When a heist goes terribly wrong and the binding spell holding 17-year-old Neva’s powers at bay is shattered, the half-human thief knows she’s in trouble.
Neva has always hidden her Da’Valian heritage while working risky jobs to make a name for herself and serving at her family’s tavern, but she won’t be able to hide much longer. She can either risk the safety of those she cares about or seek out her mother’s people to gain control over her emerging powers.
The Da’Valia are beautiful, brutal creatures created by the god of war, and the austere Da’Valian soldier Astiand reluctantly agrees to take Neva to his clan under his protection. She makes unexpected friends, including the handsome fighter Emiliand, and a new enemy in the clan’s ruthless leader.
Spying on her guardian, the sly heroine quickly discovers just how deep she has stumbled into a dangerous, developing clan feud.
Will she be able to embrace who she is in time to keep her loved ones safe?
Thank you so much to TBR and Beyond Tours and author Christina Davis for gifting me a copy of this wonderful novel in exchange for an honest review! For the rest of the tour schedule please click here.
I don’t even really know where to begin with this review. This year has been a wonderful year for fantasy books and each book just keeps exceeding my expectations of the genre. Born at Dawn is no exception to this. The way that Christina writes lets you know that she genuinely cares about the characters and world that she has created. She does not let the fine details slide and this makes for a wonderfully, fully realized world. The author also takes the thief character story to new lengths, Neva isn’t your typical “girl who is a thief, but wants to be treated like one of the boys”. She is her own person trying to find her way in the world. She is strong and resilient and she is someone who a lot of younger women can look up to.
Born at Dawn is also action packed, which is one of the things that I loved about this story. A story involving a thief should definitely involve some action and Christina gives us so much more. The magic system that is present in this story pairs really well with the action sequences. It is so unique and, again, the author includes fine details that help you to fully understand how the magic works. Also, the Da’Valia people are fantastically created as well. I really enjoyed seeing the differences between Neva’s father’s people and Neva’s mother’s people.
Overall, the story definitely grasps your attention and holds it until the very end. The author gives us so many different characters with unique voices and personalities, making it very easy for me to understand the characters’ actions throughout the book. And we also get to follow Neva on her coming-of-age storyline. By the end of the novel Neva felt like a friend that I could hold in my mind forever. I am very much ready for book 2 and I cannot wait to get my hands on it so that I can see where Neva’s journey takes her next.
1. When did the idea for Born at Dawn come to you?
The main idea for the Da’Valia Trilogy came to me when I was reading Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series, which is a great urban fantasy/paranormal series for anyone who hasn’t read it. Her imagery struck me and my mind locked onto this idea… which I won’t tell you, because I started with the end of the trilogy in mind and don’t want to spoil anything!
Anyway, then I put a bunch of categories into a hat: occupations, mythical races, seasons, and places. I drew one of each to build my main character, Neva, and then spent the next decade fleshing her out and building her world to move her from Point A to that ending that I had in mind.
2. What was the most difficult part of bringing your story to life?
The most difficult part of bringing my story to life was twofold.
A) I’m a “pantser,” which means I write by gut instinct, or the seat of my pants. Then, I go back through the story to make sure that all the plot points are where they need to be and that they’re as strong as they can be. Oftentimes, I think it would be easier if I was more of a plotter, but maybe that’s my next phase of being a writer. We’ll see!
B) I’m also an editor (I was trained in school and worked in journalism for a long time), so each time I would go through Born at Dawn, I would see something else I wanted to improve. Finally, last year I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl, but I almost died doing it, and that was a big wake-up call.
I’d known for some time that I needed to put my inner editor in the backseat to make my dream of being an author come true, but something about a brush with death like that really rattled me. And then the pandemic hit. Basically, I feel like the universe gave me a big push forward, saying “Don’t wait. You won’t live forever.” So, thanks, Universe.
3. How do you balance your personal life with your writing life?
Pre-pandemic and pre-motherhood, I had it down! I have some great writer friends, and we would meet up a couple times a week, chat, and do writing sprints together. Mid-pandemic with a baby, things are a lot different. I have to rely on my husband to help with the baby when he’s off work, and we want to help flatten the curve for our loved ones and medical workers, so I have to prioritize my time and do it at home. Having an office space set aside helps a lot, but I’m still trying to find a better balance.
4. If you could pick one song to describe Neva what would it be?
Never Give Up by Sia, because it’s a powerful song about finding your way.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Definitely! I’ll always encourage aspiring writers to read about the craft of writing. Reading hundreds or thousands of leisure books is helpful, but books about the craft will drill down into how to write one yourself.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I would encourage you to really dedicate yourself to getting that first draft down on paper. If you’re not feeling a scene, skip it and come back later, but just write. Once you have a draft, you have something to work with.
Finally, take some creative writing classes. This will force you to put your work in front of other people and will expose you to ways of writing you may not have explored before. Plus, you’ll meet some great friends who love the same thing that you love! I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with people who lift you up.
6. What is one thing you would like for readers to take away when reading Born at Dawn?
Oh my. That’s a great question. No one has ever asked me that before. I guess I would like them to take away the spirit of embracing one’s self in the way that Neva learns to embrace her Da’Valian side. Everyone is multifaceted, but I think a lot of us will try to hide parts of ourselves that others might not like, or be afraid of. For instance, I’m an empath, and that’s something I tried to hide for a really long time. It didn’t seem socially appropriate to me to cry over someone else’s trial or crisis, but eventually, some great facilitators helped me realize there’s strength in accepting that part of myself and sharing it — that my ability to feel what others are going through could be more of a blessing than a curse because they could know they’re not alone. A situation that comes to mind is when a coworker passed away and I went to cry in the bathroom alone. In retrospect, everyone else in the office that day was feeling similarly shocked and saddened. Maybe they could have used a hug, too, you know? So if you’re like me and you chose to suppress your feelings, or you’re like Neva and you were taught to hide another part of yourself, maybe you come away from Born at Dawn with a little more courage to embrace who you are. A lofty goal, I know.
7. Who designed the beautiful cover art for Born at Dawn and how was it working with the designer?
I cannot speak highly enough of my cover artist, Ruxandra Tudorica. She’s an artistic goddess! This was my first time publishing a book, so I let her take the lead on the cover design. She had me fill out a form, where I told her about Neva, what she looks like, where she lives, the story, etc. Then, Ruxandra dove into her design process, which is to select a pose, a face, clothing, background, and font. She does a composite and then digitally paints over it to create that beautiful illustrated look.
The thing I like the most about Ruxandra is that she has a vision and she goes with it. I actually felt bad because I led her astray – at one point, the background had a giant moon in it because I had told her that the moon played such an important part in the story, but then I realized the juxtaposition of a moon like that and the title “Born at Dawn” was awkward. Like it made your brain want to short-circuit. So she kindly re-did the sky.
I was chatting with her the other day through email, because we’re working on the cover of Book 3 now, and she is in high demand, but she does have some openings in early 2021. If any other authors out there are interested in hiring her, or if you’re just someone who likes to explore beautiful covers, her portfolio is online at https://www.methyss-art.com/.
Preorder your copy now!
Meet the Author
Christina Davis was raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a California girl at heart. She spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals and embraced reading as an escape. After being home-schooled through high school, she graduated summa cum laude from San Jose State University and attended NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute before embarking on a decade-long career in journalism. She enjoys chocolate, cosplay, coffee, and board games, but not necessarily in that order. She now lives in beautiful Monterey County with her husband and daughter.
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