Keeper of the Dawn – Dianna Gunn Review

Sometimes failure is just the beginning

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Why did I pick this up?: There was a call on Twitter for people to read an ARC of this, especially bloggers who are on the aromantic or the asexual spectrum (or both, like me!). I jumped in and ta dah! ARC.

Good points: This is a cute little story, nicely written, reminiscent of the likes of Tamora Pierce and that vein. Perfect for me, of course, since I love Tamora Pierce. There was nicely done asexual representation that may even have been aromantic as well, although the words were never used. I loved that there was a discussion between the characters about boundaries and what they wanted. Also, cute female/female relationship, yes please!

Quibbles: Few, really. I think perhaps the story could have been expanded further, but then, I’m not used to reading novellas, so that could be the novel reader in me talking. Other than that, nothing. It was an interesting read that I managed in the space of a few hours.

Overview (TL;DR): A nice, quick fantasy read with some asexual and same-sex relationship rep. What more could a girl want?

-K Hart

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Jane Austen’s Emma, and Reading What You Love

Progress on Alternate: 29,020

So hey, this isn’t so much a review. The book I’ve just finished reading is Jane Austen’s Emma, and to be quite frank I’ve been trying to get myself to enjoy Austen for a long time. To understand the appeal of her as a writer. I know many people who adore her novels, but no matter how many times I read them I feel they’re not quite for me.

The book has its good points. We get to watch as our heroine tragically misinterprets event after event, and get a snapshot of the era from the book. However to me it’s so much about intrigue, about socialising, about who desires whom, that I just can’t bring myself to get so excited.

And it just made me think about the amount of times these books have been recommended to me as somehow intellectually superior to the sorts of books I so often love. I mean, I am a walking contradiction. I love Byron, Wilde, Swinburne, Baudelaire, some Dickens… I love social commentary like Evelyn Waugh… I love the Beat Generation… Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg. But I also love what a lot of people like to call ‘trash fiction’, and I love my genre fiction. I like Devon Monk, Lev Grossman, Kevin Hearne, Patrick Rothfuss, George R R Martin, Rob Thurman. I love Tamora Pierce, and enjoy Cassandra Clare (something that often surprises people).

The point is, I CAN love all of those. I don’t have to like Austen to be a wonderful literary reader, I can like what I like. I won’t stop trying to see the beauty in the things other people like, or even reading them, but there is such meaning and purpose in genre fiction that I firmly believe that those who like it are just the same as those who like reading other works… and often, people like me like both!

People read about things that strike a chord with them. I read things that speak to the human emotion in me, or things that simply take me to another world. I read about magic and wonder, about worlds within this one that I can never experience. I read about things that will take me away from this world. But I also read a lot about mental illness. About addiction. About pain. About lives that hurt and wound the owner. About people who think differently, about people learning to deal with that. I read about sarcastic heroes and heroines, morally-grey anti-hero types, people who feel like outsiders, odd or unusual. I read real life stories, that speak to my heart. And I think everyone should take that stance. Read whatever it is that speaks to something in you. Whether that something is a need to escape, or a feeling you’re having right then and there. Words have power. Let them work their magic.

-K Hart