Featured fantasy, dawndark, fiction, genres, idealism, realism, grimdark, hopepunk, bright stories

Dawndark Fiction: What is it?

I have decided to start calling my novels ‘Dawndark.’ Some of them will express this more than others, but I realized that it’s a perfect term to describe what my novels are. I’ve been fumbling for a long time for a genre descriptor, something that gives people an idea what to expect, in a world that seems to operate with concepts and dichotomies that fit neither myself nor my stories. While dawndark doesn’t describe everything – like the specific kind of fantasy Areaer is – it describes a lot, it describes something common to almost everything I write or see myself ever writing, and it describes something that I don’t see a lot of out there. There are novels here and there, but not many, and very, very few indeed – if any, that I have seen – that express it to the extent my stories do.

I’m an idealist. I really am. I believe in holding to one’s ideals, to one’s vision, to one’s nature, no matter what. No matter what arguments other people have. No matter what horrors life throws at one. No matter how hard circumstances seem to be trying to force one to give in and let oneself be carved into another image. I don’t think that anyone ever fully succeeds. I certainly don’t believe that the ideal is the same for everyone, or even the same at all times in a person’s life. But I believe that holding to that ideal, to that vision, is desirable, even if we find it impossible.

And I believe that this is the victory.

My words right there are very important. I don’t mean it brings about victory. I do not mean it is always, or even usually, successful. I mean it is the victory.

I used to read some of these novels that ended with everything coming together “perfectly,” all the problems solved and neatly wrapped up, everything brought to a satisfying conclusion. Everyone alive, with no death or lasting sorrow. I still find them sometimes, and I still enjoy the novels sometimes (though I’m not sure this is what I enjoy about them, but that is neither here nor there; this is not a book review). I decided that I needed to write stories that were not like that. Stories where people died. Even stories where the protagonist died. Stories that dealt honestly and rawly with the wounds and grief left behind by life and death. Stories where everything was not resolved in the end. Stories where whatever the sufferings and strivings of the protagonists and their allies achieved, it was not every problem solved, or even every problem that impacted them resolved, everything they were trying to do successful.

Life is not like that. It does not work like that. People grieve, work, fight, die, are tortured, go to prison, live for what they believe in, for change, for a better world. Sometimes, they have a huge impact. Sometimes, they don’t appear to change even a small corner of the world. They never get everything they lived and strove for. They might achieve a lot of it. They might even be “successful,” or “victorious.” But there are still problems. The struggle is not over. At least, I don’t know of a single instance in history or in my experience where that is so. Sometimes, the overt problem goes underground for a while, only to resurface later. Always, the darkness is still there to be fought. Or to succumb to.

I’m a realist. I want to deal with the real world. I don’t want to make easy, cliche resolutions to my character’s struggles or sorrows. I want to work through my ideals and my beliefs in reality. If they can’t stand up to reality, they aren’t real. I want to think through and present my vision in the context of the very real struggles and challenges life presents, where sometimes people die and you don’t see them again. Where sometimes evil seems to have won and crushed everything you believe in and everything you strove for. Where sometimes you’re left to live alone. Where sometimes all you can do is a tiny dent in the bigger problem. Where sometimes, give your life in the attempt, you can only rescue a tiny handful from their slavery, when you wish you could rescue thousands. Where sometimes people’s very minds seem to be enslaved and darkened. Where sometimes people hate and detest you for trying to rescue them. Where sometimes your own mind is enslaved and darkened. Where sometimes you’re confused and you don’t know what’s right or wrong. Or you don’t know how to do what you believe is right, or not do what you believe is wrong. Where sometimes you don’t know how to hold out against your own despair. Where life leaves wounds and scars that don’t heal, or at least not like they were before, and not just on your body, but on your heart and mind.

To me, my idealism and this realism go together. But I don’t see a lot of that. I don’t see it in fiction, and I don’t see it in non-fiction. When either presents idealism, it’s usually apt to completely ignore the darker things in the world, in the human heart, in the human experience. Realism fiction and non-fiction tends to present idealism as naïvety, or even as selfishness, as something that must break before the force of the horror and terror that this world can throw at us. I don’t mean that the characters completely stop fighting for what they care about. Very often, they don’t. But they compromise their ideals, their natures. They fight with the enemy’s weapons. And let me be very clear here: I am not talking about assassins. I don’t understand where the idea of “honorable combat” as opposed to “dishonorable combat” came from. It took me very recently to even notice that a lot of people and a lot of novels assume that it is more honorable to kill the evil overlord’s minions – or even the evil overlord himself – in face-to-face combat with “fair” weapons than it is to slip a knife into his back or poison into his cup when he is not looking. Or at least, that is more culturally accepted as honorable, even if a few privileged individuals realize otherwise.

Once again, this is not about criticizing what other people write. I like it. I have enjoyed some novels that are like this very much indeed. I would not ask their authors to change them for the world. I don’t read to see nothing but my own thoughts reflected back at me (though I do enjoy that, too). This is about what I write, what I want to write, and specifically about how it differs from almost everything I have seen, because that’s what needs to be mentioned, not the ways in which it is alike!

