Review: A Dawn of Onyx by Kate Golden

Posted February 19, 2024 by Lucy D in Book Reviews, Fantasy/High Fantasy / 0 Comments

Review:  A Dawn of Onyx by Kate GoldenA Dawn of Onyx (The Sacred Stones, #1) by Kate Golden
Published by Berkley on December 15, 2022
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Amazon
amazon b-n

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The breakout TikTok fantasy romance!
Captured by the king of darkness, she was forced to find the light within.
Arwen Valondale never expected to be the brave one, offering her life to save her brother’s. Now she’s been taken prisoner by the most dangerous kingdom on the continent, and made to use her rare magical abilities to heal the soldiers of the vicious Onyx King.
Arwen knows better than to face the ancient, wicked woods that surround the castle on her own, which means working with a fellow prisoner might be her only path to freedom. Unfortunately, he’s as infuriating as he is cunning—and seems to take twisted pleasure in playing on Arwen’s deepest fears.
But here in Onyx Kingdom, trust is a luxury she can’t afford.
To make it out of enemy territory, she'll have to navigate back-stabbing royals, dark magic, and dangerous beasts. But untold power lies inside Arwen, dormant and waiting for a spark. If she can harness it, she just might be able to escape with her life—and hopefully, her heart.


I was all in until the very end. What the hell happened?

In this world where the countries are named after jewels, the small kingdom of Amber is fighting against the vicious, blood-thirsty King of Onyx.   Amber has been forced to conscript most of the young men in order to keep the fighting going and there was even talk of conscripting all the young women as things were getting desperate.  Arwen’s brother, who should be somewhere on a battlefield, returns home with a large amount of money stolen from Onyx soldiers, who were right on his heals.  The family needed to run to the neighboring kingdom to hope fully find asylum.

Arwen has always hidden her ability to heal, more than just her normal medical training. It is not the normal magic performed by witches. It drains a lot out of her but sometimes Arwen digs deep inside her if it can save a life.  The one person Arwen cannot heal is her own mother and as they family runs into the night, she realizes she left behind her mother’s medicine.  Someone needs to go back for it and as her brother doesn’t volunteer, Arwen runs back to the house, hoping to beat their enemy there.   (Just as an aside, Really?  This was something Arwen was boiling up herself, not a controlled substance you would need a doctor’s prescription for.  Did anyone think this would go well?)

Arwen walks in to find the enemy in her house (surprise).  She also finds one of the soldier is dying on the floor from a massive wound.  Arwen’s magic compels her to try and save his wounded man, which she does, and which also makes her a very valuable war prize.  Arwen agrees to go if they leave her family be.

In the dungeon, Arwen meets another prisoner who escapes his prison but hasn’t left the castle yet.  Kane and Arwen keep meeting up and Arwen hopes she can convince him to help her escape as well.  But so far, he won’t take the risk.

After a few weeks as prisoner/healer, Arwen starts to make friends in Onyx and starts to feel at home but of course, nothing is ever as it seems.   Kane, the escaped prisoner, turns out to be the evil King of Onyx, and no matter how close they get, Arwen knows is he is keeping  secrets from her.  The kind of secrets that can get a girl killed.

I admit there were several flaws in this story. Arwen risking being caught by the enemy by going back for medicine which could be recreated once they arrived at their destination. A pretty, young girl being caught by the enemy risks more than just her health. Apparently, everyone in the Kingdom of Onyx recognized who Arwen was from her magic (except Arwen and no one tells her). That is including the officer who “captured” her but was still planning on dragging her into his tent and assaulting her, until Kane steps in. Arwen also kept doing things to hurt Onyx and Kane, such as helping Amber soldiers escape who then they turned around and attack, but Kane just rolls with it. Really? He never even got pissed off. He was more like Ricky Ricardo going “Oh, Lucy.”

Flawed though this story was for the most part I was enjoying it. It was the usual girl with uncontrolled magic meets man who has secrets. They fall in love until girl learns secrets, feels betrayed and man needs to prove himself and win her back. Basic romantacy story but as I said, I was entertained and already had a copy of Book 2 so I was gearing up for what would be coming next.

