Book Review: Violet Dawn by Kristy Nicolle

Before I start this book review, I need to tell you something. If there’s a series you must pick up, it’s The Aetherial Embrace Trilogy. This is a series from an author who will deliver what she promised, and the book won’t put you in a slump. Quite the contrary. It is action-packed, steamy, and overall an entertaining, wild ride that will make it hard for you to put the book down. Violet Dawn by Kristy Nicolle was another favorite read for me this year.

Note: Violet Dawn is the second book in the series. You’ll find my review of Book One here.

(Review contains spoilers.)

Violet Dawn official cover art

Summary: Kairi Freemont is about to become High Lady, but between the threat of Lord Aro Black and a world torn between Nirvana’s lifeblood dying and upcoming tyranny. Kairi puts aside her feelings for Lucien and tries to find allies to reunite Aetheria. Meanwhile, Genevieve covets her revenge in memory of her dragon, Algoric.

Genre: High Fantasy, Romance

Audience: New Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: use of alcohol, bloodshed, mental instability

Rating Breakdown

First, I’d like to thank the author for sharing an ARC with me in exchange for an honest review. This was an epic read, and I’m glad I took a chance on this series despite the subgenre not being a favorite of mine.

Rating breakdown:

  • World-building: 1★
  • Characters (cast & development): 0.5★
  • Plot (pacing, stakes, and execution): 1★
  • Themes: 1★
  • Prose: 1★

Final rating: 4.5 rounded up to 5/5★

The World-Building

Violet Dawn picks up right where the first book stopped, give or take a couple of months. The beginning allows the reader to remember where we are, what Aetheria is. I loved the descriptions of places such as the academy where Kairi learns more about her Heirbound position. Violet Dawn continues building a universe with its own politics and economics. Although the skies are purple, it is very real.

I also enjoyed the emphasis the author put on the different clans’ priorities. For example, the Faes versus the Equinians. This shows you how unique this world is, even though it’s based on Greek mythology. The Goddesses and Gods are present throughout the book, even when they don’t make a clear appearance.

Violet Dawn doesn’t contain as many detailed bits as the first book, which is good. It allows the reader to focus on the additional elements of this world when the descriptions do happen. I like the fact that the author trusts the reader to remember elements from Indigo Dusk instead of hammering recaps into this new installment.

The Characters

Kairi Freemont as the Heirbound

Kairi had me wondering in this book. I loved her in the first volume. Here, I was less excited, because I got really invested in the other characters or I simply couldn’t relate. Kairi deals with the trauma of dying at Aro’s hand for most of the book, and when she sees him again after being reborn, she freezes. Even training with the Equinians doesn’t seem to do much for her, other than activate some of her Fae powers. The help she receives from Morpheus causes her to become rather cynical about the future of the Kindred races and the possibility of them uniting against Aro.

Sometimes I wanted to shake her. For example, when during the meeting with the other High Borns, everyone spoke up and tried to be convincing. Kairi just stood there and seemed to accept her fate to marry Aro and crown him King to “work from the inside.” It was surprising to see even Aliandara agree with that kind of plan, considering the way she busted Kairi’s ass for freezing in front of Aro and not acting like the fiery person she can be. And I get there’s a bigger picture and all that, but Kairi often seemed like the girl who let things happen to her, like a vase that needs water to overflow before she would make her move. While that is not only realistic but also very human, it had me scratching my head.

Kairi is, in fact, so very human and so connected to her human soul that I felt it slowed her down. She didn’t try to further explore her powers, her strength, and when I thought she was going to by taking Aro on, the friggin’ Harpies show up to save the day.

Side note: Characters I did not understand

The Harpies. I love me some powerful female trio, but someone needs to explain where those Harpies come from. I think my question marks come from the fact I start The Aetherial Embrace without reading the other two trilogies that connect to it.

Also, Silver? In the first book, she slobbered over Aro constantly. Was it all an act? She is a Harpy, but she let him rape her in Indigo Dusk? I’m a little confused because I don’t know exactly how strong she is physically. There’s a bit of a gray area here, and it makes her unlikeable to me.

Lucien DeLaurent

Lucien is the type of guy who is permanently in the honeymoon phase of his relationship. I have to be honest here and say that the more the story went on, the less I liked him. He’s the good guy, treats Kairi well, has got the smarts, the creativity. Even the sauce was the Tour Eiffel for someone who’d been a virgin for 200+ years.

What I absolutely abhorred was the way he treated Genevieve. For someone who called Genevieve his best friend, he was pretty shitty. I get the part where she shuts him out and doesn’t want to see him ever again. When they talk again, he repeatedly lies to her and even stands her up to go ice-skating with Kairi where Gen could see them (and she does). What’s up with that, Lucien?

