3 Things I Loved About A.F.E. Smith's 'Dawn Rising'

I discovered The Marked series by complete accident when I agreed to a newsletter swap with AFE Smith in the spring. But within two weeks, I'd read both Dawn Rising (book 1) and The Dark Knife (book 2) and was impatient for the release of book three.

The Marked series is a gripping portal fantasy with briliant characters and a really strong style, which hooked me right from the beginning.

Alyssia Gale has people living in her head. Four of them, actually. And she slips into their lives at the most inconvenient times. At school, on the bus, anywhere, she might fall into a strange trance while she experiences the lives of the four people in her mind. People who live in another world, where magic is real and power struggles are deadly. Lonely, and ridiculed, Alyssia knows the people in her head aren't real. Traumatised from a car crash that killed her parents four years ago, she must be making them up.

But them Alyssia falls through the window of her bedroom and lands in the other world. As she meets each of the four people she's seen in her mind for the last four years, she begins to realise that perhaps she's not making it all up. It's real, and these people need her help.

It's a great story, and brilliantly written. So, here are three of my favourite things about it!


1. Alyssia's voice

This is one of my favourite things about this story. Alyssia is a troubled character.

Lonely, suffering apparent memory loss, her only friend betrayed her and now she's ridiculed, daily, by her classmates.

Arguably, the isolated victim of bullying is a bit of a cliche, but I think Smith does a great job of keeping Alyssia's voice fresh and interesting. Despite her circumstances, Alyssia remains a fighter.

She's also highly conflicted about the visions she has of the four people in Endarion. Though she views them as friends, she's also not convinced they're real, which is a very interesting dynamic. Even when she falls through the window and into the world of her visions, she still takes some convincing that it isn't all in her head.

I loved Alyssia's sass, her desire to help others, but also I liked that this desire was deeply tied into Alyssia's own need for validation, to be part of something, rather than on the fringes. Her journey is as much about self discovery as it is about rescuing friends and a strange prophecy that seems to lurk in the darkness of all their minds. She's an interesting character and easy to root for.

2. The world of Endarion

Another great thing about the story was the worldbuilding itself. Endarion is an interesting land, full of politics and intrigue. Magic is real, but feared and despised.

The three main kingdoms are centred around three great jewels - the sapphire, the emerald and the diamond - which provide elemental powers to their respective lands.

There is a richly imagined history to each of the provinces, as well as their relationship to each other.

I loved the way Alyssia struggled to understand the ettiquette and expectations of Endarion, frequently blundering into mishap and misunderstanding as a result. She brings twenty-first century, western Earth-based opinions to a world steeped in courtly politics, gendered roles and medieval warfare.

For those that love a well-built world with clever politics and a developed history, I think this series is a great choice.

3. The System of Blood Magic

I think this might be my favourite element of the narrative. Magic, in Endarion, is feared and despised. Many don't believe it exists. But the mage, Luthan, shows us that it does.

To perform miraculous feats of magic in Endarion, you need one key ingredient: blood.

Using your own can weaken you, but using that of others leaves you free from injury. It's no wonder magic is so feared when it requires something so precious. In Endarion, we see some very different attitudes towards how blood magic should be used. Luthan's philosophy - though sorely tested throughout the story - is that she should only ever use her own blood for her magic, and she should never cause physical harm to others, or take away their freedoms.

But we see other characters who are more than happy to manipulate others and use their blood to perform terrifying feats. And I loved that Luthan's story is not as simple as the pure-hearted girl always sticking to her principles.

Luthan is complex. Although she desperately wants to stick to her principles, circumstances often don't allow her to, and the strange prophecy that floats just outside of everyone's consciousness seems to hold particular significance for her.

I'm intrigued to find out more about her role in this in book three.


I really enjoyed both Dawn Rising and The Dark Knife and am really looking forward to reading book three in the series. Click here to find links to various stores where you can grab your copy of Dawn Rising. It's a great book!


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