The biggest problem I had with this story is that we hear about a prophecy and there apparently is deadline coming. We hear this in the beginning of the story but we don’t actually get to hear what the prophecy is until it is recited by the bad guy at the very end  of the book and we learn exactly who Arwen truly is, what her role is in this prophecy that we never heard before (it’s a big one) and that Arwen has or should have much bigger magic than just healing because of her role in said prophecy. Problem is all of this information is a giant information dump at the end of the story and suddenly Arwen goes from a out-of-place girl with a little healing magic to a super-magical person and the future of the world depends on her. View Spoiler »

Then not 10 minutes after finding out the she should have bigger magic, Arwen has a breakdown (or tantrum) because Kane kept this from her and suddenly she is spewing out enough magic to completely destroy the attacking army by herself. Throughout this story, she was working on building enough healing ability to not drain herself exhausted every time she heals someone and suddenly she has enough magic to destroy many, many attacking ships loaded with people simply because someone told her she is magical? I was literally sitting and reading and thinking — What’s happening? What’s going on? What did I miss? Like I must have skipped a couple of chapters.   There was no hint. No suggestion. And since we never heard the prophecy, there no possibility of us going “Oh, maybe that was talking about Arwen!”

I am putting aside my disbelief at the ending to see where book 2 takes us since I already have a copy cued up.  Let’s see if anything more is explained.

Favorite Scene:

Arwen stumbles upon and is being chased by two chimera who she outwits…

A horrific wail of agony shook me from my reprieve.

I looked to the pond, but the chimera was unconscious, possibly dead already. One down, one to go–and quickly, if I was to avoid whatever was making those noises. Or inflicting them.

Water and algae sluiced from my leathers. I ran for the clearing and prayed the action would pump heat into my chattering bones. In the moonlight, I could scarcely make out the large, sleek form hurtling toward me.

The noise pierced through the night again, ripping from its jaws in a strangled roar. The other chimera. Crying in agony for its mate.

I ran in the other direction, doubling back to the pond.

But he was too close. I wasn’t going to make it to the water before he reached me. I braced myself for impact.

Which never came.

The second creature tore directly past me and landed in the water with a splash. He whined in distress and tried to nudge his unconscious mate awake, but the frigid water overwhelmed him and sent him thrashing.

I could go right now. Back to the oak. Against every single odd, my plan had worked, and I could get to the barrowroot before the eclipse. I looked up at the moon. I still had time. Maybe a few minutes.

One last haunting wail ripped from the surfaced creature, still trying miserably to stay afloat and save his mate. He let out a strangled cry that reverberated through the trees, then gurgled as the water pulled him under.

Bleeding stones.

I could not believe I was going to do this.

I dove back into the water.

Agony clawed at my skin once more. This dive was a thousand times worse, now that I knew how cold it would be. I swam toward the first chimera, who was still unconscious. Thankfully, the water buoyed the creature, allowing me to move her to shore. I pushed her massive body toward the edge of the pond and rolled her onto the grass.

The second was going to be harder. I swam toward the sputtering chimera, and tried to get under his huge front paws, but took a flailing claw to the face instead, a flash of burning pain ripping across my cheekbone. I braced myself and dove underneath the icy depths.

Silence enveloped me.

Pushing him forward, I tried to maneuver the beast to shallower water. I pushed and grunted, feet scraping along the pond’s algae-covered bottom, until the creature finally clawed himself out of the pond and choked out water and half-digested deer. The stench was nauseating, but there was no time to retch.

The first chimera wasn’t breathing.

I reached her quickly and began chest compressions. As soon as my hands touched her fur, though, I knew.

No, no, no.

It was too late.

Swallowing a sob, I placed my hands over the fur of the creature’s chest and hummed. Dagan’s words had been clear: focus on how I felt, not what I thought. Or what I feared.

I felt remorse. Deep, painful and specific, like a needle piercing my gut. Remorse that I had almost killed two innocent creatures out of terror.

Through my palms, golden light blazed, and I pushed the cold water through the chimera’s lungs like a maze. Encouraged, I moved my hands up along its esophagus. The light that emanated from my hands grew brighter over the chimera’s throat as I worked. Pushing and plying, I drove the water out with careful focus.

The second creature had stalked over. He menaced toward me with a roar that shook the trees above us.

But I didn’t have time to feel afraid.

“She’s going to live,” I said, my teeth chattering around the words. I knew he couldn’t understand me. “I can save her, if you don’t maul me.” I pushed power from my fingertips into her torso as the water lodged in her lungs working its way out.

The other chimera considered me, then looked down. Slowly he lay next to his mate, tucking his snout between her back and the forest floor, whining softly.

After one final push, a spray of putrid wet flew out the chimera’s mouth and I ducked. She rolled over and choked on air, and I exhaled my own in turn. The relief was like a solid weight in my palms. Tangible and grounding.

Thanks the Bleeding Stones.

The chimera I had saved sluggishly climbed onto all fours and shook out her wet fur. Her mate nuzzled and licked at her before turning back toward the woods. I took that as my cue to leave and gave one last glance at the two creatures, but they were already retreating in the other direction. The larger chimera looked back to me once, and his melancholy, white eyes held mine for a single moment.

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