Book Review: Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland

by thiszine

by K.M. Weiland

PenForASword Publishing
(August 2009, $15.79, 330 pages)

Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland is an historical fiction novel that takes place during the Crusades. Set in “the Holy Land” in 1192, it blends fictional and actual historical characters with vivid descriptions of the people and landscapes. The story begins in Bari, Italy, from the point of view of a Scottish tourneyer named Marcus Annan. Trying to block out his past memories of a place called St. Dunstan’s Abbey, Annan has been fighting in the bloody tournaments, which were still popular despite the Church’s ban in 1130, for sixteen years. His traveling companion, Peregrine Marek, is indentured to him after Annan saved his life in Glasgow, and Marek believes Annan would be better off seeking absolution in the Third Crusade.

After killing a nobleman in a tournament, Annan is approached by a monk known as The Baptist. This monk is one of the few people who knows what happened at St. Dunstan’s, and tells the tourneyer he must bring the man called Matthias of Claidmore to the Holy Land to confront Bishop Roderic about the crimes committed at the abbey sixteen years ago. Annan informs The Baptist that Matthias is dead; while the monk is not convinced this is the truth, he suggests that perhaps the Earl of Keaton may also have knowledge of Roderic’s unholy transgressions which puts him in danger of the Bishop.

Annan reluctantly agrees to the pilgrimage, but still refuses to seek absolution by taking the oath of a Crusader, despite arguments from Marek to the contrary. As soon as the two reach port at Acre aboard the Bonfilia, they are attacked by the “infidels,” but Annan survives to continue his search for the Earl. When he does find his old friend, Annan swears to protect the Earl’s wife, Mairead, from the Norman knight, Hugh de Guerrant, who does the bidding of Bishop Roderic. It soon becomes apparent that Countess of Keaton’s enemies are Annan’s own as well. With the help of Marek, Annan attempts to take Mairead to safety before the Bishop has all of them killed.

Both virtuous and immoral men of God highlight this story, along with corrupt knights and those seeking salvation. Author K.M. Weiland uses the flowery language of historical adventure, and the thoughts of multiple characters, to underscore the Christian themes of the period. Behold the Dawn is a tale of betrayal and redemption that ascends time and location while simultaneously remaining firmly anchored against the tumultuous backdrop of the Crusades. Weiland also includes a glossary of words that are unfamiliar in modern times.

K.M. Weiland does such compelling work of presenting a conflicted male character that many readers fail to realize she is a woman writer. She has been fascinated with history and writing for most of her life, and has written another novel titled A Man Called Outlaw. She blogs at Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors and you can visit her website here.

~Ursula K. Raphael


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