Darkest Before Dawn, by Maya Banks – Book Review

THE ALL-NEW KGI NOVEL from the “incredibly awesome” (Jaci Burton) #1 New York Times bestselling author of When Day Breaks.

Darkest Before Dawn Cover

The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business.

Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background.

Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t…

The enigmatic Hancock has been both opponent and ally to the KGI teams for as long as they’ve known him. Always working a deep game, Hancock’s true allegiance has never been apparent, but one thing is for certain—he never lets anything get in the way of duty.

But now, his absolute belief in the primacy of his ultimate goal is challenged by a captive he’s been ordered to guard, no matter how much she suffers in her prison. She’s the only woman who’s ever managed to penetrate the rigid walls surrounding his icy heart, but will he allow his perplexing feelings for the beautiful victim to destroy a mission he’s spent years working to complete or will he be forced to sacrifice her for “the greater good.”

Author: Maya Banks  Genre:  Action-Suspense, Contemporary Romantic-Suspense

Release Date: October 27, 2015

My Review

       

This is the first book I’ve read by Maya Banks, a very popular author with a loyal fan following. Since this is the tenth book in the series, I jumped into the deep end, without the context of a backstory or any idea what to expect. That may have been a slight disadvantage, but it didn’t prove to be an obstacle: this book can stand on its own. Maya provides enough (actually, more than enough) information about the history of Hancock and his relationship with KGI to fill in the gaps between ‘then’ and ‘now,’ and to capture the complete transformation of this very dark anti-hero.

The book starts with a bang – literally. The aid center where Honor works is hit by a powerful terrorist group. She is the only survivor, barely escaping discovery and inevitable execution while everyone around her is brutally killed. Although her situation seems hopeless, she finds the strength to free herself and, although badly injured, she escapes under cover of darkness, determined make her way to the closest American outpost, whatever it takes. She has the advantage of being fluent in the languages and customs of the region – but the likelihood of eluding her would-be assassins until she reaches the border, and the fact that she is forced to travel on foot, in pain, with no other resources and no one to trust makes the journey perilous every step of the way – more so once she becomes a folk hero – one American woman in a violent, male-dominated society where even locals fear for their safety on a daily basis. A woman who has humiliated members of a group thought to be powerful enough to take over the region – a woman marked for death.

At precisely the right moment she is ‘rescued’ by Hancock and his men – at least she thinks she is. She is forced to trust him because there are no other options for a successful escape. But little does she know that Hancock’s mission is not about her rescue – she is the pawn in a game between arch enemies – and she is closer to death than she was on her own in the desert.

Their ‘rescue’ mission is fraught with suspense and the kind of violence you’d expect from the situations they find themselves in. There are so many ways for things to go horribly wrong – and sometimes they do. Hancock’s inner struggle is heart-wrenching to witness. Honor’s reaction when she learns the truth about the mission is unexpected – more than shocking, nearly unbelievable. But this is a battle, internally and externally, between good and evil – there is no room for doubt, no shades of gray. It’s gritty, frightening, and relentlessly blunt. Some scenes are so packed with suspense you may be forced to set the book aside and take a break. It will keep you guessing until the very end. It will possibly give you a good, long cry; you can’t help but hurt for Hancock and Honor.

There are times when the story takes dark and deadly turns. There are several agonizing moments, featuring deep internal and violent external struggles that go straight to the heart. For all of these reasons, it makes for a completely engaging read – once you are able to ‘get into the story.’  Its main drawback is that it takes too long to get to the first meeting between Honor and Hancock, describing the characters’ histories, actions, and conflicted emotions in far more detail than necessary. There is also a bit too much repetition of events from the past, of the inner emotions of each principal character. But, I’d definitely read it again. If you take your time and apply some patience, you will be rewarded with a breath-taking story.

I have to say, I also loved the conclusion – with the exception of one unresolved question – and it’s an important one. How did the enemy stay ahead of Hancock’s team, right up to the point of no return? Was there a ‘mole’ in Hancock’s team – or was another ‘outside informant’ monitoring their movements? The question lingered after the worst of the suspense was over. As a reader, I wanted to know exactly who betrayed them, how the team figured it out, and what came after. I don’t think I missed it – I went looking for it, but I’d really love to know the answer. (Leave me a comment if you find it!)

Will I read more of this series? Definitely. And because I now know that Guy Hancock is not the cruel, heartless robo-cop he was thought to be, I will be better prepared to appreciate him for his strengths, rather than focus on his weaknesses. The storyline was relevant and timely – it was as gritty and raw as the world it’s set in, and its characters were anything but one-dimensional. It evokes the deepest of emotions – fear, sadness, and loss. But even in its darkest moments, it won’t allow you to lose hope. In the end, story matters, and this is a very ambitious story – it takes a good author to tell it well. The story alone – especially the redemption of Hancock – makes it well worth reading despite a few flaws.

Add Darkest Before Dawn to Goodreads

Buy Darkest Before Dawn on Amazon.com