Queen of Spades Book 1

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Pub Date 10 Apr 2020 | Archive Date 26 Jul 2021

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Ayla is a villain. With a gift that allows her to see when anyone will die, she’s remorseless in her profession as the perfect assassin. When she wakes up in a cryo-tank three thousand years in the future, and no idea how she came to be there, all that matters is survival.

Rescued by Leith and the crew of the Nuria, Ayla discovers a far evolved world of space ships and galactic colonization. But everything comes with a price, and though Ayla is no princess locked in an icy tower, she still has to pay for the rescue she didn’t know she needed. 

Given over to Leith, a darkly handsome man who reads Ayla far easier than she’d like, they must work together if Ayla is to repay her debt. As the pair come to learn how dangerous one another are, so too grows a lustful bond that comes with rules of its own. Fighting to learn why she was frozen, Ayla’s dragged into Leith’s past with a criminal organization seeking to take over this sector of the galaxy. In order to survive, Leith will need Ayla’s help, but Ayla doesn’t know if she’s willing to pay what it will cost her…

Ayla is a villain. With a gift that allows her to see when anyone will die, she’s remorseless in her profession as the perfect assassin. When she wakes up in a cryo-tank three thousand years in the...

Advance Praise

"""...beautifully executed.""

""...a delicious villain.""

""...very evocative."""

"""...beautifully executed.""

""...a delicious villain.""

""...very evocative."""

Available Editions

ISBN 9780648222439
PRICE $6.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 22 members

Featured Reviews

Immensely enjoyable. I adored the imaginative premise, admired the hard core heroine, and enthusiastically rooted for her ongoing emotional growth. I'm gnashing my metaphorical teeth in anticipation of Ayla's next adventure.

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I loved Awakening and am excited for the next book in the series. Dawson hit the right mix of romance and sci-fi action and created a ragtag spaceship crew I'm rooting for with all my heart. Occasionally I found myself lost in some of the details of about the technology of the future, though Ayla seemed to catch on very quickly. At times the world Dawson created felt too similar to our own—maybe 300 years in the future, not 3,000.

After finishing the book, I felt that the prologue was unnecessary—it could have been a flashback later in story, and it introduced too many characters we didn't hear from again. I would have preferred to have started the book at the same time Ayla started her new life. I think the author was trying too hard to avoid the trope of starting a book with the character waking up, but the filler before Ayla's awakening was confusing and could turn off some readers. If readers are tempted to DNF, I would encourage them to read the first two chapters to get a feel for the writing and the world Dawson creates.

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I enjoyed Dawson's book. It was an original plot and I was fascinated by it. The story progressed quickly and I look forward to next in the sequel.

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If you ever watched Firefly or even the much older Blake 7 then you will be aware of the joy that a ragtag crew aboard a spaceship can bring. This book about an unusual woman woken from cryogenic sleep three thousand years after her last memory has just that sort of feel to it with outlaws, villains, political unrest, vengeance and betrayal all thrown in.
This is no insipid, feeble heroine though as Ayla is a trained assassin who right from the start proves she can protect herself. Rescued by Leith and his fellow crewmembers Ayla quickly adapts to this new world but she's no passive miss to be underestimated. Capable of what to me was a wholly unique concept of knowing someone's ' death day ' Ayla struggles to remember what happened to her but quickly begins to form relationships with her fellow crewmembers. Leith is her love interest but I particularly enjoyed reading about Casey ( a true revelation ) and Kabe who was an absolute sweetheart.
I really enjoyed reading this book by a new to me author and although it's sci fi it wasn't full of gobbledygook and instead concentrated on the characters and the dangerous situations they faced. This book has definitely got me interested in reading the follow-up as secrets about Ayla are clearly about to be revealed.
This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair

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A sci-fi, fantasy and romance all in one?? YESS all my favorite! Also i Loveeee the so much! Getting in the storyline i was already engaged and excited to see where things went! I loved our Main girl characters so much and the Romance was such ahhhh! Just a fun and entertaining read! Thank you so much for letting me read this book! Definitely recommend!

