A ship rolls through the fog, its doomed crew fallen victim to an engineered plague. Yat Jyn-Hok—disgraced cop, former thief, long lost love to a flame-haired street girl—stumbles across its deadly trail, but powerful men will do anything to keep it secret.
They kill Yat.
It doesn’t stick.
An ancient intelligence reanimates her, and sends her out to enact its monstrous designs. She has her own plans: to find her lost love, and solve her own murder before the plague tears the city to pieces. But what are the golden threads she sees running through the city walls? What does her inhuman saviour want from her? Why can’t she die?
Set in Hainak Kuay Vitraj—where lost gods live in the cracks in the sidewalk, where the miracle of alchemical botany makes flesh as malleable as clay—The Dawnhounds.
Worldbuilding at its peak. The Dawnhounds heaves with life, a tangible sense of cosmic power simmering from the waters around this port city and the people trying to save it. Just don’t call them heroes, aye.
3.50 Stars. This review is for the new 2022 edition. I think this book just took the lead for the ‘WTH did I just read’ award. This book is wonderfully queer, super weird, and I had no idea what was going on half the time. I don’t even know how to really classify this one. At first I thought it was more steampunk fantasy and I was getting a similar vibe to Elizabeth Watasin’s Dark Victorian series. Then there were “gifted” pirates that gave the book a more historic fantasy feel, and then the book almost turned sci-fi-ish with its mycelium sprouting city -and the only reason I even know what mycelia is is because I’m a geek and I watch 'Star Trek Discovery'. I guess in the end it was a bit of everything and if you asked me what this story was about, all I could really tell you is badass lady finds her badass lady match and together they try to save their city. Everything else that happened in-between, I’m not as sure about.
It’s always hard for me to decide if I actually like a book when I have no idea what really happened half the time. I heard a few people say that this had a similar “what is going on?’ feel that Harrow the Ninth had. I can’t speak to that as I‘m waiting for the whole series to be out before I read it, but if you enjoyed that book you might enjoy this one –so I’ve been told. What I ended up doing is I just powered through this book. The parts I could understand and the parts that were so cleverly imagined, I really enjoyed. The parts I was completely confused about, sometimes even random pages full of text that just froze my brain, I just figured that they could not have been that important and I just kept reading. On a good note, I was happy that most of the characters were pretty likeable and I loved that the main character turned into a total badass.
While I don’t really know what I just read, I think I liked it because I’ve decided I would read a sequel if one comes out. The main story is wrapped up but there are a few threads open –like the dead city and the witch’s promise – so there is plenty there for the author to work on if he wants to. This is a book I can’t really recommend, but I would not say stay away either. It is so weird, and hard to understand in parts, but also beautifully imagined with a good cast of queer characters. If you want to try something completely different and weird as hell, this might just be the book for you.
My review is for the US version to be released by Saga Press. I don't know if it's the same version as the 2019 release, but I thought I'd mention it since I believe it's been re-edited.
I loved it - it's sort of a strange botanical noir with its roots (no put intended) in cyberpunk. There are certainly enough drug-addled lonely cops in rain-dark alleys in a harbor town trying to do the right thing and fighting their own demons to satisfy fans of the genre. And in fine noir fashion, the MC finds herself pining after the one that got away -- or something like that. But there's gods afoot here, and a queer magical collective, and a larger mystery to solve, if only our MC can stay alive and master this strange new power (don't call it magic!) she has before she kills everyone.
There's real imagination at work here, and some lovely genre mashup elements along with original worldbuilding that made the story enjoyable. The structure of the novel is unconventional but I found it easy to follow overall and the pacing was great. I loved the divine interstitials and getting glimpses of the larger world. I'm definitely looking forward to book 2.
Don't read if you want to go into this without expectations! Rating will be posted when SFFBC has had time to comment.
The prologue on this was brilliant. I loved the biotech, the setting, the unexpected gut punch of the attack...it was really engrossing.
Unfortunately, this is the only chapter that was polished to this extent. The rest needs a serious editing.
Most of my review is going to be about this editing, because the story was so confused that I'm not sure I can say with confidence what was going on.
A couple really cool things:
I think the mythology and the magic show a lot of promise. I really wanted to know more about this. The tech seemed great, and I liked the fungal element. Again. wanted more. I think the body horror was exactly the right dose to make it terrifying but not go over to grimdark.
There are a lot of inconsistencies in this book though. It was very clear that the author had "pantsed" sections (as in writing without an outline) and hadn't gone back to make things match up, so a lot of repeat info, a lot of small changes that all served as stumbling blocks.
