Review: With the Dawn by Cassandra Sky West

Reviewed by Ronelle

A witch, a vampire, and a witch walk into a bar… except there’s no bar, just a trio of unlikely friends determined to stay alive.

Alexi Creed wakes up in a morgue drawer, with no knowledge of who she is, where she’s being held, or even why. Only quick thinking and newfound vampiric reflexes allow her to avoid an unpleasant death. But even as she flees the nightclub under which she’d been held, she’s jumping out of the frying pan and straight into a fire that could easily consume her.

Savanna Grace is on the run from another witch bent on her destruction. Worse yet, the other witch is her own mother and the woman is pulling out all the stops to have her revenge. Savanna has been running for far too long and her gift of precognition tells her that Alexi is her only hope of survival. She can’t run anymore.

Victor is the leader of a werewolf pack… or he used to be, until Illyana got hold of them. Now he’s on the run from her just like Savanna and Alexi. He’s broken and alone and though at first he doesn’t feel as if he deserves to live after what he’s done, he comes to appreciate the mercy of the two young women who should have, by all rights, left him to die.

As they search for understanding and redemption, Alexi, Savanna, and Victor will need all the help they can get if they have any hope of staying alive.


I’m not going to lie; this book and I had issues—issues that could have been solved by a good editor. Not just a proofreader (though there was the occasional typo that could have been weeded out by one of those), but an editor who took the time to look at plot, content, and consistency. While Ms. West had a unique and interesting story to tell, her execution of said story was often sloppy.

Here’s what makes me say that:

  1. With the Dawn was rife with inconsistent details, some minor (like “Alatum” being both italicized and not, at random, “Marine” not being capitalized when “Ranger” and “Dumpster” were, etc.) and some not-so-minor (Alexi and Victor sharing a kiss in Chapter 11, only to go on and share what is described as their first in Chapter 13, and the rules of magic changing to save them from a given situation).
  2. West also seemed to struggle with time and spatial awareness concerning the actions of her characters (Alexi grabbing someone by the throat with both hands and then ripping his gun out of his hands or the Arcanum guys getting Savanna to the SUV in the time it took Alexi to get blasted through a window) as well as consistency (the statement that thralls technically make their own decisions while in the next breath we’re told that they don’t).
  3. Her credibility is lessened by statements such as Victor’s 500-lb werewolf form “outmassing small cars”. I checked, and the smallest care produced in 2015 weighted 1,808 lbs. The fact that her description rang hollow enough that I was prompted to check annoyed the crap out of me.
  4. As far as the characters were concerned, there were way too many and a lot of them were introduced back-to-back, which made it difficult to keep track of who was who, what role they played, and whether or not they would be important. In the first three chapters, we are introduced to four distinct groups with anywhere from two to four members each and a number of others were brought in as the story progressed. As the perspective kept changing (sometimes twice a chapter), I found myself having to pause to try and remember who this person or that person was. It also meant that each character lacked development to some extent, and I found myself longing for quality of character rather than quantity.
  5. The first half of the story was slow and something of a tease. Every time I thought something was about to happen, the perspective would shift to another character or group. It took forever for things to start coming together and I didn’t feel like events really picked up until the last third of the book.

I wish Ms. West had worked a little longer on this one or had an honest critique given to her before publishing. With the Dawn could have been a really good story that left me yearning for the sequel. Ms. West took the typical tropes of witches, vampires, and werewolves, and did something interesting with them. I’ve read of one or two of those groups working together, but never all three, and I was skeptical at first but she managed the cooperation well. So, the bones of With the Dawn were solid. It was just the detailing that didn’t quite live up to expectations. Alexi, Savanna, and Victor were likeable enough for me to care and needed just a bit more fleshing-out to elevate them enough for me to want to read more about them. Despite the fact that I’m not normally an urban fantasy fan, I enjoyed the setting  and how it was blended with the paranormal aspects of the story.

Bottom line: There were a lot of problems with this story, but underneath it all, I felt there were some good bones. Ms. West has potential as an author and with time and practice, her future novels could be really great. With the Dawn just fell flat for me and I found enough issues with it that I struggled to stay immersed. Also, spoiler; do not expect a HEA.

Rating: C-

Click to purchase: Amazon

With the Dawn
by Cassandra Sky West
Release Date: September 20, 2016


  1. Damn, Ronelle, you ought to hire yourself out as a plot hole hunter.

  2. Awesome review btw x

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