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I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Over the last few years, I've started moving towards Sci-Fi books with strong female leads and after reading several hundred, I'm having a hard time finding new books to read.

As I stated earlier, I am particular to books with a strong female lead and this book didn't disappoint. As soon as I finished it, I immediately checked to see if the second book in the series had been published, so I could continue the adventure.

Definitely recommend if you enjoy sci-fi with a strong heroine.

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I must say, this is one of the best books that I've read in quite some time.
The beginning of the book had me a little confused and honestly the prologue could have been skipped. Its been a while that I have a read a Sci-Fi that has captured my attention quite like this one. The synopsis is well written and very accurate to the novel itself, there is nothing I dislike more than finding out a book is not at all what it was described to be. I feel like I should be more critical of this book but honestly, there was nothing about it that I didn't like, and that is rare. The author has some serious writing skill and I tip my hat to EJ Dawson. The characters were so well developed and there was a great dynamic between Ayla and Leith. I was constantly on the edge of my seat to find out what was happening next.

The great thing about this book was that the romance didn't feel forced, it was a natural progression that fell in nicely with the story.

I would recommend this book to anyone.

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Before I begin my review for Awakening: Queen of Shades book 1 by E.J Dawson, I would personally like to thank the author and Netgalley the opportunity to read this ARC and I have reviewed it honestly.

Meet Ayla, a kick-ass assassin, and join her in a futuristic, science fiction space saga as she awakens from a 3000 year cryosleep. With no idea how she came to be put asleep, Ayla must come to terms with her new reality whilst navigating her unquenchable blood-lust and unsettling ability to read a person's death day. Enjoy a fast paced, magnetic and lustful tale with attractive characters and lots of bad-ass-ary.

Awakening features, but is not limited to, the following themes:
○ New adult
○ Science fiction
○ Cryosleep
○ Space travel
○ Assassin
○ Kick-ass female herione
○ Mental ability
○ Slow burn romance

My overall rating for Awakening is...

5 stars!

I'm not a huge sci fi fan but the word assassin got my attention. I'm so glad it did. This story was incredible! The world building, characters, futuristic technology and mix of themes were utterly unique, exciting and tantalising. Add an assassin and a slow burn romance you've got an impressive book. There was also one steamy scene that got the blood boiling, and what's more satisfying then that?

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Ayla is one of the most intriguing main characters I've seen in the young adult genre in years! Without giving away any spoilers, she is cunning, brave, resourceful, and does what she needs in order to survive a...unthinkable situation. The authenticity of her character, and those of Leith and Casey in particular, is so seamlessly integrated into a futuristic world that it doesn't seem like a made up world at all.

Dawson's pacing is on point, which helps the vivid characters and "you'll never figure it out" plot twists flow smoothly. I found myself wanting to pause and take it all in, but also needing to keep reading to find out how the characters got themselves out of yet another spot of trouble. Unlike similar books in the genre I've read, the story twists don't appear abrupt or forced--Dawson plants clues and explains details just right so that the story unfolds naturally.

If you like kick-ass characters and a bit of mystery, you can't miss this one!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book for an honest review.

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I received a copy of this book to review from Netgalley. Thank you for the opportunity.
This book was sharp and well written. It draws the reader in immediately with the first chapter being full of action. The cast of characters are fascinating, particularly the MC Ayla who had been awoken after being held in stasis for 3 millenia. Ayla is a refreshing strong and relatable heroine who is also a heroine with the interesting talent of knowing when a person will die.
At times I felt there was an imbalance in world building in that there was lots of details on certain topics which weren't that relevant to the story and a lack of information on others. However, it could be explained by the MC being in staisis for 3 millenia.
This book would appeal to any fans of strong heroines and plenty of space action and adventure.

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I’ve gotta admit, I’m new to science fiction. But this book was incredible! The writing drew me in, and the lead character was completely kickass. Looking forward to reading more from this author!

