Author Bridget Kemmerer is unstoppable this year. Fresh off the launch of Forge silver into stars the first installment of a new spin-off series set in his mega-popular cursebreaker universe earlier this year, he will also release the second book in his defy the night trilogy, she other great saga of high fantasy adventures this fall. Just writing all that does me tired, so your guess is as good as mine about how you’re managing to produce all these words.
Although the two series have many elements in common: a feisty heroine, fish out of water, forced to learn to survive in a world she is not used to; a gruff and emotionally stoic prince who likes to get his way; and a fast-paced narrative that deftly switches between perspectives in a way that really adds to the story, defend the dawn is perhaps Kemmerer’s most introspective book to date, allowing readers the chance to really get inside his characters’ heads and delve into their often conflicting and agitated viewpoints. The downside to this, of course, is that it’s also one of her slowest books yet, and a story that generally privileges conversation over action. (Right up to the last few chapters anyway).
defend the dawn picks up essentially where defy the night Stopped. Having thwarted a revolution, King Harristan of Kandala and the rest of his ruling council must negotiate with the rebels in an attempt to find a more equitable distribution strategy for the medicine that is helping keep them all alive. But Moonflower’s supplies, which are critical to making the life-saving elixir, remain dangerously low, and many nobles aren’t too keen on the idea of sacrificing some of their own supply to help the impoverished residents of the impoverished Wilds sector.
So when a handsome sea captain named Rian Blakemore shows up, claiming to be the son of a spy sent to the neighboring kingdom of Ostriary under the reign of Harristan’s father and offering a reward of Moonflowers in exchange for steel and a new trade deal between the two nations, everyone is eager to hear it. A trade delegation, consisting of Harristan’s brother Prince Corrick, apothecary Tessa Cade, and rebel leader Lochlan Cresswell, is appointed to travel to Ostriary with Captain Blakemore and hopefully secure a treaty that will increase Kandala’s access. to Moonflower, allowing Harristan to keep his personas alive while buying Tessa time to find an alternative treatment.
Subsequently, most of the book deals with their slow sea voyage to Ostriary, while Kemmerer builds a backstory for this new kingdom, Captain Blakemore, and the various members of his crew. Tessa immediately falls in love with the handsome captain and his aggressive idealism, while Corrick is suspicious and on guard for a trick. Closed spaces force the couple, who initially fell in love when the prince posed as a Robin Hood type willing to steal drugs from the rich to distribute to the poor, to take a fresh look at their relationship, and the thoughtful Even the way Kemmerer deals with the roots of their conflict is admirable.
But yes defy the night was predominantly Tessa’s story, so defend the dawn it’s clearly Corrick’s, as he struggles to figure out what kind of leader he wants to become and how much of himself he’s willing to sacrifice in the name of protecting and furthering Kandala’s interests. Kemmerer doesn’t mince words about the wide variety of dark and often creepy things he’s had to do in his role as the king’s judge, and Corrick is honest about the fact that he has no regrets. most of them. His pragmatic determination is refreshing, though the book occasionally leans too heavily into the idea that Corrick’s behavior is simply due to his being cynical, particularly when contrasted with Tessa’s wishful thinking optimism (rather than actually fighting him). fact that you have come because of your restlessness and caution very honestly.)
Sadly, Tessa is perhaps the weakest element in the book, which is a real shame given that the feisty, rebellious heroine was the highlight of the first installment in the series. Here, however, Tessa is often shown to be painfully, even deliberately, naive, and her constant suspicion of Corrick in the face of his sincere belief in the goodness of almost every other character becomes quite irritating by the end of the story, as does her seemingly endless hesitation about her feelings for him. There are, thankfully, a few moments of self-reflection for both of them, like when Corrick tells him he needs to embrace the quick fix of vigilante justice instead of doing the slow and often boring work of real change, or when he’s forced to realize of what his refusal to punish some of the nobles looks like to those he claims to want to help.
defend the dawn It’s best when it explores the ways that both love and politics often require us to extend a hand of grace to someone with whom we disagree or who has let us down in some significant way. In defy the night we saw Tessa forced to learn that the world is less black and white than she once believed it to be. After all, it’s easy to call for revolution when you’re not responsible for the careful balancing act required to keep the peace and get as many drugs as possible into the hands of those who need them. Though our heroine seems to back down a bit in this installment, her immediate decision to believe Captain Blakemore and trust her motives wholeheartedly is…a choice! Corrick takes two steps forward, at least when it comes to seeing the value of outside perspectives. own and understanding that sometimes desperate people only have bad options open, as much as you wish it were otherwise.
But despite Kemmerer’s trademark propulsive writing style, you will find this novel easy despite its length. defend the dawn feels like filler and much of the story spins its wheels with repetitive conversations and duplicate scenes (we get it, Rian and Corrick don’t like each other!) until we get to the last quarter of the book where the real action and reveals begin. shocking. to abound. As a result, while I have no doubt that the third book in this trilogy will be exciting, it’s hard not to miss out on the story this book alone could have told.
defend the dawn is available now at Bloomsbury Children’s.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the book editor for Paste magazine, but she loves learning about all kinds of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.