This is also apparent in the lack of graceful transitions. We suddenly just start new scenes with new motivations and a new spin on what had happened previously. It made for a very clunky read that was hard to stay immersed in.
The ending was pretty much a mess. By about 60% I didn't understand in any sort of concrete sense what was happening, what it looked like, who was involved, or what the intent was, so I was kind of just waiting for the end. And THAT didn't make sense either.
I can also tell this was rushed because there are extremely easy grammatical fixes--changes in font size, missing periods, etc. that even basic copyediting would remedy. The author actually commented on this and it might be a technical issue with the version of file, but it does very little to inspire confidence.
A great first draft that needs probably a professional copy editor, and about 5 more beta readers who can give honest feedback.
4.0 Stars This was such a unique fantasy novel that blends together biopunk elements into a queer pirate narrative. I'm always looking for fresh stories so this one was a delight. The narrative was a little bit messy in places, but it was so entertaining that I didn't mind too much. This is going to be the beginning of a series so I look forward to reading more in this world.
ARC received from the publisher (Gallery/Saga Press) in exchange for an honest review.
I have had this book on my TBR for a few years, but when I heard the rerelease is even weirder and queerer and more indigenous, it shot up my TBR. And I’m very grateful I got the opportunity to read it, because Biopunk/New Weird in the vein of Vandermeer with mushrooms and queer pirates and some noir vibes early on is exactly up my alley. And it was a shockingly fast and easy read, too – I finished it in two sittings.
Yat is a cop, recently demoted for having been caught at a gay bar. She’s also a drug addict living paycheck to paycheck and one night, while stumbling home high, she happens upon a corpse – and is immediately shot in the head by two officers herself. Except she doesn’t stay dead. And develops strange magic. And falls in with a crew of pirates. And many other things that I do not want to spoil.
The main star of this book is definitely the worldbuilding. Something happened and now metal is taboo and biological technology reigns. Houses are grown from mushrooms, people can have lost limbs regrown, though there are also more terrifying applications of alchemy, like guns that shoot grubs that burrow under your skin or criminals being turned into mindless slaves. There’s also political turmoil with homophobic conservatives in power and a cult of bird priests (derogatorily called bin chickens because of the ibis masks – the one New Zealand/Australian reference I did get) making trouble. It’s not a very pleasant world, but it’s a very interesting one. Though the tone never gets too dark or oppressive.
I also liked that the issue of the MC being a cop is very much addressed – the systemic flaws, people being blanked en masse because places need slave workforce, there being no good cops in the end, etc. Yat may have good intentions, but we all know what the road to hell is paved with.
If there is a fault, it’s that the book has a little too much going on and tries to do too much at the same time, so some things get a little lost. It’s far from a fatal flaw and doesn’t really bog it down, but I did wish at points it’d jump from place to place and subplot to subplot a little less rapidly, give some time to breathe and for the full weight of things to set in.
But either way, it’s a book I recommend most highly and I can’t wait for the sequel.
Enjoyment: 4.5/5 Execution: 4/5
Recommended to: fans of Vandermeer and Mieville or books with biotech or just weird books in general, those looking for Māori-inspired and very queer SFF (the MC is bi, several side characters are various kinds of queer), if you like pirate found families, those looking for a quick read Not recommended to: anyone sensitive to body horror
Content warnings: body horror, epidemic, homophobia (external and some internalised, including slurs)
I have read a few other reviews where the reader was confused for 60-70% of the book, I finished and I am still confused. Due to the real life thing I probably never spend as much immersion reading time as I should, for any book and perhaps this one suffers more than most with a limited attention span but...
I still don't have a good idea what the Blanks were, what the whole point of the prologue was, who Sibbi is, what the point of the spores was, the threads, the gods and on and on. I was able to enjoy Yat's character for the most part although I am still not sure what she is.
This was another, in a recent string of novels, that had some very interesting ideas that were poorly displayed. I loved the plant infrastructure and was hoping that would be a more central part. I liked the whole life thread/energy bit but would have liked to have that tied to the plants part as well. Then we have resurrection, gods, "people" living for thousands of years, ships that can go places instantly and some sort of disfunctional sword stick. Maybe save some of those for another novel? Or a longer one?
I did enjoy parts of it and I have not chucked Stronach on the abandoned heap but I might wait a while before reading another of his books.
Māori-inspired biopunk fantasy. If your favorite Locked Tomb book is Gideon the Ninth—if you like the quick pace and the body horror and, most of all, the sense that it’s one small entry into a larger world—you’ll find a lot to like in The Dawnhounds.
For once the comp titles actually work! This is like Harrow the Ninth body slammed into Black Sun and then the combined mass (IYKYK) french kissed The Affair of the Mysterious Letter just for shits and giggles.