Book Review of Violet Dawn by Kristy Nicolle

Daenerys Targaryen meme "Where are my dragons?"

"Where are my icicle biceps?"
Daenerys Targaryen from HBO’s series Game of Thrones

Another thing that riled me up a bit was Lucien’s idealistic nature. Lucien has this glorious vision for Aetheria, but does virtually nothing, even after Kairi broadens his horizons. He repeatedly stands up against Aro only because it involves Kairi, and while that could sound romantic, it made me shake my head. I honestly wonder if Kairi will ever return to him because of the prophecy, and if she doesn’t, I almost want to say good. Lucy here needs to step up his game and show us some ice biceps. And not only in the literal sense.

Aro Black

Like it or not, Aro is the character who drives the story. I absolutely loved the fact that even when he’s in the middle of the desert, he regains control over his position. Gen’s dragon’s powers are now flowing in his veins, and while I was hoping to see more of those abilities, I understand there’s a time and place for everything. This was not the time. Aro’s quest focuses on getting back to Aetheria to be crowned King. He crashes Kairi’s ascension ball, tries to get his hands on her, and, of course, fails. I was wheezing, honestly, because she ran away right under his nose. But what I like about Aro’s character is that he never overreacts to his failures but continues with the rest of his plans.

It’s hard for me not to sympathize with Aro because you can understand where he’s coming from. Even Her-friggin’-cules suggested he had a much bigger role to play. For someone who’s already self-absorbed, that’s a huge push in the wrong direction. I hope that him realizing that what Gen said about him being “Hera’s bitch” will stick with him after what happened with the coronation ceremony, and I want to see his ultimate move/revenge. His intentions are not that different from Kairi’s when you think about it.

Genevieve Thomas

If there’s a character I’ve grown to love more and more, it’s definitely Genevieve. I think her mourning Algoric was one of the best depictions of grief I’ve seen in books, and her reasoning is the kind I can get behind 100%.

I think Gen is one of the most misunderstood characters in this universe; she got thrown in the middle of a feud that had nothing to do with the Draconians and despite it all, she still has at heart the Draconians’ future at heart. I totally understood when she allied herself with Aro (and I wanted to slap Kairi for saying Gen was being manipulated), just like I understand the platonic way in which she loved Algoric or even Lucien, considering her mortal past and the fact her father forced her to become a prostitute.

With that being said, Gen made a fantastic commander in battle, and she really pulled off the Dragon Queen act. Gen is a character who belongs to a battlefield, and it was refreshing to see her ditch the wine and masturbation sessions related to Aro’s death.

Speaking of which…

Damn it, why haven’t Aro and Gen gotten together yet?!

I can’t be imagining it; there have been teasers here and there and they have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever read. If Aro and Gen aren’t end game, I will riot. Intensely. They are perfection. I said what I said.

The Plot

Since Violet Dawn takes place shortly after the first book, Kairi “ended” her “thing” with Lucien, deciding to focus on her High Lady education and figure out what to do with her Heirbound position. The book starts with characters that have loved and lost, all of them, and they all sound very resigned. From Kairi, who accepts the fact that she has to marry someone of the same “race” as her when she loves another, to Lucien, who simply sits back and respects her choice, to Gen, who finds comfort in tasty “contemplation”…

And then there’s Aro, who can’t take the loss and is busy planning his next move. Honestly, bless him, because he’s one hell of an entertaining villain. So much, in fact, that by the end of the book I was still rooting for him. He was certainly one of the most active characters in this installment.

The book proceeds at a crisp pace to set up the stage of what is ultimately an epic assault, every bit and piece of information turning out to be vital and not part of some overly done description package. I loved the fact that this book culminated in an epic yet believable battle involving the dragons.

The Themes

As Kairi is now a High Lady, she no longer suffers from Ehler-Danlos Syndrome. However, you can see the experience is sticking with her. Her actions and motivations come from the mind, as opposed to all the other High Lords and Ladies, who stick to a philosophy that’s more about physical strength (save for the faes).

What truly was astounding in this book was the depiction of grief, through Genevieve, and guilt, through Lucien. It was realistic and profound to where, if you’ve experienced one of the two, you could relate entirely.

The Prose

This book made Kristy Nicolle’s books go straight to my TBR list. All of them. I can’t get over how poetic her writing style is. She doesn’t conform to modern writing standards, and I believe her books will remain enjoyable 20-40 years from now. The sequel to Violet Dawn seems to be scheduled for mid-2023, and I honestly can’t wait.