Review of A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams

It’s been three years since Esa left her backwater planet to join the ranks of the Justified. Together, she and fellow agent Jane Kamali have been traveling across the known universe, searching for children who share Esa’s supernatural gifts.
On a visit to a particularly remote planet, they learn that they’re not the only ones searching for gifted children. They find themselves on the tail of a mysterious being with impossible powers who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the very children that Esa and Jane are trying to save.
With their latest recruit in tow—a young Wulf boy named Sho—Esa and Jane must track their strange foe across the galaxy in search of answers. But the more they learn, the clearer it becomes—their enemy may be harder to defeat than they ever could have imagined.

Initially, I was apprehensive about returning to this world as I sadly didn’t love book 1 as much as I had hoped, however, I have never been gladder to have taken the plunge again as this book is head and shoulders above what had come before in my view. Set a few years on from The Stars Now Unclaimed, it holds very much the same formula but just works so much better. A more developed Esa brings a balance to the crew and this books big bad felt more focused and genuinely petrifying at times!

I have to say I absolutely adore this cover, it has such an amazing retro feel to it and was what first drew me in to request a review copy. So why did this book work better for me? It just felt more accomplished, like the author had listened to feedback as pretty much all that had bothered me with book 1 was resolved. Esa was a much better choice as narrator than Jane, she is still learning all about her gifts and how to be her own person under the shadow of Jane. I found her easy going, humble at times and the battles felt well paced and well spaced out, giving time and opportunity for the characters to develop at a more natural pace. We got to see Esa very much come into her own as a character and this was a book where we grew with her throughout. Pretty much everyone met along the way gave her an extra piece of the puzzle as to either her background or how to find the things that will make her the best she can be. We also have characters that give Jane some much needed extra dimension too, this combined with the 3 years spent at Esa’s side allowed me to connect with her in a way I couldn’t before.

I really enjoyed the locations this time round which really showed the beauty of the universe and that not everywhere had been devastated by The Pulse. The author took the time to really paint a picture of the surroundings both in and out of space, which made me care all the more when some places ended up going to hell!

Huge props need to go out to creating a truly terrifying villain, I’m not going to name them as that’s part of the plot, but wow did I feel genuine anxiety whenever they turned up – a single being conveying far more dread and fear than a fleet of Pax ever could, I felt like I was back watching Terminator 2 at times! Belief in a religious cause above all else creating a formidable threat, in what could be read as a bit of veiled social commentary, or just someone who is crazy cakes.

I’m still not a fan of the section layout but the chapters this time around felt substantial and really served to make it a more enjoyable reading experience. I was a bit baffled as to why everyone had become 80% more sweary – not that I’m bothered by it, but it did feel that in the 3 year gap between books they had all learnt the F word and loved to use it.

With thanks to Darkroom Tours and Simon and Schuster for providing this advanced review copy. A Chain Across the Dawn, is everything that the series needed to become, epic in battles and thoughtful in character development – I’m now genuinely excited to see how the series continues where we’ll hopefully get to see a lot more of Sho!

4*

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