It's nonsensical and fantastic. It's messy and yet it makes sense and I really, really loved it.
I highlighted so many passages and I probably should give this a better review with those highlights but I'm so far behind on my reviews that it's not even funny.
Anywho, if you like queer disasters and cli-fi dystopians and mega mushrooms and indigenous fic and ambitiously weird narrative devices and and epic fantasy that feels like science fiction and is probably closer to epic science fantasy, this is for you.
And if you read Harrow the Ninth and went wtf is this I want more even though I have no fucking idea what happened, then this is definitely the book for you.
Full RTC. Maybe. Probably. Doubtfully. I dunno anymore.
Oh, and the rep is sapphic, but it's not lesbian, it's bisexual.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review
A world that is equal parts wondrous and horrific, and always exquisitely detailed. Prose that drifts into the kaleidoscopic. This novel feels like a weird dream that makes just enough sense. The characters feel complex and brokenly hopeful. It has bio-tech, magic, pirates, gods, and the remnants of a world we half-recognise. It does exactly what it promises—it starts with a shipwreck and ends with a kiss.
Meandering, repetitive, baffling and disjointed. A lot of good ideas but not one of them well executed or properly explored. Getting two stars only for the merit of the ideas and the interesting, if often confusing, characters.
Dawnhounds has great LGBT representation, a cool setting, appealing characters.
Unfortunately, from very early on, a sense of confusion set in, like I'd skipped reading sections of the book, or forgotten something important. This feeling was overwhelming in the last third of the book, so I'm pretty confident it isn't just impending memory problems. The climax seemed to come out of nowhere: huge explosions with not enough build-up. Straightforward prose works against its weirdness.
I risk writing a critique rather than a review if I go into too much more detail, and I've also kind of thought myself out about it putting a post together for my reading group. Actually, here, I'll cheat and just copy what I posted to the group here behind a spoiler tag. :D It was intended for people who'd already read the book, so there's some missing context (irony!) and possible minor spoilers.
Lots of promise with a disappointing execution. Two and a half stars, rounded down.
This was a very cool and weird sapphic Māori cyberpunk fungal horror and if that doesn’t hit literally every spot I need, I don’t know what will. The world is *spectacular*. It completely satisfied the cyberpunk craving I’ve had since obsessing over Cyberpunk 2077 earlier this year. It has that combination of future tech but eery, creepy vibe full of capitalist immorality that just creates the perfect cyberpunk world. I mean, people live in mushroom houses that feed on their dead skin and sweat but if it goes wrong they try to eat them?! Are you kidding me?! How fucking amazing. Is it so weird at times I’m still not sure what happened? Possibly. But it’s in the same way Tamsyn Muir writes and means I think a lot of things will get further explained (and more mysteries added…) in sequels, which I can’t wait to read.
Content warnings: graphic depictions of body horror, violence, blood and gore, homophobia, ableism, suicide, animal death, death, gun violence, addiction, self harm, war
So very much to love. Impeccable world (if sometimes confusing world building), wonderful main character, vivid imagery, and (something I always enjoy): gods. Flawless, cliffhanger adjacent final chapter, I cannot wait for the sequel.
This is a post-apocalypse biopunk fantasy from New Zealand. I read is as a part of monthly reading for October 2020 at SFF Hot from Printers: New Releases group. I got the book after it won the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel (NZ SFF award) and it was made available for download for all WorldCon members.
The book has a very interesting premise: in prologue, some ship returns from an expedition to get some kind of pre-apoc tech, which took lives of a greater share of the crew. Just next to their final destination they are massacred by some force. As the main book starts, it shifts to the life of protagonist – a young police woman Yat Jyn-Hok, with a shadow past and gloomy present – she is a bisexual in a world, where local faith has a grip of power and prosecutes all ‘unnatural’ tendencies. In addition, she is a drug user.
The World building has a lot of potential, for there most tech is based on plants and mushrooms, so say apartments clean themselves by consuming dirt, or instead of police batons, there is cnidocyte, which stings. Magic is less well-developed and is an interesting version of life-strings of all living things, which can be drunk vampire-like.
As you can see, there is a lot of potential. However, its execution is extremely weak, the novel reads more like an early draft than a finished work.
When I first heard about this on Booktube, I was immediately intrigued. The concept sounded so unique: Gideon the Ninth meets Black Sun in this queer, Māori-inspired debut fantasy about a police officer who is murdered, brought back to life with a mysterious new power, and tasked with protecting her city from an insidious evil threatening to destroy it.
