Fiction, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Review: Darkest Before Dawn by R. Jackson-Lawrence

Darkest Before Dawn book cover
Image from R. Jackson-Lawrence; used by permission

Title: Darkest before Dawn (The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight #2)

Author: R. Jackson-Lawrence

Genre: Science Fiction

WARNING: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the previous book. If you haven’t read Knightfall, I recommend not reading this review.

They were too late.  Despite everything that they’d sacrificed, everyone that they’d lost, they were still too late to stop the army from the north. Now, outnumbered and out gunned, the survivors from the Road Trains fight back against the force that has occupied their homeland, but Alexander seems to be one step ahead of them at every turn.  If it’s always darkest just before the dawn, what happens if the sun never rises?

After enjoying Knightfall, the first book in this series, I jumped at the chance to read Darkest before Dawn. I was looking forward to reading more about Ben and the strange world he ended up in, and about Alexander’s evil plot.

Darkest before Dawn had an ensemble cast, and most of the time it managed just fine. But I actually didn’t like it much. I wanted more of Ben than there was. He was still a main character, but his figure-out-where-he-is and get-back-home goals were eclipsed by impending war. And sadly enough, I didn’t like any of the other focus characters as much as I liked Ben.

Alexander got a lot more page time than I expected. And even though he was the bad guy, he just made me sad. He had so many skills and abilities – he was so gifted, but he used his gifts to get away with murder, literally, and start wars. It was just so sad thinking of what he could have done if he hadn’t been evil.

So, the plot. There are so many separate but interconnected plots in this book, I don’t know where to start. Alexander’s starting wars. Safran’s trying to convince people she’s Baron now. Alexander’s right-hand man (who also gets a surprising amount of page time) is trying to please Alexander. Matthew and gang leader Deacon struggle to work together. There were even a couple semi-romances (the most minor of which only had two scenes, which was good since it was homosexual and I didn’t like it). I was interested all the way through, but there were so many plots I wasn’t enthralled with any of them.

The world was a fascinating mish-mash of various time periods and miscellaneous weirdness. I recommend not exploring Jackson-Lawrence’s website too much until you’ve read all the books, because there’s an explanation of where exactly Ben is, and I think it partially ruined the reading for me. Instead of being fascinated with the world like I was in book one, I was waiting for Ben to figure it out and trying to guess how he would get home.

Overall, I enjoyed Darkest before Dawn. Not as much as I enjoyed Knightfall – partly because of the world issue and partly because I wanted more Ben and less everybody else – but enough that I definitely want to read the third book, New Light.

I received a free review copy of Darkest before Dawn from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight:

  1. Knightfall
  2. Darkest before Dawn
  3. New Light
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