From Amazon's description:
The vengeance of a monk.
The love of a countess.
The secrets of a knight.
Marcus Annan, a knight famed for his prowess in the deadly tourney competitions, thought he could keep the bloody secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him wreak vengeance on a corrupt bishop, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade in the Holy Land.
Wounded in battle and hunted on every side, he agrees to marry—in name only—the traumatized widow of an old friend, in order to protect her from the obsessive pursuit of a mutual enemy. Together, they escape an infidel prison camp and flee the Holy Land. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past—or his growing feelings for the Lady Mairead. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.
K.M. Weiland, former homeschooler and now respected, award-winning author of several historical fiction novels and how-to writing books, put one of her novels on feature this month for free in exchange for an unbiased review. I've read another of her novels, Dreamlander, and loved the depth and scope; I just bought Structuring Your Novel, and am using it to edit my current WIP. And, I follow her blog and read most of the posts she puts up on Helping Writers Become Authors.
This was a further opportunity to get acquainted with her works that I just couldn't pass up. It was well worth the time.
Very few books have the ability to take me completely by surprise. This one left me gasping in the dust of the climax. I had guesses, yes, but they were wrong, and I was never so thrilled to be wrong in my life. I like it when the author lays out all the cards, and it's a fair and square battle of wits between them and the reader. I like it even better when the author wins. The climax of Behold the Dawn is superb; it's an action story, and it follows through every bit on the promise it gives of being exciting.
K.M. Weiland always comes out strong in both characters and plot, and this book is no exception. Marcus Annan may be a tormented soul, but he's also a tall, broad Scotsman, with the blood of battle in his veins and a mean grip on a sword. Struggling spiritually he may be, but he's no wimp sitting down and crying over his problems. He takes on warriors that put up obstacles in his way, and he kills them.
Mairead--I loved the way Weiland gave each character a special characteristic and them used it to draw their portrait throughout the story. Mairead's characteristic was her long black hair. She's a tenderhearted woman, clinging desperately to the hope that Marcus Annan can protect her from losing her virtue again to the evil Sir Hugh. And when she is in an extremity, with no Marcus to help her, she pulls out a surprising amount of grit, while still keeping her lovable sweetness.
The deformed, tortured Gethin the Baptist was definitely a vivid puzzle. Longing for vengeance on the bishop, yet at the same time preaching a message of Christian reform throughout the land, he's a man of varied depths and many motivations. A worthy addition to the cast and crew.
But the best of the lot was Marcus Annan's apprentice, Peregrine Marek.
Oh, my--Marek gets the Samwise Award for best sidekick and comic relief, and that is the highest praise I can give. Every time he talked, I laughed. He's a brave boy, and was worth his salt in helping Marcus out of tight spots, with a fresh, cheeky tongue to counterbalance Marcus's brooding introversion.
But again [Mairead] surprised him. The smile ripened on her lips. “I’ve heard tell that you have rather more respect for the weaker vessel than you’d like to show.” Her expression was almost teasing, but [Marcus] sensed the hesitation hidden in her gaze. She was testing him, taking a chance, making an effort to reach past the shields they had both erected.
He swallowed and made himself speak softly, almost a whisper, to keep the growl from his voice. “Is that so?”
“Well—” He glanced over to where Marek was leading his horse into the dell, talking his usual gibberish to the animal. “Marek never did learn mouths were made on hinges so they could be shut every now and then.”
“Did no one ever tell you mouths were made on hinges so they might be opened every now and then?”
“Marek’s mentioned it once or twice.”
--Chapter XI, Behold the Dawn, by K.M. Weiland
The only complaint I had about this book is that the beginning dragged; that's probably just me, and not the fault of the book, for the beginning opened with a high action sequence--Marcus fighting in a tourney and fleeing for his life--but I just couldn't get into the mood of the story right away. Once he and Marek got to Palestine, I was all on board, and I'm so glad I kept reading, for I would have missed a treat otherwise. Weiland's tight plotting is a pleasure--she keeps up the tension all the way through, with just the right amount of suspense. While sometimes I did grow impatient with the point-of-view switches to the bishop and his henchmen, that's the sign of a good story, and well-loved main characters. The villains were bad. I didn't love them. ;)
This story is an adult story; I would recommend it for 17 or 18 and up. Because Mairead is pursued by Hugh, she very nearly gets taken by him twice, and the last time I was rather uncomfortable. While Weiland doesn't say anything inappropriate, and most of it is by inference, Mariead *plot spoiler* several years before the story opened, was violated by Hugh and bore a baby that died, however unwillingly she may had done so. *end of spoiler* However, I think Weiland handled the themes appropriately, giving us just enough information and not too much. For those who wish to avoid such themes, this probably isn't the book for you.
Marcus, however, is a noble man, and treats Mairead with all honor and respect throughout their journey.
Weiland's faith shines through again and again throughout this story. Themes of Christ's salvation, surrender, and redemption are evident throughout, and make for an edifying and uplifting read. If you're looking for specifically Christian fiction with a well-told tale, this is a refreshing offering.
Full of soul-searching, godly romance, and glorious adventure, Behold the Dawn takes all my favorite themes and combines them into a captivating tale. I highly recommend giving it a read.
*This book was given to me for free through Story Cartel in exchange for an unbiased review. While I use Story Cartel for K.M. Weiland's books, it is not a resource that I generally recommend checking out.*
One last announcement: I have an exciting feature that I am thrilled to share with all of you next week! A friend of mine with whom I've had many conversations about literature and our relationships with the Lord, wrote a three part series on the doctrine of fantasy which I asked her if I could feature on the blog. I think you'll be blessed by her wisdom. :) Please come check out the first post on Friday!