, reading it felt almost like living in that time period.
* The characters' responses to pain, injury, killing, death, and war in general felt very realistic, especially in consistency with the time period it was set in. It was refreshing to read this, as I have read many other books (especially fantasy books that had Medieval-like warfare) where this was not the case. In these books, there will often be kids who have never had any experience in war, and when they are suddenly thrust into some epic, brutal, fantasy warfare, and are wounded to some degree in battle, will then say: "Oh, it's just a scratch." Real people don't act like that!! *grips book and bangs it against the wall* Maybe if they had been an experienced war veteran of twenty plus years they would act like that, but that's different. HOWEVER, in Behold the Dawn, I found to my relief that the characters' treatment of war seemed believable. (At least, according to my limited knowledge of war!)
* I could tell the book was very researched. The author clearly understood her topic before she wrote about it.
* The book had substance; I felt like I was reading something that had been written a long time ago, even though the style was still quite consistent with modern-day trends. It seemed to me like the kind of book that people will still read and appreciate in one hundred years, (or longer); unlike some books that may perfectly fit the modern day style, may become ultra best-sellers, but then are totally forgotten in ten or twenty years. This novel, while still feeling completely modern, has the substance that will allow it to survive the passing of time, I believe, even when the trends of literature change.
* It has a good use of suspense, in the form of a secretive, mysterious past belonging to the protagonist. His past gets slowly revealed to us in bits and pieces as the story moves along, prompting us to keep reading to learn more.
* I like how the author expresses emotions in the novel. She uses physical actions of the characters to capture their emotions -- e.g. a jaw tightening, a spine straightening, a look in someone's eyes or the tone in their voice -- all expressed in a descriptive manner. (Something I realized I needed to use more in my own writing!)
* The characters feel very real; they behave in believable ways, and they're easy to relate to because they seem to act like real people.
* It had a satisfying ending. I didn't close the book feeling like there should have been more, like there should have been more story, such as a sequel or a series that followed it. I was content... everything was resolved, everything was concluded in a strong and agreeable way. (Although, it certainly did NOT end the way I expected it to! Let that just be a warning to future readers...) Anyway, in my opinion, it was a very well-done ending.
* And of course, an important point for Christians! The book has a powerful message of redemption that makes it worth reading, in of itself!
All that said, I have a word of caution: This book is not for young readers; there are some themes that are mature, although they are in no way inappropriate for older readers.
If you want to learn more about Behold the Dawn, check it out on K. M. Weiland's website:
Also, if you're a writer, you should check out K. M. Weiland's blog:http://www.wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com/. It is, honestly, the most helpful blog related to writing tips, techniques, and encouragement that I have come across!