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Virtue and Terror
Maximilien de Robespierre, Slavoj Žižek, John Howe, Jean Ducange

Behold the Dawn

Behold the Dawn - K.M. Weiland Behold the Dawn is a well-researched and -written historical action novel that kept me reading to the point of missing train stops. Other readers have noted a slow beginning but I found it engaging from the start. Marcus Annan is a tourneyer—a combination of sports hero and mercenary—of considerable gifts. Feared on and off the tourney field, he fights hoping to find someone who can best—and kill—him. Too strong and skilled to die, he gets sucked into a byzantine plot to extract revenge for horrible events from his past. On whim or by manipulation of a revenge-mad monk, Annan travels to the Levant during the crusades. While there, he takes a young woman into his protection and wants nothing more than to deliver her to safety. Evil plotters won't let this happen, of course, and many plot twists ensue.Weiland's plot has a sense of inevitability, but manages to surprise. Her prose is often lovely and never distracts the reader with out of character phrases or conspicuously overwritten passages. There are some moments when she slips into some of the stereotypes of romance writing—the reader never has reason to doubt Annan's shoulders' breadth—but those lapses are rare. The primary characters are well-developed, fully-envisioned and occasionally surprise. The villains, who are also given POV time (there are six POVs by my count) are less well-developed: one never escapes the sense that they are bad men, not men who have made bad decisions. However, their full-on bad-guyness suits the plot and works in an action-oriented novel like this.The redemption theme is handled gracefully. While the dedication ("Dedicated to my beloved Savior, who has given us a fresh beginning in each new day.") leaves the reader with little doubt that Annan's certainty in his own damnation will be overcome, Weiland never pushes the redemption theme to the point that I feel that somebody reluctant to read "Christian Fiction" would find it intrusive. Another potentially thorny issue Weiland masterfully sidesteps is the potential to either cast her heroes as moral moderns in a historical time or creating muslims who are simplistic villains. There is a respect for the Seljuk's military prowess and Saladin's devotion to honor, but there is no sense that any of the Christian characters view Islam as morally equal to Christianity (or at all blessed by God). The Muslims are in the background and the evil-doers are men who claim Christian piety.I recommend it to any reader looking for an action-focused novel who enjoys or even just tolerates historical themes. I would suggest readers uncomfortable with fairly graphic portrayals of violence stay away, however, as Weiland never shies from showing the violence of Annan's life, nor that of the times (war and all that).