For Aurora, it is the dawn of a new life. She moves into a college dormitory, meets her new roommate, and explores Honolulu city life with her best friend, Alex. Her days brim with the promise of adventures to come, but Aurora’s happiness will soon be haunted by threats both physical and from another realm. Her nights are shaken by warnings of pain and loss. When her waking life is torn apart by heartbreaking news from her doctor, Aurora must fight for her life. She grows to depend on Alex, who becomes her rock as she undergoes chemotherapy. But the tables turn when Alex falls victim to gay-bashing predators. Aurora convinces her parents to offer him shelter, but his presence strains their fragile marriage. In the midst of great difficulty, Aurora meets a new man, a dream lover who tries to persuade her to leave with him. Tempted but afraid, she retreats to her dreams more frequently, searching for him, seeking love beyond her physical existence.
Aurora is on the cusp of adulthood. Plans for college and enjoying life with her friends are cruelly derailed when Aurora receives a heartbreaking diagnosis from her doctors. Committed to being same person she always has been, Aurora fights on—through sickness, her parent’s difficult relationship, stress—with her faithful friend, Alex, ever by her side. Soon, however, Aurora’s dreams are invaded by a handsome man who, though they don’t speak the same language, is obviously trying to draw her into their shared dream world—permanently. Set with a beautiful Hawaiian backdrop, After Dawn is a poignant, often heartbreaking tale that captures the essence of humanity, friendship, and love.
After Dawn was a really big departure for me. Though I am known to read a lot of paranormal romance, it’s never been quite like this. I really enjoyed the story a lot and once I got started, the tale was continually drawing me back in. What worked really well in this story was the interactions between Aurora and her family, and Aurora and her friends. You get a really intimate picture of who she is as a person and how she deals with the stress and sadness that begins to flow through her life. When Aurora gets sick, it’s often hard to read about, mostly because it’s so deeply personal and real. You get a very vivid sense of how horrible it is to be struck with an illness, but also that deep and strong desire as a person to conquer that illness and regain your normal life.
The story takes place in Hawaii, so there’s a lot of lore and local descriptions that were really interesting to read about and definitely added to the overall mood of the story. I’ll admit, the written accents of some of the characters were a little bit difficult to get used to at first, but eventually the speaking patters became parts of what you knew about the characters. What I think would have been helpful, however, would have been a more limited perspective. In After Dawn, the reader gets into the head of just about everyone and everyone—which can be kind of confusing and unnecessary at time. While it’s nice to be able to get into the head of a few characters, when the story circles around through different perspectives so often, it kind of dilutes the overall power of the tale. Aurora’s story is powerful and harrowing and when the story focuses on her and her experiences it is at its most moving.
Overall, I think Taft is a really great writer who has an interesting take on an often stale and derivative genre. It will be interesting to see what Taft follows this up with. If you’re looking for a paranormal love story with a powerful human element, I think you will really enjoy After Dawn by Justina Taft.
*Please note this book is not available as a Kindle ebook. Paperback only.
The review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.