Where All My Girls At?: BBE Chats James Barclay’s Dawnthief
Quick Links from this Episode:
- Not a ton of things to follow up on for this episode, but one of them is James Barclay’s page on Fantastic Fiction. Fantastic Fiction is a family run database of fiction and fantasy book. They rather dubiously claim Barclay is the “most successful UK fantasy writer of his generation.”
- If you’d like to learn more about Barclay or his books, be sure to check out his personal website.
James Barclay’s fantasy adventure, Dawnthief, is the first pick for Books We Hate in April. Paige first encountered Dawnthief at Barnes & Noble her freshman year of college. Though the cover was less than inspiring, the summary convinced Paige to take the plunge…into hatred. Or at the very least, indifference. For some inexplicable reason, Paige kept this volume despite her dislike for more than ten years and, here we are.
James Barclay is a British fantasy (some would say high fantasy) author born in 1965. Like so many other authors, his desire to write books came at an early age, and took a while to come to fruition. While Barclay did some dabbling in engineering when he first entered university, it wasn’t long before he transitioned to the arts. Barclay has been in several different productions as an actor. However, Barclay is now also a successful author with twelve novels to his name. Dawnthief was his first, published in 1999, and centered around a mercenary group called the Raven. Barclay would go on to write two trilogies about the Raven, along with several others based in the same world.
Themes Discussed in the Episode
Dawnthief follows the exploits of the Raven, a group of elite mercenaries bound together by an unbreakable and rigid brotherly code. When a job starts going sideways the Raven is pulled inexorably into a titanic struggle to save the entire world of Balaia, complete with vengeful Wytch Lords and a spell of nuclear proportions.
- First point of note that sets Dawnthief somewhat apart from other fantasy books is that Barclay is not afraid to kill off ‘main’ characters. Many stories don’t hold any true suspense because no matter the odds you are certain that the protagonist and company will survive even the darkest times or tightest spots. A caution to any would-be readers, don’t get too close to any characters in Dawnthief. As one reviewer put it, the book resembled a fantastical Magnificent Seven.
- Barclay has created a weird blend of fantasy with sci-fi elements that doesn’t always seem to work. Similar to what we saw in The Green Empire, there is inter-dimensional travel and dying worlds, however, the magic practiced in Dawnthief is much more science-minded in nature.
- There are definitely some balancing issues: the pacing is uneven, switching from interminably slow at times, to nonstop action at others. The big baddies of the book, the Wytch Lords, seem unconvincing as well. Supposedly the most powerful beings of ever, the actual process of destroying them seems anticlimactic
- The main point of contention that comes up in our discussion is the conspicuous lack of female characters in this story. Despite a wide cast, there are only *two* female characters and they were either superfluous or unlikable. Selyn’s asides literally contribute nothing to the story, her only contribution is indirectly, through her death. Erienne, on the other hand, is simply not a convincing female character.
- A note of praise: Jennifer thought Dawnthief had some great action scenes that did not lead her to automatically tune them out.
Our Final Thoughts
Once again, BBE’s co-hosts had slightly different opinions of a Book We Hate. After reading, Jennifer gave Dawnthief a solid 3.5 stars out of 5. She probably won’t go hunt down the next book in the series, and it is true Dawnthief has some problems, but overall she enjoyed the read.