This is what my novels are. Idealism and realism. Victory and defeat. Fantastical beauty and unvarnished horror. Breath-taking hope in the midst of crushing despair.



Copyright 2021 Raina Nightingale

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Eldazin: Elf Edge of Night (Character from Sorceress of the Dryads)

Here is another character portrait (made with Artbreeder). From now (February 8, actually), until January 22, every Saturday will be a post of some art related to my up-coming release, Sorceress of the Dryads, 2nd in the Legend of the Singer Duology. This time, we feature Eldazìn, the Elf Edge of Night who is first introduced in Sorceress of the Dryads. The very first chapter, actually.

eldazin, elf Edge of Night, assassin, character in Sorceress of the Dryads, world of Areaer, by Raina Nightingale; high fantasy
Eldazin, elf Edge of Night

Continue reading “Eldazin: Elf Edge of Night (Character from Sorceress of the Dryads)”

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Book Review: Struggling with the Current (The Telverin Trilogy) by ARK Horton

Struggling with the Current

Series: The Telverin Trilogy, #1

Author: A.R.K. Horton

Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:

Princess Eya’s life changes forever with the discovery of the Statue of the Goddess Winds, just as she’s coming of age. The long over-looked kingdom of Hicares finds itself in a war it isn’t prepared for against the far more powerful empire of Pescel. To survive, Eya must flee her home, losing everything and everyone she loves in the process.

Yet, by leaving behind all she’s ever known, she learns that her sheltered life didn’t prepare her for the real world’s strange and frightening nature. She encounters people, places, and creatures beyond anything she ever imagined, along with sinister enemies from every direction. Perhaps her most surprising revelation is that she is developing terrifying powers of her own. Will Eya be able to find happiness in her new life, or will she continue struggling with the current?

Rating: Intriguing, Distant (Are you all used to my ratings?) Continue reading “Book Review: Struggling with the Current (The Telverin Trilogy) by ARK Horton”

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Golden on the Wings of Eternity (Song from Sorceress of the Dryads) in Elethrian

This poem appears in Sorceress of the Dryads in English. Firstly, I will show the pictures of the song written in Elethrian (in one of two methods for writing that language), with the English translation below each stanza. Below that, there is an attempt to represent the Elethrian in the same characters used in English.

Continue reading “Golden on the Wings of Eternity (Song from Sorceress of the Dryads) in Elethrian”

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Book Review: Dragonsdawn (The Dragonriders of Pern) by Anne McCaffrey


Series: The Dragonriders of Pern

Author: Anne McCaffrey

Genre: Science Fiction

Book Description:

The Dragonmakers

The beautiful planet Pern seemed a paradise to its new colonists – until unimaginable terror turned it into hell. Suddenly deadly spores were falling like silver threads from the sky, devouring everything – and everyone – in their path. It began to look as if the colony, cut off from Earth and lacking the resources to combat the menace, was doomed.

Then some of the colonists noticed that the small, dragonlike lizards that inhabited their new world were joined the fight against Thread, breathing fire on it and teleporting to safety. If only, they thought, the dragonets were big enough for a human to ride and intelligent enough to work as a team with a rider…

And so they set their most talented geneticist to create the creatures Pern so desperately needed – Dragons!

Rating: Fascinating, Immersive (by now, a lot of you are probably familiar with my unique take on ‘rating’!) Continue reading “Book Review: Dragonsdawn (The Dragonriders of Pern) by Anne McCaffrey”

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Consecrated Virginity in the Rotten Clergy City

I am furious right now.

One of the “vocations” in the Roman Catholic Church (which is neither Catholic nor Church, and I cannot make a conclusive statement about the matter of whether it is Roman) is that of Consecrated Virginity. That does not bother me. It bothers a lot of people, and I can see why it bothers some of them, since the Roman Catholic Church also teaches that virginity is a superior state of life to marriage and there is something dirty about sexual pleasure. I know some Roman Catholics will quibble on that one, but that’s really what those laws about not having sex for pleasure and being very careful to make sure that one’s sex always allows the possibility of conception (assuming both partners are fertile) comes out to, and coupled with a teaching in St. Augustine’s writings that original sin is passed on through sexual pleasure it just leaves a very bad taste. Yes, I know that’s not dogma, but it’s bad enough it’s there at all and not openly repudiated. Continue reading “Consecrated Virginity in the Rotten Clergy City”

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Cover Reveal for Sorceress of the Dryads

Read on for some updates and what to expect. But first I want to show you the COVER!! I’ve been waiting so long!

Sorceress of the Dryads is the second novel in the Legend of the Singer Duology set on the fantasy planet, Areaer.

The Overview:

The magic of the dryads does not come at a price, but it binds the Singer to the Pact of the forests. To keep her nature or be corrupted.

