A rocky dawn.
Publisher: Fireship Press
First Published: 2012
Date Reviewed: 5th February 2013
Edward’s father is dead and the boy wants respect; when his family scorn him he signs on as a ship-man, finding no respect there either. Jemmy, the fiddler, runs away from home. Louis wants France to be better off. This all takes place around the time of the French Revolution and slavery.
A Tainted Dawn is, unfortunately, for all the history in it, a rather bad book. The writing is poor and the novel is full of spelling and grammatical errors. It would appear that no editing was performed. There is little in the way of plot, the author focusing on characters; this would usually be fine but in this case the story is very confusing due to the writing and it is incredibly difficult to know whether people are coming or going. There is nothing to recommend the characters to the reader and despite the abundance of description in the book, scant time is given to the protagonists’ own.
Peacock uses “big words” when they are not needed. It does infer that the author wanted to create an epic, which is fair, but it does not work. Sentences such as “All three went their separate ways, but all three retained the memory of others”, and phrases such as “Edward perversely inventoried the paintings” are prime examples of the problems with the text.
The issue with all of this, beyond the idea of “big words”, is that it is evident Peacock knows her history well and wants to impart her knowledge to the reader. Evidence comes in the form of info-dumping, where long paragraphs or even pages are taken up by descriptions of people or situations that are not warranted in the book but would be rather useful otherwise. It is no use knowing all about a character you are not going to encounter in more than one scene, for example, yet the historical information provided in the description might be of use to a student. Doubtless Peacock loves all her characters, but that doesn’t mean the reader will accept them similarly without a proper introduction to them, and there is far too much telling (no showing). There are also peculiar descriptions such as “she had skin the colour of chocolate richly laced with cream” for a mulatto (mixed-race) woman.
There are a few occasions where Peacock succeeds and may captivate the reader, unfortunately these are short-lived, being followed by puzzling plot points. There is also too much emphasis on bullying and punishment – though believable in reality, in this book it does not work.
The backdrop is the French Revolution – but there is not nearly enough time given to it, indeed although the characters think about it and live in a changing world they are so removed in other ways that it would be easy enough to allocate them to a completely different era. Instead of worrying about war they worry about their family tree, one even goes so far as to travel to the Caribbean before jumping ship, literally, and going home due to a dream they had about their father being arrested. The connection between the three characters is tenuous at best.
Peacock knows her history and her wish to teach readers is commendable. But it must be said that her teachings are better suited to non-fiction and would likely be rather compelling if presented in that manner. As it is, A Tainted Dawn is confusing, rushed, and includes too many incomprehensible episodes. A naval enthusiast may enjoy the sailing, but it’s likely leisurely readers will not find it smooth.
I received this book for review from Historical Fiction Virtual Author Tours.
February 6, 2013, 7:37 am
It’s a shame!
I have also read books that try to explain how are the characters instead of showing – throught their actions – how they are.
It is very diffcitult to explain history in a book, but the good authors just use simple language, simple and fluent phrases but well built, and you just read without noticing you are reading and learning.
So well, good luck with your next book ;)
February 6, 2013, 1:53 pm
I’m impressed you finished this one. I wouldn’t be able to get past the spelling and grammatical errors. In fact, I probably would have thrown it across the room into the wall! I think I’d rather read her nonfiction too.
February 7, 2013, 12:28 pm
This sounds as if it could have been an interesting story, so it’s a shame there were so many problems with the writing. Based on the quotes you’ve included I think I would probably find it irritating too. It does seem that this book might have worked better as non-fiction.
February 7, 2013, 3:44 pm
Isi: In a way it’s surprising that even now there is a lack of showing in stories, but understandable, I think. Dialogue can be difficult, as can description (I’ve often wondered if there is a split between people who find one or the other easier). With history there sometimes seems this need to reveal everything – you’re right, simple language and learning without noticing is brilliant. It’s always great when you find you know what something is and what word to use and all that happened was an author referred to it a few times. So far my newest read is very good :)
Heather: It did take me a long time to get through it. I didn’t feel I could review it without finishing though. Despite this book, I wouldn’t hesitate to read any non-fiction she might write.
Helen: It could have been, though there did need to be a lot more development in the right vein. As non-fiction about slavery and shipping details during those times, without the character’s stories, it would have been rather good :/