Review: Darkest Before Dawn by Maya Banks

Posted October 22, 2015 by Lucy D in Action, Book Reviews, Military / 5 Comments

Review:  Darkest Before Dawn by Maya BanksDarkest Before Dawn (KGI, #10) by Maya Banks
Series: KGI #10
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on October 27th 2015
Genres: Action, Military
Pages: 384
Format: eBook

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]This book gets no stars from me. I have never hated a book more in my life. I think my blood pressure rose dangerously high while reading it. Don’t buy it. Don’t borrow it. Don’t read it! If you’re a Maya Banks fan and you see it in the bookstore, scream and run away! [/box]

This review is going to contain a long, detailed and very angry rant. Look away if you don’t want to know more.

Okay. You’ve been warned.

I am a fan of Maya Banks and more particularly her KGI series. Some of these stories have been graphically violent and disturbing but in this one it was not only the violence or insinuated violence that was offensive, it was the asshole known as Hancock.

The premise of the story is that Honor Cambridge was working as a volunteer at a hospital in the Middle East when the building is bombed by an ISIS-type terrorist organization. Honor is covered by falling rubble and the terrorists don’t see that she is still alive when the leave because the building is still unstable. When they pull out the victims to make sure they got all those bad Americans giving medical aid to the poor, they now know that Honor is not dead and they search for her. Honor is smart and she eludes them for over a week, traveling toward where the closest American presence is located.

Hancock and his men are working for a Lowlife Scumbag in order to use his connection to get to Maksimov, a Big Scumbag. The terrorists owe Maksimov a great deal of money for the guns he supplied them and he is very angry with them. The terrorists are losing face with the locals, who are chanting about the brave, young American woman who has eluded them, and they want her very badly so they can rape, torture and break her before she begs for death. The Lowlife Scumbag wants Hancock to find her first, bring her to him so we can gain points with the Big Scumbag who will then dagle Honor like a carrot in front of the terrorists and they will give him more money then they stiffed him for so they can get her to rape, torture, etc.

Now we also know that both the Lowlife Scumbag and the Big Scumbag like violent rapists as well, and they will both take their turn with Honor before they get bored and turn her over to the next guy and then finally the terrorists.

Here’s why I completely hate this story:

Where to start? Where to start? Let’s start with Hancock. Hancock is completely obsessed with taking down Maksimov. Maksimov is a Big Scumbag. Personally, he sometimes gets out of hand with his violent rapes and accidentally kills his victims. Oops. He is also quite the pedophile. Professionally, he is an arms dealer, a human trafficer and an all-around your-life-means-nothing-to-me killer. Hancock and his men have been working hard to kill him and save thousands and thousands of lives, in hopes that those bottom feeders who will try to take over Maksimov’s business ventures will kill each other off or be taken out by authorities before they grow as big as Maksimov. This is a very respectable mission to undertake, but the fact that they are willing to hand Honor over to this triangle of rapists in order to achieve this goal, is not!

Hancock qualifies his decision to sacrifice Honor because he already passed up two opportunities to get Maksimov; first to save Grace, and again to help save Maren. Both of those women were so awesome, he had to save them rather than achieve his goal. He also talks about his foster-sister, Eden, who we met in When Day Breaks and how special and awesome she is and how much he cares about her. Even after meeting Honor and seeing how incredible she is, he has no problem with sacrificing her to the violence and certain death she will face. He feels bad about it but he can’t let this opportunity pass him by again since he already lost two prior opportunities for these other incredible women who deserved to be saved, so Honor needed to be sacrificed. Dickhead!!! I got angrier and angrier every time he said it and it was a lot. She’ll have to be sacrificed for the greater good.

Hancock even thinks about the rape that PJ suffered when her team failed to back her up on an undercover mission. And not to say that rape in any form is okay, but PJ’s story was presented that she was drugged and raped by a coward and she was saved before she was raped violently by his underling. What happened to PJ was mild compared to what will happen to Honor if she is turned over.  Hancock is angry that PJ’s team failed to protect her from being raped, but Hancock is willing to turn Honor over to two violent rapists who will want to her hurt as much as violate her and then they will toss her to a group of terrorists who will violate her en mass while torturing her until they completely break her and then they’ll kill her slowly and painfully.