When the corrupted elven prince, Anakrim, takes the throne in the aftermath of the deaths of King Orenduil and Queen Alaria and promises the elven people the return of their long-lost magic, the forests of Elethri begin to languish…

The dryads and Tara-lin must join their magic as never before to end his menace in a way consistent with their natures and the healing of the forests. In the midst of the upheaval, Tara-lin finds herself in a position of influence she never wanted. With the help of the dryads, she must find and stay true to her song and try to lead the elves to discover and nurture their individual magic.

If you want to find out more about the series, you can go here, where I explain a little of how I came to write it and some aesthetics for the settings! If you just want to preorder, you can here.

But that is not all! From now until the release date on February 22nd, I plan to post a new piece of art, along with an excerpt and some explanation, every Saturday. More information, and links to each post as it goes live, will be added here, so bookmark this page to come back to every week if you’re at all interested!

I am also still working on the final edits with my editor. I cannot be sure of the exact date I will be done with those, but when I do, I will upload the content and the novel should become available for preorder at all retailers. I will announce when that happens here and make an update post about it, as well. The paperback is also as yet unavailable, for various reasons, including that I am very short on funds. When I can, I will make that available and let you all know!

Here’s the lineup for the next five weeks. As each post goes live, it will become an active link.

January 15: “Golden on the Wings of Eternity” written in Elethrian and Elethrian characters.

January 22: Eldazìn, elf Edge of Night

January 29: Alis, gryphon rider of Kushon and best friend of Tara-lin

February 5: Tara-lin, half-elf and Singer, protagonist

February 12: Eldor, Tara-lin’s human father

February 19: Lìrulin, Tara-lin’s elf mother

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ARC Review: Dust of a Moth’s Wing (The Age of Fire) by R. Ramey Guerrero

Dust of a Moth’s Wing

Series: The Age of Fire, #1

Author: R. Ramey Guerrero

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: March 25th, 2022

Book Description:

The age of Fire begins in six days.

For fifteen hundred years, Slate and the other rebels have trained students to return Fire’s energy to the city of Wen. All have failed. Only one is left, and Nokhum’s past is less than ideal. If he cannot convince the Council of Elders to allow Fire magic to return, chaos will claim the city. The rebels are determined to avoid that end- even if it means sacrificing his student to chaos’s demons to make the Council believe Fire’s energy is necessary.

Magically talented people are disappearing.

Nokhum is convinced that his life-mate is still alive- no matter what everyone else says. Human slavers who salivate for magical beings have taken her. Realizing the Council of Elders will not help him, he seeks forbidden magics to find her. His plans are derailed when Slate sends him out of the city for training. Will his time in the Whisperwood be his undoing?


Rating: Compelling, awesome characters; fascinating world-building Continue reading “ARC Review: Dust of a Moth’s Wing (The Age of Fire) by R. Ramey Guerrero”

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2022 Updates and Expectations (and a 2021 Wrap-up/Summary)


I am tagging this post in the Paths of Fantasy category/blog because most of what I’m going to share here is more in that category. However, the Enthralled By Love Blog is still active. I split my blog posts into two categories in December. The Enthralled By Love Blog is the majority of what I used to post; usually religious or philosophical musings and poetry. I am going to try to post at least once per month to the Enthralled By Love Blog, so those who follow for that, don’t worry, I haven’t completely abandoned it!

Paths of Fantasy is fiction reviews, possibly some author spotlights and interviews, character and world art, writing updates, and book tags, and maybe a few more things that are more or less of that sort. Most of what this post shares is going to fall more or less under this category.

First, the wrap-up. Continue reading “2022 Updates and Expectations (and a 2021 Wrap-up/Summary)”

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My Favourite Five Book Covers of 2021

This is the first day of the New Year, not that I care much about things like that, but I thought it would be a good time to show you my favourite fantasy book covers of the last year, even though I don’t buy books based off their covers! Well, these are m five favourite covers of the books I’ve read, and you should see reviews for all of them coming up on Paths of Fantasy this coming year, though it might take a couple months to get to every one. Continue reading “My Favourite Five Book Covers of 2021”

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Book Review: Cursed Song by Samantha Kroese

Cursed Song

cover of Cursed Song by Samantha Kroese; Ruyne and Shadow with notes floating around themSeries: Standalone

Author: Samantha Kroese

Genre: Fantasy (Fairy Tale Romance X Horror)

Book Description:

Bound by Song. Cursed by Fate

Ruyne, Leader of the Dusksinger bards, travels with his band from town to town, thrilling crowds with inspiring music born from an ancient magic. He leads a charmed life with his brother, and two life-long best friends.

Disaster strikes when Ruyne ignores a cryptic message from a loved one. The band’s idyllic peace is shattered by a monster from the past, and the horrifying truth behind their magic is revealed, leaving their lives in tatters and the hearts of the four men forever scarred. Scattered and broken, can they harmonize their Song in time to prevent a tragedy of apocalyptic proportions?

Rating: Enthralling, Inspiring, Moving, Incomplete. (I like this much better than choosing a number! Don’t you think?) Continue reading “Book Review: Cursed Song by Samantha Kroese”