I’m giving you a review today of R.F Hurteau’s “Three Days Till Dawn” which is the first in her Antiquity’s Gate series. R.F asked me to read her book, and I picked this up on NetGalley before she’d published.
Let me start with the first impression, and I’m going to spoil it slightly, I was impressed. This story may sound from the elements I’ve said like something out of Tolkien, but it’s not. This is more like 1984 meets an Urban Dystopian Fantasy, and it WORKS! I know! I was surprised too!
And what I mean by that correctly, those elements do not sound at first glance like it’s going to be something with drama and teeth in it. But this book has heart, and soul, teeth in the right places with conflict and damage.
Let me go into some critiques for “Three Days Till Dawn.” This critique is under the “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation” category to my scoring. In this case, we are looking at the “Foundation” and pardon me while I try to type this without giving any spoilers as to specific plot details. This situation is very tricky.
Here is the critique, after reading the “Three Days Till Dawn” it leaves me with one question that should be rooted in foundation work. What is the antagonists motive? I never was able to figure out the why in why they were doing what they did. I know the antagonists are upset, I get that they want to do bad things as all antagonists do as well. But the problem I face is that I do not understand the motive.
For me, I want to know why so that I can invest in future books. While this may be a minority opinion, it is frustrating when fundamental elements in a stand-alone story, such as character or antagonist motivation, are often left out in series books. Authors don’t even need to give everything in a series because that would nullify the point of a series. But a simple “We hate you because we are better than you so there,” is a lot better than “We hate you cuz reasons to be divulged in another book.”
Strictly from what clues I picked up on in “Three Days Till Dawn” and from clues in other series I have read, I assume the reasoning behind the motive is “purity of race.” If that was the intent, it represented in any consumable way here. During the narrative, there was a discussion of rules and codes and bigotry, but there wasn’t a clear and emphatic “This is why we do this” moment to explain antagonist motivation. The waters of presentation were muddied when the antagonists were integrating themselves. At one point in the book, the integration had an explanation made in the exposition. And I need to be clear on my end; there is a difference between character motive and character strategy to achieve their goals. The integration piece did not convey anything as a motive; it was expressed as a reason for why the antagonists went one route for a purpose, and it had to do with lifespans and patience.
Let me give a real-world explanation to what I mean from a reading perspective. I am a mom, and my kids are under ten-years-old in this example, I am the protagonist, they are the antagonists. They have a goal every night to try to stay up late, and I have a goal to get them to sleep on time. I understand my motivation, and I’ve explained it to my children. Mostly, I want them to sleep, so they aren’t tired during school and have an easier time the next day. My children, however, never explain to me their motivation; they only show me their strategy for the goal. My daughter, for example, routinely shuts the lights off, hides under a blanket to read with her flashlight thinking I won’t see it and will think she’s asleep. She’s never once said, “Mom, I’d like to stay up late because I want to read this book since I’m enjoying it.” If she did, that’d be her motive, and we could talk about it. Instead, I frequently get “Okay just one more chapter!” which is a strategy to prolonge her time awake.
Okay now to the positives, because this book has many positive things. Let’s go back into the “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation” part of my review. For the copy I got on NetGalley, I saw no severe issues with spelling, grammar, margins, or anything involved in the story presentation. It was terrific to read both on the eyes but also for the mind in this category.
Now let’s go into what I truly loved, and this goes into the “Whole Story” category. Okay, yes, this book ends on a cliffhanger, but as a breath of fresh air, it’s the first time I’ve seen one appropriately done in ages. This cliffhanger is the one, and only time I felt that the cliffhanger for this series is perfect for what it is, and encapsulates a whole story. The entire story is set up to end on this one-note, as opposed to the story ends in the middle of a scene abruptly and without setup. We have on our hands a complete beginning, middle and ending to the story that answers all of the main questions (aside from the motive) and we have a fulfilling and delicious end. The hook ties explicitly into the ending, and that’s what makes the story work so perfectly to get us from beginning to end.
For my next positive point, I want to go into the category of “Cliche Much” and let you all know about the positive way they were used. So I’m going to give you a few story tropes that contain cliche’s inside of them, and see what you think about it. What happens when you mix elves in the south pole, dystopian societal fallout from humans, and a crystal that can do amazing things? Give up? You get an AMAZING story that I have found no equal to in clever use of ideas, that’s what. We have a ton of cliche’s in this novel, and cliche’s are not negative things on their own. R.F used them in creative and delightful ways, like paints on a canvas, to make this beautiful story come to life.
For the category of “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation,” I have praise under “Story Structure” when it comes to character use. R.F expertly used characters, there is some fantastic creative use of tropes as well, and I found all of the ideas executed with expertise and precision. Like I said above, the initial thought of what you are looking at may sound strange, but it is all brought together in a transformative way. Honestly, R.F did with this novel what NBA legend Reggie Miller did once in 9 seconds by scoring 8 points. What I mean by that, R.F had the presence of mind to take a step back from the book and ensure the pieces fit together perfectly for the characters that she used in specific scenes.
Lastly, from the “Story Structure, Foundation and Presentation” when we go to the “Story Structure” specifically, I think the part that needs very high praise is how easy the book transitions from one POV to another. There are multiple POV’s, and that is tricky to do in a unique world with a unique premise in a story. Despite the difficulty, I was able to follow the action and keep up with the action and sequence of events.
And with all of this in mind, I’m giving “Three Days Till Dawn” a score of 87/100 which is a 4-star review on Amazon and Goodreads. If you love sci-fi series, or elves, or dystopian fiction, pick this up!