You see I keep repeating this plot point since it was repeated over and over and over again while Hancock told himself it was for the greater good. He had to finally finish this thing with Maksimov. Her suffering and sacrifice will save thousands.

Honor starts out in this story as smart and resourceful. She sees all her friends dead, either from the bombs or the falling debris. Knowing that her time is short before the terrorists come back, she digs herself out of the rubble, forcing away the unconsciousness which wants to take her over. She has no military training, but she does have the presence and the common sense to grab food, water, antibiotics and painkillers as well as grabbing some henna to darken her pale skin and blonde hair. She also grabbed some material to make a traditional outfit and to padded her body and stoop over and make herself appear to be an older woman since a young woman traveling unaccompanied would be noticed. Her quick planning and traveling at night kept her from being captured for over a week. It was when she finally had to go into a village for food and water that Hancock finds her.

She is smart enough not to trust him even though he is giving her the “come with me if you want to live” routine. Hancock doesn’t lie because he is such an awesome guy so he is careful not to say that he is taking her home but he allows her to come to that conclusion on her own. Now Hancock’s men are ready to mutiny in this story over turning Honor over. They all come to respect Honor’s resourcefulness and her courage and every time she opens her mouth to say things like “Don’t think I don’t appreciate you risking your lives for me, but I have to come back here and help these people. I can’t let the terrorists win.” They groan and look away. She even saves one of their lives and they yell at her…because they feel guilty about what they are planning to do to her. She gets that they are acting odd, but she doesn’t understand why until way too late.

Honor is selfless and courageous. She is smart and she’s no damsel in distress waiting for a Prince Charming to come rescue her. She was taking good care of herself until Hancock and his men show up. You admire Honor but as the story goes on you realize she’s a bit of a twit.

Once they get her to the house of Lowlife Scumbag, they keep him away from her and until they step away to have a pow wow and he sneaks into her room to try for a quick rape and discloses her future to her. By the way Asshat Hancock hasn’t updated her even after a week at the house because he doesn’t want to see that disappointment in her face when he tells her she’s on the rape parade back to the terrorists. Sorry, not sorry. After puking her guts up and having a good cry, she makes Hancock tell her the why of it since he owes her for saving his man’s life. Mind you, let me go because I saved your guy’s life is too much to ask apparently. After getting the lowdown on why Hancock is willing to turn her over to Maksimov and then to the terrorists, she too starts to say “Yes, my sacrifice will save women and young girls. I will think of all those women who are saved while he rapes me.”  Are you fucking kidding me?!? (Twit!)

After a second, very close attempt of rape by the Lowlife Scumbag, she get her hands on a knife and threaten to slice her wrists to ruin his plans. She does in fact slit her wrists. Hancock and his men go ballistic and get rid of Lowlife Scumbag, patch her up, but are still planning to make the trade to the Big Scumbag. Once Honor calms down, she apologizes to Hancock for attempting to take her own life. She just got scared and she’s so sorry because killing herself would ruin his chance to kill Marksimov. (Big fucking twit.)

Honor then is too scared to get back in the rape bed, and goes to sleep in Hancock’s bed with him. She eventually announces to Hancock that she is a virgin (Really? Really?!?) and she doesn’t want her only time to be with rapists. Could he pretty please have sex with her and make it nice so she can remember that when she is being raped? Of course, he says yes “although he doesn’t deserve to be her first.” Afterwards, she wants to give him pleasure “if that’s okay to ask for too?” (Note: he’s still planning to give her up to Big Scumbag) Not only is he a bit enthusiastic (read: rough) with his bonus blowjob, he makes sure to pull out at the last minute, come all over her, but he made sure to do it gently on her face (Such a gentleman.), before sticking it back in her mouth. Honor makes sure to thank him (Twwwiiit!!!) even though he came twice to her once. He was obviously doing her a big, big favor. (And he’s still turning her over!)

After several hours of post-coital contemplation and 245 pages, Hancock finally decides he can’t give her up. He’s never asked anything for himself and she is his reward for all his good work. She is all he needs to keep him happy forevermore! What an asshole! When he finally tells his men, they are like “Thank Christ! But why the sudden change of heart?” But apparently Hancock doesn’t want to share that all it took was two orgasms. Now they have to re-plan everything which will include a faked turn over of Honor to the Big Scumbag.

