Original Version                                                                      Rereleased Version               

First published back in April of 1998, ‘Dawn Song’ formed the debut novel for US author Michael Marano.  In June of 2014 the novel was rereleased by the Canadian publishers ChiZine, including a new introduction by Elizabeth Hand, a Foreword by Dietmar Dath, an Afterword by Michael Marano, and an exclusive excerpt from the proposed sequel entitled ‘A Choir Of Exiles’.

DLS Synopsis:
It was the bitter winter of 1990, with the first Gulf War on the horizon Lawrence had left behind Providence and his ex-lover Jacob in the hope of starting a new life for himself in Boston.  He had moved into a brownstone by the Charles River and taken up a job at a nearby secondhand bookshop.  It was time to move on from his past.  Move on from his old life with Jacob and etch out a new existence for himself here in Boston.

However, during the quiet hours before dawn the night after he moved into the flat, the cautious shadow of a Succubus settled over the roof above Lawrence.

Boston had become a place of lonely and lost souls, each one quietly crying out for something more.  A fertile ground for anyone who was inclined to take advantage. And from out of Hell itself, the Succubus had been reborn and brought into the world of man.  The sensual creation of Belial, the Unbowed One, the Succubus is about to embark upon a journey which will leave behind a trail of dead in her dreadful wake.  Using the seductive powers afforded to her, the Succubus will entrap and swallow whole the souls of those she sees ripe for the harvest.

It was the Unbowed One who had sent the Succubus.  The great demon had an eye on the rulership of Hell and all its vast shadow encompasses.  And it wishes to cast aside the Enfolded One, the Leviathan, and take what it feels is its rightful place in Hell.  But the Enfolded One will not surrender its mastery that easily.  It has woken from its slumber, the very act blossoming the violence of warfare within mankind.  For the demon is one smoldering with the eternal maelstrom of hatred, rage and violence.  It is within its very essence.  And it will inject its chaotic violence into the world, to exact the demons all-powerful dominance.

A war is about to be waged across the bitterly cold streets of Boston.  Through the corruption of humanity two great demons will fight for their ultimate supremacy in Hell.  Mankind is a mere pawn in the equation.  But sometimes, even the most insignificant pawns can have the most profound and dramatic of influences on the turn of events…

DLS Review:
The ChiZine rerelease of Michael Marano’s debut starts off with a vast barrage of quotes praising the novel, closely followed by an equally adoring Introduction by Elizabeth Hand and then on to a powerfully emotive foreward by Dietmar Dath.  It’s safe to say that having ploughed your way through all of this, by the time you reach the tale’s prologue, your appetite is well-and-truly whetted, and you’re eagerly anticipating a novel that promises to be full of dark and horrifying wonders.

And to be honest, Marano successfully delivers an extraordinary tale brimming with sex, violence, madness and the very bleakest of despair.  The author’s prose and poetic delivery is deeply evocative.  The subtleties and lyrical nature behind his flowing words create an astonishingly compelling environment for a dark-fantasy tale to procreate.  Indeed, it’s all too easy to become caught up in the poetry of Marano’s writing and end up further down the murky river of the story than you perhaps you should be.

The characters that embody the very drive behind the tale are all beautifully fleshed-out.  Lawrence, our deeply downbeaten and troubled protagonist personifies the very air of the entire story.  Then you have Ed Sloane, the charming and capable professor of theology whose path crosses with that of Lawrence and then becomes intricately entwined with the events being played out.

On the other side of the fence you have Paul.  A man encased in sadness for the passing of his father.  A man who’s depression has an ever-present grip on him which opens the door for corruption.  As the reader, we witness this man who seems so haunting real and touchingly human, get swallowed up by something which seems much more terrifying than the sum of the words that tell the story.

And then we have the Succubus.  A demonic and seductive creature whose perspective threads together many of the characters.  Shown in a carefully established sympathetic light, the Succubus is one of the most intriguing characters, with possibly the most defined sense of place in the unfolding story.  And in the character Marano has penned one of the clearest symbolic representations of the problems of the era the novel was written in.

There are other characters.  In fact ‘Dawn Song’ is awash with overlapping storylines and shifting points of view.  Together these combine to make an almost dreamlike blend of quietly unsettling bitterness with scatterings of human troubles and regret.  Yeah, this is a downcast and somewhat somber read to say the least.  And its tone is maintained with the skill of a masterful storyteller.

However, that’s not to say the novel isn’t without its own troubles.  As a direct consequence of its roving perspective, briefly dipping from one character to the next, the overall effect is one of fragmentation and an ultimately disjointed trail for the reader to make their way along.

Furthermore, at times the over-padding and overly surreal descriptions become too overbearing; swallowing the story up in a mist of obscurity and barely decipherable prose.  It’s true to say that this is a novel that requires patience and a touch more work from the reader than is usually called upon.  If you’re not fully committed to seeing this one out and submerging yourself in the emotion-rich quagmire of Marano’s darkly complex world, then you’re likely to become derailed and eventually lost in a fog of troubling obscurity.

It has to be said that there are a hell of a lot of layers and complexities to the story.  Marano has clearly done his research as far as Alchemy, Kabbalah, Demonology and Angelology go.  In fact, in his Afterword within the ChiZine rerelease, Marano namedrops a vast array of individuals who helped with the ins-and-outs of this aspect.  Even without any prior knowledge or understanding in this field, the sheer complexity of the theological and occult heavy tendrils that run through the entirety of the tale give the novel an air of worrying relevance.  With man stuck in the middle of this battle, with our existence and future unsure whatever the outcome between these two demons, it’s hard not to feel simply pushed aside.  In fact, with no strong protagonist leading the way through the gloom and grit of this equally sexual, equally violent and equally depressive story, it’s pretty hard to get firmly embedded no matter how enwrapped you are with the (quite often enchanting) prose.

What you have with ‘Dawn Song’ is a dramatic dark-fantasy novel that feeds off the ambitious complexities that run through its core, whilst guiding an array of personality-rich characters around a battlefield of madness, seduction, worryingly volatile anger, and all-encompassing loss.  Not exactly the most coherent of novels, or indeed one that realises its full potential.  Nevertheless, what ‘Dawn Song’ is is utterly compelling, life engaging, and breathtakingly evocative to the very last word.

If you like your fiction complex, dark, seductively-twisted, and layered with theological complexities, then this is very probably a novel that will get you salivating at the turn of the very first page.

The novel runs for a total of 423 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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