Google+ Reading Teen: Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London: Book Review

Friday, May 25, 2012

Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London: Book Review

Darkness Before Dawn
by J.A. London
Reading level: Ages 14 and up
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; Original edition (May 29, 2012)
Buy the book: Amazon
Only sunlight can save us.

We built the wall to keep them out, to keep us safe. But it also makes us prisoners, trapped in what's left of our ravaged city, fearing nightfall.

After the death of my parents, it's up to me—as the newest delegate for humanity—to bargain with our vampire overlord. I thought I was ready. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the monsters. Then again, nothing could have prepared me for Lord Valentine . . . or his son. Maybe not all vampires are killers. Maybe it's safe to let one in.

Only one thing is certain: Even the wall is not enough. A war is coming and we cannot hide forever.
At a Glance:

Darkness Before Dawn is a quick, fun, and twisted vampire dystopia I think many will like.  Though it wasn't my favorite, and I had a lot of minor issues with it, I still enjoyed the story, and I think it will appeal to a lot of paranormal romance lovers.

Yes and Not So Much:

I had a lot of conflicting feelings while reading this.  When I first started it, I immediately loved the writing.  It was dark, and elegant, but then after awhile, it kind of changed.  It got choppier and more contemporary.  I'm not sure if that's because there were two people writing it, or what, but I definitely felt like the book had two different feels going.  One I liked, and the other, not as much.  I will say, that I am an adult, and this wasn't written for my age range, and I think a lot of things that bothered me, may not stand out to many younger readers.

Intriguing Storyline:

I really liked the concept of this book.  I love the idea of a vampire-run world, where humans are trying to survive and overcome.  I loved it in Crusade by Nancy Holder, I loved it in The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, and I loved it in this book as well.  I thought that Darkness had it's own original take on this idea.  There was an old-world feel to a lot of the story, which added an element of darkness and intrigue.  Especially when Dawn had to visit Lord Valentine, and dress in Victorian dresses, and use proper Victorian etiquette.  I actually wish there had been more of this.  The setting was really interesting, all the humans living inside the wall, basically penned like cattle, waiting to be bled for the hungry vampires.

Wimpy Heroine:

It's weird, because I kept reading about how tough, independent and kick-butt Dawn was, but I never really saw it.  She constantly talked herself up, and Victor definitely thought she was a tough cookie, but I don't know where any of that is coming from.   Sure she knew how to defend theory, but when the time came, she never did.  She always relied on someone else to fight the battles; First her brother, then it was Michael, after that was Sin, and then, of course, Victor.  Not once did she ever not back down.  I liked Dawn ok, and if she hadn't been built up to be this warrior woman, I don't know that I'd mind so much, but I think this is a case where the "telling" doesn't line up with the "showing" if you know what I mean.

Hot Vampire!

One of my favorite things about Darkness had to be Victor.  He was the epitome of manliness!  Though I don't know what he saw in Dawn, or why he took her abuse, the fact that he cared about her and was willing to do anything for her was very endearing. Victor was smart, strong, caring, loyal and everything a girl could want in a guy.  Who cares if he could only come out at night.

Faulty Love Triangle:

I'm not one of those readers who is fed up with love triangles, if they're done right, but I just wasn't feeling this one.  Again, I think it was a case of telling and showing not lining up.  Dawn goes on and on and on about how amazing Michael is and how much she adores him, but then at the first opportunity, she starts falling for someone else.  She says that he is so awesome, and treats her so well, but then he's a complete and total jerk to her (conveniently right before she goes out with Victor, so she doesn't have to feel bad about cheating on him).  I felt like the Michael/Dawn relationship was off, almost forced, and it just didn't sit right with me.

Plot Twists:

Ok, I will admit that these were some pretty obvious twists, that most will see coming, but I still thought they were good.  I always like it when books have twists in them, and this book had quite a few peppered throughout.  I like that most of these twists were revealed by the end of this book, while still leaving the feeling that there may be more twists to come.  Especially given that lovely ending!

Writing Advice:

If I could give these authors some advice it would be this:
  • Show and don't tell.  We need to see the characters behaving in certain ways to believe it, not just be told they are that way.
  • Don't explain the obvious, it makes us feel like you think we're stupid.
    • eg. "'Yeah, okay, but stay behind me.  Watch my six,' he says, meaning I should keep an eye out and make sure no one is sneaking up in back of us."
    • eg. ".....the coroner approaches.  Everyone refers to him as Reap - an homage to the Grim Reaper."
  • Don't make all the plot twists quite so obvious.  Though we sometimes like to figure out what's coming, we also like to be surprised.
  • Remember that even bad guys change clothes every once in awhile.  It seemed kind of silly that the bad guy could always be identified by his black hoodie.  
The Bottom Line:

I feel like I came off really negative, which I didn't mean to.  I think that there was just a lot of this book that felt very young to me (like for 12-14 year olds), but the content was definitely for older teens.  I guess what I'm saying is that I think a lot of people will like this book, and I did enjoy it, but it wasn't a favorite.  Those looking for a deeper read, may be disappointed, but those just looking for a fun paranormal/vampire read, may find that this is right up their alley.

Book Doppelgangers:

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, Crusade by Nancy Holder, The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda
  • Sexual Content:  Mild/Moderate
  • Profanity:  Heavy
  • Violence:  Heavy
  • Other Notables:  Underage Drinking
For more details, check out Darkness Before Dawn on


  1. I like your writing advice at the end of this review! Those are always good tips.
    Like you I'm not tired of love triangles yet but they have to be done right. And I can't stand wimpy heroines. With these two factors in consideration I'm not sure this book would be for me. I'll stick it in the maybe pile.

    1. I felt like this one had a lot of potential, but it just wasn't for me. If you end up reading it, let me know what you think!

  2. I have been hearing mixed reviews on this book. It sounds really interesting to me and I will definitely have to check it out. Great review.

    1. Thanks, Amy! Let me know what you think when you read it. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

  3. I totally agree with you about Dawn being a wimpy character, I even wrote it into my review. I really don't understand how anyone could think ahe was strong. Great review!

    1. Thanks Emily! I know, I was so confused by that!

  4. Have not read this book, but I do share your experience with thinking that a few recent YA characters seem way too childish. You can't write a book with tweenish characters and then throw in some drinking and swearing and say, hey, it's YA.

    1. Yes, exactly what I thought, tweenish characters with teen issues.

  5. I liked the writing advice too because that is one of my pet peeves is when they explain the obvious or a writer tries too hard to be funny. Funny and the obvious should just happen;it doesn't have to be constantly explained or it isn't working. The writer should give the reader enough credit for having a brain.

    1. I could see maybe for younger readers, like middle grade, where this might be helpful, but not for teens. If they don't know what "Watch your six" means, they probably aren't old enough to be reading this book :P


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