By the way, what was your original plan to get at this guy when you turned over Honor to him? Hmm.  Because it seems like you were passing her on without trying to kill him at the pass off if you knew things would be very bad for her and he would still be alive to rape her and pass her on to the terrorists. What was the big plan to get your hands on Maksimov, Hancock? Was she going to self-destruct on the first rape? Because it seems that pretending to pass her over would have been a great plan from the start!

When he finally does decide not to send her on to her fate, she’s like “No way. He’ll hunt you down. I can’t let you die. I would rather die than worry he’ll kill you.” This point probably would have been a good time to mention that after years of the work he’s been doing, there are probably dozens of people who might show up at any time and kill Hancock so let’s not worry about one more.  (See the scene at the bottom where they are fighting over who should be risked.)

Now, without me saying anything further, you know that plan, plan, plan as you might, it is not going to go smoothly. In fact, as of the time that I started writing this I am guessing what’s next. I am so angry I haven’t finished before starting my review. I still have 100 pages to go but I need to take a break from this before I have a heart attack.  So since this is a KGI novel, I am guessing that Hancock will need to reach out to the Kelly’s whose basic purpose is recovery of missing and kidnapped people. So more than likely the whole thing goes FUBAR and Honor winds up in the hands of Big Scumbag.  Will she end up the victim of rape after all or will she, just like Maren, be able to put off the raping part until Hancock can show up and rescue her?


I hate this book!

Madeline Kahn
I was so angry about this book. Hancock doesn’t in any way deserve a happy ending. The simple fact that he would agree to send a woman back to be sacrificed in such a brutal way is bad enough. But after meeting Honor and talking to her and the first time he acknowledged how impressed he was with her courage, and he was still okay with it. Hell, he was getting a blowjob and still trying to get past the fact he would be turning her over the next day. He started to lose his erection thinking about what was going to happen to her. Hancock, you deserve the torture you were planning to send her to, not a loving woman who sees the man inside and how much it hurt him to do this to her.

Hancock keeps talking about how he has to deliver her to Maksimov.  If this was the story of a knight and he was delivering a new wife to his abusive king, then yes, he must or they both die.  If he was a Roman Centurion and he was delivering a new slave to the Emperor, then yes, he must or they both die.  Hancock isn’t even in the army.  He isn’t in the FBI, CIA or any other organization where he could be court marshaled for not bringing her to Maksimov and completing his mission.  He’s the boss.  Even though he works for the Lowlife Scumbag, the Scumbag is afraid of Hancock and his men.   This isn’t his only choice.  This is his quickest choice so he can finally be done and go home.   The fact that he ever contemplated this course of action, let alone pursued it, keeps him from being a hero.  What’s the best that happens, he rescues her from the situation she never would have been in if he just took her home?  Hancock goes from being a shady character whose loyalty was in question to a real bastard who will sell your soul to finish his mission.

I lost all respect for Honor when she started acting like a brainless nitwit halfway through the book and looking for Hancock to protect her.   She went from courageous to damsel in less than 100 pages. She’s apologizing for trying to kill herself, which would have meant a merciful death rather than what awaited her. She thanked him for having sex with her and then spewing all over her face. She never once asked what his plan was that involved her being turned over and how would that get him to Maksimov or maybe how about we try  to figure out a way which would involve me maybe going home at the end?

Rape was the word of the day occurring 35 times (I searched) and inferred much more than that. I am certain there was more rape described, talked about and inferred in this book more than in Shades of Gray when PJ was actually raped.

I have included a scene, which is not a favorite, but which shows you what Hancock believes will happen to Honor if she gets sent to Maksimov. This is what he was willing to allow to happen to her without give her any further consideration as a human being.  At least until he has a couple of good orgasms and decides to keep her for himself.

I love the KGI series but this story was fucking painful to read.  The characters were awful and Hancock deserves to be castrated.  Personally, I am going to pretend this one never existed.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I had no favorite scene in this book. I just wanted to show you that Hancock was well aware of what Honor’s fate would be and what he intended to send her to even after he got to know her.  He was willing to sacrifice her and subject her to this “for the greater good.”