The story is set in the port city of Hainak, which is literally alive. Bioengineering and ‘alchemical botanicals’ have replaced conventional (and now illegal) technology and building materials, such as steel, stone and brick. People live in giant mushroom houses that are alive, guns fire venomous slugs instead of bullets, limbs can be regrown and people can have ‘biowork’ done to alter their appearance or give them special abilities. There’s also a bird-worshipping religious sect that is desperately trying to hold on to power, a corrupt police force, a pantheon of animal gods that can resurrect people, and alleged criminals who’ve been turned into zombie workers. Oh and did I mention the queer magic-wielding pirates?
The story follows Yat, an ex-crook turned cop, who’s recently been demoted for visiting a gay club (homosexuality is strictly taboo in this world). Yat lives paycheck to paycheck and gets high when she can to manage her anxiety and past trauma. She is someone who genuinely wants to help people and believes in following the rules, unlike many of colleagues.
Yat is also haunted by the memories of her old lover Kaida. Like so many others, Kaida was turned into a ‘blank’ for committing some crime (or asking too many questions). As Yat is stumbling home high one night, she finds a corpse, and is shot in the head by two police officers. She dies but then mysteriously wakes up again. Not only is she alive, but Yat finds she’s able to manipulate the life force of anything organic (living or dead). As Yat tries to figure out what is going on, she discovers that her murder is part of a much larger and more sinister plan.
What really stood out to me about this book was the world-building. The author has created a fascinating and imaginative setting where plants have replaced conventional engineering and technology. This plant-based system ties in closely with the magic system involving life force. I also liked how the author included a lot of Maori and Asian influences, and there’s quite a bit of Kiwi slang to make things more interesting.
The book felt like a blend of SF and F wrapped in a futuristic, noir-like murder mystery. The LGBTQ+ elements play a substantial role in the book. It is mainly the gay characters that can wield magic, and one of the main themes appears to be the repression of gays in a strict religious society.
Unfortunately, plot-wise this book felt a bit messy, and I was ultimately underwhelmed. In addition to the mystery of Yat’s murder, there are a lot of other things going on. The narrative jumps from location to location and storyline to storyline without much direction. I think certain aspects of the plot deserved more attention, but perhaps the other books in the series will focus on these parts.
I seem to be on a roll of fungal reads lately! And I've enjoyed them all, which is encouraging. Weird botany will just never be unappealing to me. To be honest, for most of these types of stories, it's the setting and the creepy mushrooms that interest me more than the characters. (Well, what can you expect from a botanist.) But The Dawnhounds bucks that trend a little, because the characters are a big part of what makes this such an interesting read. Yat, in particular, is extremely likeable - which helps as she is the protagonist of the piece. Yet the supporting characters are nearly all likeable as well, and that's more unusual. More importantly, they feel like they have lives and motivations of their own, outside of Yat. I get the feeling she's a bit player in their lives, most of them, which of course she should be. (Rarely do I find characterisation more irritating than when the supporting cast seems not to exist when they're not interacting with the hero/ine of the piece.)
There are some beautiful passages in here too. I tend to read for prose, and there are some lovely turns of phrase: "The stars are in their houses, the seas are drawing back - the walls are coming down, and magic is again in the world." There's the odd hint, too, that the author is from New Zealand - the yeah nah yeah, the kaka birds... it gives it all a sort of skewed familiar flavour, and I smiled each time to see it.
Queer cop is murdered, resurrected, and joins a ship of queer magic pirates before finally realising that cops aren’t the heroes she always believed them to be. Also people live in giant mushroom houses and everything is connected and the gods give some people the ability to control life force almost like it’s electricity.
This is weird and horrific… and sometimes a bit confusing… but always absolutely wonderful.
I loved the feeling of this book, I loved the characters, the playful prose, the world building, and the themes explored. The plot itself was fascinating, but occasionally I did feel a bit lost. This is a wholly unique fantasy book, and is one I would love to reread.
Definitely looking forward to the release of the next book in this trilogy.
This is a queer, Maori-inspired, pirate, biopunk fantasy with worldbuilding so intense that I will be honest, I often was not following it all.
Between the intricate worldbuilding and the references to Maori culture, stories, and landmarks that I’m sure I missed, this felt like a dense book to begin. But the story of the main character had me invested enough to let the rest of the story just wash over me.
This is being pitched as Gideon the Ninth meets Black Sun, so if you’re looking for a queer fantasy with a fascinating and expansive setting, I highly recommend this one. Just be prepared to dive in and let the details flow past you, because The Dawnhounds is not interested in holding your hand through it all.
