Birth of the Dawnhawk by Z. Apollo and MJ Northwood

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Avila is coming home after being away for a number of years. There’s something called the energy-binding that’s taking place and she’s coming home for the ceremony. She’s pretty gung-ho, kind of full of herself, doesn’t like being treated like royalty. She has been training with a man named Victor.

Her home, Hassun, is a desert oasis type city. The reader knows within the first few pages that this is going to have a fair bit of magic in it, with magic already present and being used by the main character. She’s known as a “Blessed” and there aren’t many of them left on the world. Avila is able to surround herself in wind and run down the side of a mountain where most people would fall and break their neck. She has always had extremely vivid dreams, and as a reader, it looks like she’s having out of body experiences, not just dreams. Being Blessed was considered respectable, but it also made people fearful. It’s a well known fact that people tended to die around the Blessed, so some would look at her with disgust and fear, so she’s accustomed to keeping her mark hidden.

As interesting as Avila could be at times, I didn’t immediately warm up to her. She starts off a bit arrogant and self centered, not thinking about how her actions will affect others. However, there are characters that chastise her for this which makes it more palatable, her father in particular tries to show her how she’s blind to other’s struggles and needs to start taking her responsibilities more seriously. The people who are trying to help guide her imply that maybe she’s going to learn and grow rather than be a stagnant character, and it was enough to keep me turning pages to see how she was going to turn out. By about 20% Avila started to start her arc in earnest, and I started to enjoy her more. She’s clearly struggled with her extraordinary strength, eluding that she has once hurt people and broken things because she couldn’t control how strong she was and it happened at such a young age.

As far as the prose and writing style, it mostly worked for me, with a few really big nit picks. It was very difficult to understand some foreign leaders that came to visit Avila’s father.

“Palaycian’s discuvered i’s Blessin’, but it seems yaw ye’ to fully understaand I, am I roigh?”

“The booy came into ‘is own fanks to the trainin’ ‘e ‘ad with moy claan.”

“I’s still dorman’. Yew scrached the suurfas but you need to understaand i’ before you can use i’. You ‘ave a responsibili’y t’yaself and yaw peeple to learn i’s nachure. There’re so few of yew y’yaw challenges will be so vaaast…”

I think a part of why I struggled with this is because how are “booy” and “claan” supposed to be pronounced? What does that sound like? An easy-to-read dialect needs to be pretty phonetic, at least for me. If the reader has to think too hard about what’s being said the moment is lost. I got increasinly frustrated every time this character came around because I knew I was going to be like “the fuck did that mean, lemme read it again”.

Avila should be next in line to inherit the throne since her brother was next in line to inherit his in-law’s family fortune. However, since she’s Blessed, there could be pushback from the other nobles. It looks like her father has lost favor and influence when he got into his old age. He couldn’t even convince them to make repairs to the lower part of the district.

Hassun is a well fleshed out city, although it didn’t play a huge part in the story, I did get a feel for how the city looked, who lived there, what the districts were like etc. I liked that the poor areas were not the crime-ridden cesspools like so many books in fantasy. Instead, they were described as warm and kind-hearted with most squabbles occurring in the trade district and being forgotten by the next day. There is something called a water tree that supplies fresh pure water to the entire city. There are two known in existence, one is free for anyone to use, and the other is secluded and not for anyone to touch.

This world also has multiple races: Humans along with High Vilmar, Orkus, Drakonian, Volgor and Nascon. I thought that this book was going to be single POV, but there were others introduced about a third of the way in, and we get to see the POV of a Drakonian. The pacing was slow at first, the world gets built up before the plot thickens. Around 24% things start to kick off and take shape.

I feel like this is a long rambling review, there’s so much to cover it was difficult to condense it down into a thousand words or so. I also get nervous when I’m the very first review for a book. I don’t know why, lol.

This will appeal to people who like lots of magic, multiple sentient races, high stakes, and lots of world building.


  • Plot: 12/15
  • Characters: 12/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 9/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 11/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 74/100 or 7.4/10 for SPFBO 

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