A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven” (Dawnhaven: Book One) by Owen Crane

Posted Saturday, 23 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: Right before #WyrdAndWonder, I received a review request directly from the author Owen Crane. It was good timing as I was starting to assemble my chat schedule of guest authors for @SatBookChat for May as I knew I wanted to highlight Indie Fantasy authors during the chat whilst Wyrd And Wonder was underway. As a bit of a meet-greet for participants and authors as well as for my regular chatters to gain some exposure and introduction to what Fantasy can provide as a reader and/or learn about the craft from a writer’s perspective. Thereby, I offered to host Mr Crane during #SatBookChat whilst accepting his novel for review.

I received a complimentary copy of “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven” direct from the author Owen Crane in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Reading and Chatting about Dawnhaven during #WyrdAndWonder:

I truly enjoyed being able to chat about this series, the debut of the author’s and to highlight another introductory conversation about Fantasy during #SatBookChat! It allowed me to present Fantasy in an approachable manner to my regular chatters who might not read as much Fantasy as I do but feel inclined to discuss it in case it might become a new niche of joy for them to chase after as well. It also gave the participants of Wyrd And Wonder a chance to ask an author direct questions about his writerly style of approaching Fantasy, why he personally loves the genre of Fantasy and what his plans were for the series which first begins with “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven”!

During the chat we were able to root out there are five books planned for this series which follows the five year Journey Ariella is undertaking with the Guardians. I felt this made the most sense when Crane disclosed it because it would allow for the most growth out of Ariella as well as the secondary cast of characters to have their chance to shine throughout the saga, too. I love long series in genres – it allows you to gain further knowledge about the world itself, the characters who live there and in a way, you get to stay longer in worlds you don’t wish to exit if it had only been a one-off story.

As we were chatting, we also discovered how much I appreciate reading Fantasy where the Light is not snuffed out by the Darkness. Nor do I seek out overtly gritty and gruesomely violent stories – (in Fantasy or other genres!) as I like to sink my teeth into stories which have quests for the characters to endure and/or there is something they need to either achieve or overcome but not to the point where the context of their stories are erasing the joy in which I pursue the stories I want to be reading. I was thankful a writer of Middle Grade Fantasy also felt this way because too often I am finding Middle Grade & Young Adult Fantasy are becoming a bit to adult in how they are either too darkly lit or too adult in their themes and story-lines.

There is a wonderment of joy seeking out Fantasy as a younger reader – that suspension of reality and the fantastical where innocent curiosity and joy can be nurtured through a story which doesn’t seek to erase that innocence but to capitalise on a well-told story in this ‘otherworld’ place which feels like ours but is wholly new & exciting to explore. I have oft felt Middle Grade & Young Adult stories should be focused more on encouraging younger readers to read well-rounded stories – where there can be adversity and challenge as well as growing transitions in their lives but not to the brink where it feels oppressively dire. This is one reason why I seek out a lot of coming-of age stories – as those can lend better to the kind of story I am seeking out of Children’s Literature.

Having the chance to discuss this series and to talk about Fantasy with Mr Crane was a true delight of joy for me because I like shining a light on Indie Authors who are curating the kind of stories which give me a wicked good time reading! If I could help encourage other readers to try his series and to give an Indie Fantasy series a chance at being one of their next favourite reads – I’ve happily passed forward the joy of discovering his novel! I am thankful he found my blog and submitted a review request – otherwise none of this would have been possible! 

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven” (Dawnhaven: Book One) by Owen CraneAriella and the Curse of Dawnhaven
by Owen Crane
Source: Direct from Author

Ariella Lightharbour is heir to the crown with a nation at her feet but knows she’s meant for more. Forsaking her throne she chooses to become a Guardian. As she embarks on The Journey she must find the courage within herself to battle the deadly Ghost Raiders that murdered her father, discover the identity of the elusive shadow and fight to end the curse that threatens to overwhelm the land.

Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Fantasy


Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8607648008

Published by Self Published

on 29th March, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 214

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This is a Self-Published Novel

The Original Title for this story was Ariella and the Blood Curse (2015)

Converse via: #Dawnhaven, #MGLit, #MGFantasy
as well as #MiddleGrade #Fantasy, #IndieAuthor/s, #WyrdAndWonder

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Two things I was attempting to do differently this year is to participate more in the #WyrdAndWonder Challenge (wherein I could take photos and share them on #bookTwitter) but I also wanted to create posts outside reviews & guest features. As the month wore on I realised the few times I was able to respond to the challenge prompts and the vlog video I had made featuring my #bookmail for #WyrdAndWonder might be all I would be able to contribute this year. I am most proud about how this turnt out as I have only released a handful of these so far overall!

I put together a short teaser of a #booktube #vlog #unboxing video which I shared on Twitter. I had a most delightful time answering one of the #WyrdAndWonder challenge prompts which was “The Best Things Come in Threes”.

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my review of ariella and the curse of dawnhaven:

I truly love how Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven begins because Crane has been able to etch out such a directly emotional reaction out of Ariella’s Mum! You aren’t entirely sure why Ariella is beside herself with nerves and emotional angst until you hear her name called as one of the ten who will be undertaking the Journey only Guardians of her world most endure – in that singular moment, just as the perspective shifts back to her mother are you able to understand the fullness of that realisation – of what it meant to her mother to hear her daughter’s named called and for the reaction of the daughter to see what her mother felt reflected through her eyes.

We immediately find ourselves in the Lightharbour Library – following in the steps of Ariella as she remembers why this particular place is such a comfort of joy – it is the singular place where she can feel free to be herself and to own her own destiny. In the library, she can control what she wants to learn about, how she wants to educate herself on Dawnhaven History and in effect, ruminate over how the knowledge she gains in this sanctuary will allow her to better live in her world. In essence, Ariella found a kinship of intellectual curiosity amongst the story-tellers of this library. She could re-trace their discoveries and feel as if she’s lived hours inside their adventures – simply by allowing herself the grace to read the books and to transport herself through the words left behind.

This is the first time I’ve seen gargoyles used as messengers to make deliveries between people who need their services. It was such a clever use of them, as they can easily scale the walls and move about a city with such light of ease in their movements. I was delighted to see them in this world and cleverly so, they have a bit of a need for courtesy and affection. I was not surprised by the Queen’s reaction to her daughter’s placement in the Guardians but what I was marvelling over is where Ariella went directly after their confrontation! It was already revealled her odiously cheeky brothers like to use the labyrinth of secret passages for their own devices but Ariella had a place of her own she liked to entertain her thoughts whenever she need ‘breathing space’. It was there on one of the highest places you can escape to in a palace where Ariella let her thoughts fly as free as the air breathing through her hair.

Hakeem reminds me of Punjab from Annie (1982) because of his temperament and his willingness to stay calm. He also is a surrogate guardian to Ariella and in effect his is why he made me think of Punjab due to how he reached out to Annie and became like a secondary guardian after Daddy Warbucks and Grace Ferrell. He had such a kindness about him – he intuitively knew what needed to be said to both Ariella and her mother; only he could find a way to not allow the bridges between these two to be fully burnt before Ariella was meant to take her leave for the Guardians.

There are five kingdoms in Dawnhaven – Trevena, Darcian, Khan, Erestia and Lightharbour. It was interesting hearing about what each of these kingdoms were known for and how their people would be dressed per their local environments and/or trades. There is a map in the front of the novel which outlines each of these regions – Lightharbour reminded me so much of the ‘boot’ of Italy, because it is set at the Southern region against the sea. It makes for a strong port centre whilst Khan has the added advantage of having all the elevation whereas Darcian is heavily wooded. Each of the different regions has their strengths and advantages – it would be interesting to tuck closer to these areas and see this world from different perspectives. The beauty of the Journey itself is how Ariella and her fellow sojourners would have to spend one year in each of the kingdoms before they would conclude their journey in Erestia.

