Dec 1 2011 12:30pm

Fresh Meat: Ellen Connor’s Daybreak
(Dec. 6, 2011)

Daybreak by Ellen ConnorEllen Connor
Daybreak (A Dark Age Dawning Novel)
Berkley, $15.00/$9.99 digital, Dec. 6, 2011

It’s been twelve years since the Change, and Penelope Sheehan is one of the few still practicing magic for the good of humanity in this dark, dangerous world. But she needs the help of a shapeshifter named Tru, whom she knew when he was a troubled boy. But Tru is a creature of instinct and impulse, living only to satisfy his senses- ignoring the scarred heart nobody has ever reached. Fighting alongside the last holdouts of humanity, they will unleash a passion that tempts them to risk everything for love. But if they succeed, Tru and Pen hold the power to brighten the Dark Age for all time.

Daybreak is the third book in Ellen Connor’s Dark Age Dawning series, set 12 years after the post-apocalyptic Change. The last time we saw Tru was in the first book, Nightfall, and he was an angry cynical misfit teen. Turns out, he’s still angry and cynical, but now he shapeshifts into a lion. The magic that has resulted from the Change has done something odd: more people are able to shift, and in some cases their shifted shape is similar to their spirits.

It becomes clear that something traumatic has happened to Tru since leaving Mason and Jenna’s home a decade ago. He is very close to losing himself entirely to his lion self. Let it also be noted that he is also very aesthetically pleasing, but my first thought within the first two chapters was “Ha, Tru is a dick!”

“You don’t intend to share?” Pen asked.

“Share what? It’s gone.”

“Asshole,” she muttered.

Just when I think Tru is going to be the dominating problem in this situation, we get to know Penelope Sheehan, who has traveled a very different path. Last we saw of her, also in the first book, she was a mute child. We learn—as does Tru—that she is the legendary The Orchid, a highly revered martyr among the last of humanity. Using her magical abilities in healing, she uses moxy and strength to free slaves, and is often fighting to protect survivors from the monster’s tyranny. So things don’t start off between the two real well: Tru has been mostly a lion for four years after enduring a heartbreak and loss of purpose, and Penelope has become a famous rebellious idol. When their party becomes three, and the two are responsible for a young freed slave boy, I knew this hero immediately for what he was: a diamond-in-the-rough. Just the way I like ’em!

Penelope is emotionally walled in even tighter than Tru, which causes their mutual need. They’ve got an undeniable physical attraction, as well as some really tender moments (It evoked much swooning on this end).

Then he seemed to make a decision. He scooted across the scant distance between them. And took took her back in to his arms. “Hold on to me,” he whispered.

Pen melted.

But of course, things were rocky from the get-go. Penny had never been a part of a relationship, part of a group, and was a-l-o-n-e. She’s entered adulthood psychically alone in every possible way and lacksa lifetime of emotional experience. Her naivite becomes problematic for them when they have to leap a hurdle together.

“No, Pen. It was a bad idea because you don’t understand how relationships work. You don’t care about building a partnership. That’s not love. And if you don’t get the difference, I’m through trying to explain it to you. Remedial class is over.”

Tru is not above making dramatic exits. I loved each and every one of them. Eventually, Penny is able to see her missteps with Tru, and he is just as studly as ever.

“Yes,” he rasped against her skin. “I need you to choose me. I can’t just be the guy who scrapes you off the ground at the end of the day.”

I must mention the very poignant role children played in Daybreak, specifically the ones at the orphanage. The majority of the children post-Change have lost their innocence long ago. The children have banded together where they are not victims, but hunters. And in this new age, they have discovered there is a niche for children as warriors. I loved it!

“I forgot you don’t know. Our girls use blowguns and poison darts. They once killed their number in O’Malley thugs, all without ever being seen.” Her tone reflected motherly pride.

“Holy shit.”

Daybreak, and the Dark Age dawning series as a whole, is such a nice treat, despite its setting in an original, albeit pleasingly gritty, post-apocalyptic world. There are bleak and realistic aspects of humanity portrayed, with a darkly honest look at human behavior.

Pamela Webb-Elliott writes Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance reviews for WickedLilPixie as Spaz. She also has a Twitter (@SpazP) problem, but is not ready to join a 12 Step Program for it yet.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
I haven't seen much dystopian/post-apocalyptic adult romance, but as a huge fan of YA dystopian romance (Divergent, Hunger Games, etc.), I'd love to see more. I'm particularly intrigued by Daybreak after reading this part of your review:
Penelope is emotionally walled in even tighter than Tru, which causes their mutual need. They’ve got an undeniable physical attraction, as well as some really tender moments...
Post-apocalyptic settings show people at their best and worst, and I think that's true of the romances in them too. I love angst *and* happy (or at least happy-ish--I mean, the world is over) endings, so this type of story is right up my alley.
Pamela Webb-Elliott
2. Spaz
@ redline_ : Oh YAY! I'm excited you might try this out. I picked up the series because I am a huge fan of everything by Ann Aguirre (have you read her dystopian YA Enclave?). When I discovered she was doing this trilogy with Carrie Lofty, I was THERE. They do a fantastic job of blending dystopian and romance genres together. I hope they team up for more of this goodness!
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