Well this was a slog. Trendy Mievillian Vandermerean biohorror sci-fi tech ad trendy "found family" tropes, and about 10 different plots*, none of them managed very smoothly or coherently. I'm still not quite sure what the heck was going on. The editing was weak, too, with lots of places where the narration dipped from past into present. Finally, the prose was annoying. About every third sentence was a cringeworthy simile that did not add vividness so much as provide an unwelcome insight into what the author thinks "local color" should be like.
On the other hand, I did manage to finish it, so 2 stars instead of 1. But still: O Tamsyn Muir, how your enthusiastic blurb has betrayed me!
*1. A mysterious threat to the city. 2. Millennia-old gods trying to cleanse the earth of evil. 3. Millenia-old functionally immortal humans with tense and complicated backstory that they have to resolve. 4. A different set of millennia-old functionally immortal humans with tense and complicated backstory who are ?trying to cause the apocalypse? 5. Eat the Rich. 6. Same as 5, but on a digression when they all visit a different city for some reason that I cannot now remember. 7. "Oh no I joined the police to be a hero but now after 10 years of hauling petty criminals off to be mind-wiped and turned into servitors, I've just now started to realize that maybe ACAB and we're actually the bad guys??" 8. The same thing as 7, but with a different character. 9. The conservative religious-fascists are attempting a coup! 10. Discovering you have magic and how to use it. 11. Romance plot/identity reveal that didn't just come out of nowhere at the end but came out of nowhere at the end with a character with whom the protagonist had had one (1) scene about 1/3 of the way through the book and who then barely showed up on page until the end when suddenly we went "grumpy rivals to lovers" in about 1/2 a page without either of those having been established at all.
Intelligent and innovative, but also highly confusing. The protagonists live a post-apocalyptic bioengineered future in which cities are grown from giant mushrooms and godlike creatures gift unimaginable powers to human avatars. I loved the blend of science and magic involved here. A heavy reliance on chemistry and engineering in the society fuels the cyberpunk ambiance and eco-noir (is that a genre? I’m making it a genre) tone. However, there’s also a focus on religion and mysticism that suggest deus ex machina at play, particularly when it comes to the sheer, world-bending power some of the characters evidence.
The themes of this novel are heavy but poignant: the characters struggle against homophobia and self-denial, and a central plot line is corruption in the police force as the two cop protagonists are faced with the horrific injustice and hypocrisy present in their system. A truly excellent entry into the naive cog in a broken profession to gay pirate canon.
Why, then, does this merit only three stars? Because when you look beyond the high concept and compelling thematic elements, things start to fall apart. The plot sometimes feels like more holes than substance, with POVs switching and tantalizing concepts going unexplored. There were chapters where I had to flip back because I was convinced I’d missed a crucial section. This feeling was most prominent in the last quarter of the book, where the cause of the central conflict isn’t explained until ridiculously far along into the conclusion. With some heavy editing this novel could have knocked it out of the park, but without satisfying narrative cohesion I felt cheated out of what could have been an excellent story.
4.25* This is one of the few books I not only want but need to reread. The combination of quite a lot going on in my life and such a dense story means that I feel like I got only half of what is going on in this book. There are many different layers that intersect with each other, little off-comments that change your whole perception of the world and give you insight into the characters past and the complexity of the political system.
It a bold and weird story, set in world that's a mix of post apocalyptic, cyber punk and solar punk - a failed solar punk world. It seems beautiful, like a good, sustainable future in tune with nature, but it lacks any kind of social justice. We have huge social gaps, a corrupt police system, questiable justice system and criminalised queerness. There are lurking rebellions and surely much more to be discovered... but as I said, I need to reread this book to really tell you more. But even vaguely consumed, I remember enjoying the characters, the plot and the world, thinking the book well paced and in general innovative and fascinating. A hidden gem.
I remembered the book being recommended to me last year. While I found the premise to be fascinating, I had trouble accessing the book until now. When my library finally acquired a copy, I jumped at the chance with enthusiasm.
There were 2 things I ended up loving about the book: 1. Prologue which managed to engage me and intrigue me right away 2. The promise of the world-building with biopunk elements.
Unfortunately, that was all.
The complete change of characters between the prologue and the first chapter was a disaster. Every single character in the actual story was bland and hard to understand.
I also ended up being extremely confused about pretty much everything. When I reached half of the book and I still didn't know what was going on, I decided not to waste any more of my time.
No rating for now - this book had some fabulous ideas and occasionally excellent writing, but suffered from poor editing on every level, making it confusing and frustrating to read. I read that the author was working on this book for a decade, and I can absolutely see that - the world and characters and story are clearly vividly alive in his head, but the book veers between offering the reader too much information or not enough.