The one kingdom which is curiously suspicious of visitors is Trevena – though in their defence when Ariella and her Guards rode through their territory, they did give them a bit of a start because her Mum the Queen had insisted on too many guards to accompany her to where she’d begin her journey with the Guardians. Even I thought twenty guards would seem obsessive but the amount her mother really sent is quite over the top! Leave it to Ariella to get herself into a mad pickle enroute though – because it didn’t take long for her to want to get into the height of a local disagreement because she felt responsible for the people and the land. If she hadn’t though – she might not have uncovered how the plants and the harvest was going unnaturally wrong this year. There was a condition with the growing cycle which was most disturbing to say the least! I felt it was acting as a tipping stone towards what as internally affecting Dawnhaven.

By the time Ariella arrived at her destination to join the Guardians, you could feel the tension in her being – as she was closing the door on her life as she currently knew it and was exchanging it for a life she could only have dreamt about before embarking on the journey the Guardians would give her during the next five years. This transitional period of her life wasn’t without strife or adversity – as she had plenty of people who were innately against the idea – not just her Mum, but also her Uncle (whose the King of Trevena) and even some within the Guardians who are judging her against her station, heritage and position in society. Unlike the others who were gathering for this epic adventure, you could sense that for Ariella especially this was a moment of change which would re-define who she is and how she is portrayed in her world.

What struck my interest was the rise of the fives – meaning, in this world the number five is represented every which way to Sunday – from the five kingdoms to the five years of a Guardian’s apprenticeship as a sojourner to the five couplings of boys and girls to develop the ‘Knots’. I finally put those observations together as Ariella was happily struck herself by the presence of the Guardians she’s only had the chance to know of from afar – including the woman she considers a mentor in her life Elsa. These are people ordinary non-Guardian seekers might not view as highly as they are important into the fold of the Guardians; for Ariella, it was a growth moment for her where she saw herself ascending closer to the dream she’s had for herself as she begins this new path. Despite the emotions she has about letting down her family and the order of her ancestral line – she has a strengthened resolve to pursue this course. Something that not even all the sojourners felt themselves.

As the sojourners first start their training it reminded me of boot camp – where there are rules inherent to keeping their minds on their tasks but also to get them to start thinking outside the regular spheres of where their knowledge was previously nurtured as this is a whole new arena for them to explore and to respect. Whomever they were in their previous lives is not as important as whom they are today – this training period of becoming a Guardian I had a feeling was going to become a make/break moment wherein they would find out which of them could handle what was coming next and which of them might choose to opt-out or find that their not ready to be a Guardian.

The Knot Ariella was selected to live amongst is not atypical of most groups who are put together to test the waters of what they can handle both in a social situation and/or in combat. Ariella proves the point as she squared off against one of her sisters of the Knot quite immediately after their first training session whilst the brothers in the Knot are equally aggressive towards some of their own as well. The level of bullying is common for these kinds of forced together groups wherein they were not necessarily on friendly terms prior to being put together and it would take time to either work through their differences and/or come to an agreement where they can fight and co-habitat without further incidents where they are individually being targeted. They are given quite a bit of leeway to work these things out themselves which shows how the Guardians are testing them even without declaring it.

Not everything in this world is benign – such as the ‘thunderheads’ which are a species of animal which can cause massive destruction to crops such as orchards and/or the fields of farms. They take down buildings for sport but the sad truth about thunderheads is that whilst their in a full swarm of activity, they are not in their right minds. I found that rather sad because for whatever their purpose is in this world the way in which they exit their lives is quite a disheartening one. Then, of course there is the curse itself – which Ariella had seen before she reached the Guardian’s and which she now has seen again with her Knot. It is taking the lifeblood out of everything which is growing in Trevena – which makes you stop and consider what could be causing it? What has that kind of powerful reach and can infect such a wide scale of food sources?

This is where Crane made a critical argument for rooting out what was undermining the strength of the five kingdoms as crises should unite people together for the common good – but in Dawnhaven, this curse was starting to unhinge the alliances everyone previously supported. When you take away more than what a society can handle it leads to the kind of chaos and distrust which was starting to ripple itself through Dawnhaven. The people were angered by the non-disclosure of information from the Guardians but it was a heavy burden on the Guardians to not only notice the curse’s reach into the kingdoms but to feel the weight of their world’s future resting in their care.

