Friday, December 18, 2015
My Review: Until the Dawn
I'm going to be honest and admit that I really don't care for this cover. The colors, her dress, the drive the estate on the lower half - none of them are my particular cup of tea. It's not one I would pick randomly off the shelf, had I not known the author. That being said, the back cover is gorgeous! Which, unfortunately, I can't show you. But just know that it is.
A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.
The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.
Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?
About the Author:
Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in central Florida. Her novels have won the coveted RITA and Christy Awards. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband near Orlando, Florida.
My Review: 3.5 stars
I really wish websites offered half-star ratings. Because 3 stars doesn’t do it justice, but I feel 4 is stretching my enjoyment a bit. So 3.5 would be my rating of choice. That being said, I did enjoy this book and found it quite engrossing, but there were a couple things that bothered me about it, as well, hence the indecision.
I personally adore historical fiction and Elizabeth Camden is by far one of my favorite authors in the genre. She’s known for unique characters and stories set in unusual places. Her books are always rich in historical detail and I find them entirely engrossing. I love her writing style and how she brings the characters to life within the pages of her stories. Who else could make me so thoroughly love an embittered man determined to destroy his ancestor’s home? I was pulled into the story from the first page and didn’t want to put it down, but then, something changed about half way through. I’m not sure I can even pinpoint the difference, but the story seemed to change drastically and while I still wanted to find out the ending, I found myself losing interest in the characters. Sections of the story felt contrived, as though maybe the author didn’t know where to go next and simply added an odd twist. The ending was also rather abrupt, though I’ve noticed that trend in a couple of her previous books, so I really can’t fuss too much.
I really loved Sophie, with her happiness and sunshine. She was determined to be kind and gracious, even when someone (Quentin in particular) was incredibly rude. Her joy and grace worked to balance Quentin’s bad temper and surly attitude, and seeing him through her eyes allowed me to like this otherwise unlikable man. He also worked to balance Sophie’s “Sally sunshine” demeanor so that the book wasn’t too sugary sweet. Though some may not like Quentin’s character, I found him interesting. He’s had many trials to overcome and rather than turning to faith, he’s turned to science to explain away everything or even to heal him. He battles almost constant pain and depression as a result of it. While he’s not the most lovable person to begin with, knowing his perspective helped me to understand why he was acting and reacting with such a force of temper. I enjoyed seeing his transformation as he learned to let go of his bitterness and embrace happiness again.
I’m going to be honest, the main issue I had with this story was the spiritual concepts displayed. Though some have called it “preachy,” I’m actually going to say the opposite. There is much talk of curses, magic, and Quentin’s grandfather searching for “transcendence.” Quentin himself scoffs at the idea of any god for much of the story. He firmly believes everything can be explained by science. We have several differing views, obviously, but though Sophie is the Christian in the midst of this, she really doesn’t share her perspective very often. It really bothered me that they compared Dierenpark to the Garden of Eden, but even that wasn’t my main problem. When something couldn’t be explained by science, it was almost always brushed off as magic or as simply beyond our understanding. It didn’t point to God. And there are several times when Quentin is considering God and feels as though there is a presence of “something - or someone” written exactly like that every time. I understood that he was still considering the idea of a Creator God, but the author never flat out says that it’s God and it drove me crazy! I didn’t appreciate her alluding to Him, without ever being straightforward about it. I believe doing that left the book with a murky sense of spirituality.
Overall opinion: This book is well written with excellent characters and great historical depth. If you ignore the somewhat murky spirituality and the abrupt shift in the middle of the book, it’s really a very interesting story.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
You know, I really wanted to love this book . . . I started into it so incredibly excited. One of my favorite authors has a new book releasing? "Yes!!" I fell in love with her writing when I first discovered The Lady of Bolton Hill and have been an avid fan ever since. I don't know if perhaps her writing is changing, or if my perspective and what I desire in a book has shifted. Either way, I'm still hoping to read her next book, which releases in June, I think. I hope you enjoyed my review and will consider stopping by again!
As always, if you'd like to look into the book further, perhaps read some other opinions, links are below. Enjoy your day!
Barnes & Noble