This originally appeared as part of the Author Appreciation series on the r/fantasy forum. You can check out more of the Author Appreciation series here.
A Very Short Biography
Dawn was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and although she moved away for a while, she has since moved back to her home state and makes quite a few appearances at bookstores in the local region. Like many authors, she was inspired to write from reading.
Some of you might already be familiar with her work under the pen-name Kim Harrison, one of the more popular urban fantasy authors. Unlike those UF books the Dawn Cook books are firmly secondary world fantasy.
Cook’s Fantasy Works
Dawn Cook is the author of two series, The Truth Series, and The Princess Duology. One of the things that looking back at these books have struck me with is that they would easily fit in with much of YA fantasy being published today. These books were published at a time when, while there were certainly books that were YA fantasy, it was pre-Twilight, and the current huge marketing push toward YA fantasy had not quite taken off yet. Were these books a little ahead of their time? Both series feature young women protagonists, searching for their place in the world, and have a little romance thrown into the mix. While these books do use some familiar tropes, they also feel pretty unique. They both have interesting takes on their respective worlds of high fantasy.
- The Truth series consists of four books, First Truth (2002), Hidden Truth (2002), Forgotten Truth (2003) and Lost Truth (2004).
Our protagonist in the Truth series is Alissa, a young woman who leaves her home to go out in search of her roots. She’s been told she inherited her father’s magical ability and has to set off to find answers to if she really does have magic, and how to control it, etc. She meets a bard along the way (seriously) and they eventually find a crazy dude that is the last person that can teach her how to use her powers. And then later there are dragons! And shape-shifting! And time-travel! And romance! (There is a love triangle at one point, a bit angst-y at times, and while I kind of love that trope, I know it’s not a favorite for a lot of people—you know who you are ;P .)
- The Princess series, or really duology, consists of two books, The Decoy Princess (2005) and its sequel, Princess at Sea (2006).
This is one of my favorite series. One of the things I like most about these books is that they do play around with some of the more common fantasy tropes. Instead of the pauper finding out they are secretly royalty, our heroine, raised as a princess, finds out she was born a pauper and she’s not a princess at all! And secretly, her mentor was training her all along by use of certain games to be sort of an assassin—a Player in The Game. Meanwhile, the real princess doesn’t want to be a princess at all.
Oh, and what is The Game? Well, let’s just say kingdoms are like spaces on a board, and kings and queens are like chess pieces and Players are the folks that manipulate those pieces. It’s all about control of power—who really has control are not the people that you would think. (Side note: this was such an interesting concept to explore; my one criticism is that I wish it had been more fully realized in these books.)
There is magic in this series as well—but again it is sort of unique. There are magical creatures (kind of like a jaguar) that are venomous. Too much of the venom and you’ll die, but if you take it bit by bit you can be imbued with the creatures’ powers. Most of them are mental type powers, like ‘these are not the droids you seek’ and influencing the mood of a crowd, or having some control over certain elements. But it’s not all fun and games, it’s dangerous being a Player, as rival Players are often out to get you!
Dawn’s books were published at a time when I was in a bit of a fantasy slump, and it’s these books (along with Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel trilogy) which I credit with rekindling my love of the genre. These are fun, kind of popcorn-y reads and I recommend them if you like reading books with romance, books with strong female leads (especially the princess series), or YA fantasy.