As Crane takes us into the front lines of how the Guardians (including Ariella and her First Years) attempt to sort through what has caused this misery for Dawnhaven, he also introduces us to Thrace and Lavina – my first gryphons! I felt like Ariella had once Lavina was airbourne – there is an incredible amount of joy to feel when you get to have an experience like this one. I was intrigued by how gryphons won’t let just anyone ride them – they have to choose you as much as you choose them. Similarly of course to horses, as some might dispute this but I had a feeling that certain people and horses are as ill-fitted to be a partnership and team like gryphons because there has be a level of trust and respect between both gryphon and rider.

As you progress through the novel, you’re caught in the curiosities of the world – of how the five kingdoms are co-dependent on each other and how per each new kingdom we are entreated to visit, we see a different part of life on Dawnhaven as well. It is a complicated world – from how the hierarchy of power is distributed and how that hierarchy relies upon one family. This was an interesting point for me to tuck closer too myself – how all of Dawnhaven is run by one family and how there hasn’t been a threat of ascension by another since they were first installed. Something about how Dawnhaven is run politically and centrally through this one family’s commitment to the world itself is something I felt might become explored in future installments. After all, our view and perspective of what is internally corrupt is limited due to having our journey into Dawnhaven through the eyes of newly recruited Guardians.

I would consider this to be a merger of Dark Fantasy with Quest Fantasy due to how there are certain scenes involving the curse of Dawnhaven which I felt would be better for teens than Middle Grade readers – however, the scenes themselves were not overly graphic in a violent way but rather they were showing exactly what was fuelling the curse and in some ways, those scenes for some readers might be a bit more than they were bargaining for in a Middle Grade Fantasy novel. I was thankful for the choices Crane made in keeping the violence in check and for keeping this a coming-of age story set within a Quest Fantasy sphere. The Quest itself in this instance isn’t just centred round a singular character but the entire Knot itself. These young men and women are going through an incredible period of personal growth with a background of changing political and cultural uprisings which are affecting the future of the kingdoms of Dawnhaven.

The animals of Dawnhaven:

From the moment the sea eagles took flight, I had a feeling I was going to be enjoying the revelations of the animals and fowl of this world. There is something to be said for a strong connection to the natural world in any Fantasy novel but this one in particular was presenting nature in a way which not only felt organic to read but it was such a joy to read as well! I personally love spending time in wildlife and natural habitats – not only because I’m a photographer but because I love the connection to nature. There is something to be said for standing still and allowing the natural world to embrace you – you see and hear things you do not expect and within the stillness there is a beautiful etching of beauty in front of you.

on the fantastical & coming of age styling of owen crane:

I enjoyed how Crane organised his novel – how we first get to alight onto the stage where Ariella is receiving the gift of passage – of hearing her name announced and realising that for her at this moment in her life, she’s about to enter into a different chapter of her life wherein she has lost favour with her mother. It is a unique perspective because generally speaking we do not oft have children and young adults her age in a title role where they can not just voice their independent thoughts (which some might mistake for rebellion) but to own those choices and those thoughts to confidently rise out of those moments to take-on their parents as they assert their independence and free will.

What was further interesting is the oath the Guardians must vow to protect, uphold and honour during their five year Quest to becoming a Guardian themselves. It is an oath which speaks of loyalty and of honour; of choosing to let Light* and steel (methinks swords?) guide them and be their closest companions whilst finding duty and hope in the journey they are currently undertaking. It was such an intriguing ceremony – where each paired boy and girl from each of the five kingdoms was matched into a grouping called a ‘Knot’ as those groups would remain together through the five years as they made their path through Dawnhaven. Each group had 10 sojourners which represented the five kingdoms as well. I’m not a student of numerology but there is a critical case for numerology in this world as the number 5 is represented well!

