Daybreak concludes the futuristic paranormal series co-written by Ann Aguirre and Carrie Lofty under the pen name Ellen Connor. The tale reunites childhood friends Pen and Tru from Nightfall, which Morgan and Whitney Dished about several months ago. But will these all-grown-up characters be able to forge a new (adult) relationship in this harsh world or are they doomed to failure like the society that they are products of?
Morgan: “Let’s read Daybreak,” you said. “We have to read Tru’s story,” you said. And innocent ole me thought it a great idea. Until Tru shows up in the story.
Whitney: Okay, he is a bit different from how we left him at the end of the first book in the Dark Age Dawning series. But, in his defense, Tru was only a teen in that story ...
Morgan: Yeah, and he is grown up to be a complete jerk!
Whitney: He grew up in the freakin’ dark ages, no the darker than dark, this is like the absence of all light, hope and any sort of merriment age. Cut him some slack!
Morgan: It’s just that this story takes a lot of emotion to read. There is so much danger and so much hopelessness. When reading the book I kept hearing Bill Murray’s voice from the movie Groundhog Day. “It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.” There is such bleakness about it.
Whitney: But it is because of this, Pen’s work as the Orchid is that much more important. She is a legend, known for her healing and the guidance she gives people who are trying to eek out an existence in the newly changed world.
Morgan: How much to do I wish I had her abilities of healing and remote viewing? Sure we are not in a post-apocalyptic world, but this would still come in handy. And for the characters in Daybreak looking for hope, what better than to circulate stories about a beautiful women single-handedly fighting a war against the forces of darkness, taking down one bad guy at a time?
Whitney: So like Tru, Penelope Sheehan has done a lot of growing up since fans met her as the magical child in Nightfall, two books ago.
Morgan: Agreed. I was totally surprised by what a badass Pen turned out to be. Innocents get her help, bad guys get her knife.
“She surged up from below, using her shorter stature against him. Forget the armor on his chest — she went for the femoral artery in his thigh. And for his groin, because he’d put her in a bad mood.”
Whitney: Pen has certainly learned to put all of her skills — her innate magic and her fighting ability — to good use, and she’s finally taking on the heinous General O’Malley.
Morgan: He’s straight up evil; a scheming opportunist. Like after the destruction that has happened, what the world really needs is someone profiting off of other people’s misery.
Whitney: I have to say, I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t see much of O’Malley until the end of the story. I mean, he gets introduced in the beginning as “The Big Bad” because he’s got a monopoly on oil, wealth and power.
Morgan: And he’s determined to keep his spot on top — he’s not afraid to use violence, even on his own men.
Whitney: What made him so horrible to me were the descriptions of how he was trafficking in slaves. And there’s this moment where Pen talks about people being kept in chicken wire cages, I swear it gave me nightmares.
Morgan: And in the midst of all this Monster O’Malley-inspired madness, there’s Pen as the story opens, in the back of one of these slaver trucks, determined to free herself and all the other soon-to-be-slaves.
Whitney: She’s certainly not expecting to get help in the form of her childhood friend, Tru. Or should I say, Truman Daugherty. Right after “The Change” they were both part of a small group of survivors that banded together, but when he became a teen, he left the safety of the community their foster parents (holla, Jenna and Mason from Nightfall).
Morgan: Tru leaving had a HUGE effect on Pen. Even though she was a child, several years younger than Tru, they had a very close relationship. After Pen’s mother died, he was literally the only person she would talk to. So when Tru suddenly left, she took it hard.
Whitney: But, I think this was a good thing for Pen’s development. It taught her how to be strong and how to rely on herself and no one else. In essence, Tru’s leaving helped make Pen the Orchid.
Morgan: Not that he ever knew what happened to his childhood friend. Tru has been traveling around for more than a decade. Alone and a lion-shifter, he never thinks he will see Pen again.
Whitney: But he happens to intercept the slave truck she’s on just to mess with O’Malley’s head, and when he sees Pen, he immediately notices that she is not the little girl he left behind.
“She’d grown up to be beautiful and … good. And he disappointed her. He’d seen the flicker of it in her eyes — that he hadn’t turned into a hero who could heal the world of its sorrows. He remembered with uncomfortable clarity the way she used to cling to him, the way she followed him and watched him, and put her small hand in his.”
Morgan: Sadly, those sweet days are over. Now all Tru is looking for is to get a woman into his bed and when Pen refuses he ends up making eyes at another woman, right in front of her!
Whitney: That was a pretty awful, a low moment for him, to be sure. But they’d both been scarred by the things that they’d seen — and done — as adults.
Morgan: There’s no denying that their innocent connection as children has been lost completely in this changed world where it is nearly impossible to trust anything or anyone.
Whitney: So the question becomes, can Pen the idealist and Tru the disenchanted, ever come together to help take down O’Malley and his organization that feeds off of people’s desperation.
Morgan: I’d argue that you’re oversimplifying the situation. Because it’s not just about will Tru and Pen together, or can Pen take down O’Malley the Malicious, this is a story about figuring out who you are supposed to be.
Whitney: Tru definitely has a heroic heart, but he hasn’t used his strength for anything but selfishness in so long, it is like he has lost this part of him.
Morgan: Not to mention Pen who is so selfless that she nearly kills herself to save others.
Whitney: Two total extremes. Neither is healthy or good, but together they balance out.
Morgan: And offer hope in a world that has none.