In yet another installment of extraordinary kids do extraordinary things but still have a fatal flaw because reasons, Jonathan Renshaw’s Dawn of Wonder creates a serviceable world and interesting characters that didn’t leave me disappointed, but also not excited to read the next installment.
The story follows Aeden, an impish kid from a small farming community. He likes to go on adventures and generally get himself into the trouble as boys often do. Soon enough, finds himself in the middle of a disaster that results in his family fleeing their community for the big city. He eventually finds himself admitted to an academy for an ambiguous, mystique-laden military organization.
The challenge with Renshaw and Dawn of Wonder is one of consistency. There are some brilliantly written scenes that kept me, turning pages long after I meant to go to sleep. These were stitched together with some not-so-brilliantly written scenes that were choppy and not very fleshed out. It is jarring to go from several minutes of book-time taking 10 or 15 pages, and then have a leap of months between scenes of the same chapter with no glue in between.
Character can be very one-dimensional. There is a particular moment early on in the book that involves Aeden’s father, but the motivation for his father’s action aren’t clear. I finished reading and the scene and just thought, “uh, what?”
Aeden as a character suffers from this as well in varying degrees. He can be weirdly wonderboy-ish at times. Other times, his fatal flaw causes him to act certain ways with a blind adherence to his flaw because reasons that don’t really jive with the rest of Aeden’s character. The result is that Aeden is constantly weaker and generally behind his classmates, only to somehow pass with flying colors every time, and fatal flaw feels stapled on instead of an integral part of the character.
I would be remiss to not mention the not-so-subtle allusions to Christianity sprinkled throughout the book. Starting with the spelling of Aeden, to a mostly secular yet still monotheist society, to a great society destroying evil from deep underground… and that’s just the beginning. I don’t think this either adds or detracts from the story, but it does feel preachy at times and the references are so painfully obvious that it’s hard to imagine Renshaw not trying to proselytize via his book. A quick bounce over to his website (www.jrenshaw.com) confirms his own religious leanings. While this made me vaguely uncomfortable while reading, your mileage may vary.
Renshaw creates a compelling world and tells an interesting story–albeit with problems. While I enjoyed the book, consistency problems with pacing, one-dimensional character development, and periodic Mary Suing detracted from the story. In the end, I finished the book with a thunderous, ‘Meh’ and a vague sense of relief I didn’t feel obligated to read the not-yet-released next installment in the story.