The whole purpose behind the Guardians evokes a beautiful back-history of this world. The reason behind the splitting of the kingdoms and the reasons why the Guardians in of themselves are the peacekeepers of this world. I truly loved how Crane allowed different characters to approach relating this to Ariella and her Knot; to give them equal voice and opportunity to mentor the Knot themselves and to showcase why they feel there is a steadfast important to maintaining the order of the Guardians.

NOTE: (*) See Blue, Red and Green Light notes below.

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#EnterTheFantastic: Seeking out the fantastical elements –

→ In the Library of Dawnhaven there are mentions of unicorns, gryphons and dragons

→ Messenger Gargoyles

→ Echo Orbs

→ Sun Cubes

→ Blue, Red and Green Light

→ Gryphons

Echo Orbs act a bit like walkie-talkies in this world – you can listen to conversations if you place them in strategic places to pick up those conversations but more curious is how they activate and work as the technology (or magic) behind them isn’t quite explained. It is left to your imagination which of course is curiously curious enough on its own! Laughs.

Sun Cubes function like you would expect them too – they provide light when there is darkness.

The gryphons of this world were written beautifully – especially how Crane describes them physically and gives you small glimpses into their temperaments and the colouration’s of their feathers!

The Light in Dawnhaven is this curiously coloured energy (as featured on the cover – which shows what it could look like when the person who uses it wields blue Light) which is similar to the light energies I talked about after reading An Uncommon Blue (see also Review). This is the Light which is mentioned to be used with ‘steel’ to offer a protectorate over Dawnhaven. The interesting bit therein is how Crane has described the purpose of the Guardians – it was a play on words which evokes the title in a different shine of light and I truly appreciated the thoughtfulness behind the order and rule of Dawnhaven as it makes you think about things from different angles. Especially about the ‘layers’ and how this world isn’t quite as it seems from first impressions.

The Light itself can be one of the three colours and not strictly one moreso than the other which was an interesting spin on how Light energy can be used and lead-in to pondering what fuells the colouring of the Light itself per each person who has the gift of Light to be wield.

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This book review is courtesy of the author: Owen Crane

About Owen Crane

Owen Crane
I was born in Malaysia but moved to England when I was still a baby. I grew up in the countryside in a small village outside of Brighton. After university in Manchester and a few years in Bradford, I moved to Northern Ireland with my family.
I have always loved stories. My earliest memories are consumed by A.A Milne's tales of 100-acre wood, which was just down the road from where I grew up. Eventually, those books gave way to Roald Dhal, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. It felt like a natural progression from reading the stories of others to creating my own. Talking long walks along the Irish coastline, I would dream up stories to tells my children, they became my inspiration.

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it.
I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst
readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Be sure to visit the #SatBookChat WyrdAndWonder Info Page
as well as the #SatBookChat Owen Crane page to access the chat’s archive.

@SatBookChat banner for Owen Crane made by Jorie in Canva.

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This book review is part of my showcases during #WyrdAndWonder: Year 3:

#WyrdAndWonder 2020 event banner created by Jorie in Canva.

This is part of my showcases for a Fantasy event I am co-hosting during our 3rd Year of #WyrdAndWonder – follow us socially via @WyrdAndWonder – stalk our tag (across social media) and/or join us in a month long celebration of how the fantastical realms of Fantasy give you wicked JOY.

Ideas of how you can participate – an initial welcome post by my co-host Imyril as well as the first Quest Log (map into the book blogosphere for #WyrdAndWonder) and the first Roll Call Log by my co-host Lisa!

Read our Creative Roulette #WyrdAndWonder Interview!

Be sure to visit my Announcement & TBR List!

Catch up on all my Wyrd And Wonder posts & guest features!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven”, synopsis as well the author’s biography and photo of Owen Crane were all provided by the author Owen Crane and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge, #WyrdAndWonder Year 3 banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 23 May, 2020 by jorielov in #Unboxing BookMail, #WyrdAndWonder, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Book Review (non-blog tour), Childhood Friendship, Coming-Of Age, Fantasy Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Life Shift, Light vs Dark, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event




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