“And you think you don’t matter to me?” he roared. “Do you think I’m going to just hand you over to him and walk away knowing that he’ll repeatedly rape you, that his men will rape you? Whomever he wishes to reward will rape you. He’ll torture you just because he enjoys it. And then he’ll turn you over to ANE and every imaginable horror you can possibly imagine, they will do them to you. When and only when you are so near death that you can no longer withstand their constant brutality, they’ll kill you, but it won’t be merciful and it will not be swift. They’ll drag you into the middle of whatever village they occupy and they’ll inflict as many wounds as possible so that you die a slow, horrific death, and then they’ll leave your corpse to rot and decompose and no will will move you for fear they’ll be killed for interfering.”

This is what the hero of this book is willing to subject another human being to in order to complete his mission in a timely fashion.

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5 responses to “Review: Darkest Before Dawn by Maya Banks

  1. “This is what the hero of this book is willing to subject another human being to in order to complete his mission in a timely fashion.”

    Worse, that was making it all about HIM. There was NO need for him to say that to her, to put horrific images in her head to make it worse for HER. Self-indulgent “hero” feelings about an abuse of a woman. This was that classic thing of making the woman’s abuse all about the man’s guilt rather than the woman’s suffering. Television shows have been accused of this a lot recently. Of raping the female characters in order to show the male characters’ pain about HER rape.

    I’ve seen multiple reviewers ask if Maya Banks is a man, because there are so many random blow jobs in her books (even for virgins) with no reciprocation, and so many of the female characters are raped. I am absolutely fine with rape in books (because, by God, I know enough women who have been raped – one of them murdered – and it needs to be addressed). But when romance authors throw it around as a convenient plot device…

    • Lucy D

      I hate to see a rape scene in a story. I don’t want to be dragged into that kind of suffering and feeling helpless as nothing but a witness. I read for pleasure and escapism.

      Sometimes it is a necessary part of the story such as in PJ’s story when the mission goes south and a heroine is helpless in the clutches of an evil antagonist. They can’t all be rescued by the big strong man unscathed. I can’t remember which story/author but there was a KGI-type story where the heroine wasn’t raped but she was made to watch a woman kept as a sexual slave be violently raped by two men in front of her until the victim was half-dead from the abuse. It was realistic in that there are these type of men who actually purchase women to abuse them, but it was also very gratuitous.

      When it is presented in a new adult novel, such as a date rape, my hope is that some girl, somewhere, remembers that scene and doesn’t let herself be put into a situation where she will end up being raped like that heroine.

      I found this whole story offensive. Hancock’s men, more than Hancock, felt guilty about what they were about to do, but they aren’t U.S. Army, they wouldn’t have been court marshaled for standing up to Hancock or stopping the plan, but none of them even suggested an alternate plan or said “No, we won’t be part of this.” Not until Hancock decided to keep her as his reward.

  2. “I found this whole story offensive. Hancock’s men, more than Hancock, felt guilty about what they were about to do, but they aren’t U.S. Army, they wouldn’t have been court marshaled for standing up to Hancock or stopping the plan.”

    This is an excellent point. I haven’t read the last four or so books, but if I can get this one from the library I’m going to try and read it, because I’m so horrified by what I’ve read about it! I don’t want to buy and support this sort of brutalisation of a woman, but I want an informed view.

    There seems to be this big thing in the romance genre recently where women love reading about women being brutalised. It’s frightening me…

  3. Also, I should add, I don’t LOVE rape in books. But some of the countries I’ve lived in… It needs to be addressed. I prefer darker books that deal with real issues.

    However, these days rape is the new black, and authors throw it around like it’s fun. It’s scary how they do that.

    • Lucy D

      That and there are the rape fantasy stories.

      Personally, I am not one for the BDSM books, especially the ones where they women are degraded. There are some where the couple just wants to be tied up or spanked. There are others where the woman are treated like pampered sex toys, made to run around naked and are used to take the edge off when he gets home. You could argue these are just fantasies, but I think it sends a bad message of that’s what women really want excuse to the wrong parties.