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I enjoyed Ayla's power, it was a unique power and worked perfectly for a assassin. I found her a interesting character. I liked the plot and enjoyed the world that was built.

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I loved this book!!!! I loved Ayla and her confidence. I loved her maturity and strength. I hate to say this but a lot of Sci-Fi authors write immature characters because either their audience is a younger demographic or the author themselves is. But this character is the Wonder Woman we all want to see in our heroines rather than the girl victim enduring bad times. Ayla has a super power that we all wonder what it would be like to have for a day and she wields it like the kick-ass assassin she is. I will say that her love interest, Leith, was boring. He had no sex appeal and even less personality. Which is fine, cause Ayla was exciting and awesome enough to hold the book up all by herself. Author does an amazing job of weaving action and adventure into a futuristic medley of storytelling. I love how similar she is to one of my other favorite Sci-Fi writers, T.A. White. Book kinda reminded me of the Firebird Chronicles minus the war between aliens species. Both main characters are women who every young girl imagines she can be when she grows up.

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Ayla is a villain. With a gift that allows her to see when anyone will die, she’s remorseless in her profession as the perfect assassin. When she wakes up in a cryo-tank three thousand years in the future, and no idea how she came to be there, all that matters is survival. Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this book. I enjoyed reading it.

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This was my 1st novel by this author. I really enjoyed it. I loved the relationship between Ayla and Leith. I cant wait to jump into the next book in the series.

*I received a free copy for my honest opinion.

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Review excerpted from my blog post over at Titillated Termagant Romance Reviews (

My Rating: 4 stars

Library recommendation: Recommended for public library science fiction romance collections and/or science fiction collections.

Warning: Hereafter, you chance spoilers. I will try never to reveal major plot points, but to review any book, you must reveal some parts of the story.


Number of titles I have read by this author: 1

Love story speed: I guess you could call this a medium burn. This is the first book in a trilogy that appears to feature the same H/h throughout.

Relationship dynamics: The Space Crew Tactician (H) / The Out-of-Time Assassin (h)

Physical descriptions: Ayla is olive-skinned, with brown eyes, short, dark hair, pouting lips and a sharp jawline. Her height is really only addressed in relation to other characters (e.g. “[Leith] towered over her”). Leith is described alternately as having a dark brown skin tone and having an amber skin tone. He has dark, deep-set eyes, a broad chest, shaven head, silver tattoos, and is generally described as “chiseled.”

Sexual content: Some; on-page and explicit.

Triggers: child death; violent death; unapologetic murder by h

Grammar/Editing: There was a significant need for editing in the copy I read in terms of awkward sentences, typos, comma splices, etc. I requested this book on Net Galley as an ARC, but found that, in the front matter, it was listed as already published. Thus, I am unclear whether the copy I read was the final, published version, or an ARC. For rating purposes, I am assuming the latter. If the former, my rating would be reduced to 3.5 for content and clarity issues.

Review: This novel is set primarily on-spaceship and on-space station, 3 millennia in the future. The worldbuilding is pretty good for the casual sci fi reader – it won’t give you a headache trying to remember all of the details like some heavier sci fi can. The pacing is somewhat inconsistent, being slower paced in the middle of the story, but this isn’t an impediment to enjoyment of the book, overall.

The main characters are Leith and Ayla. Although she’s an assassin, Leith accepts Ayla as she is, which is one of his many attractions. While their relationship starts with some animosity, respect builds, and then chemistry follows. I wouldn’t say that their relationship is at the HEA stage by the end of the book – it is definitely still developing and will evolve in the next installment in the trilogy. Casey and Cabe are the primary supporting characters and they are very likeable. They have their own individual mysteries and I can tell that we will see more development of these characters in the subsequent books. Other characters are also well described, at least physically. I did have some lingering questions after reading but, while I wouldn’t call the ending a “cliffhanger,” I was driven to immediately purchase book two (which is currently available) to continue with the story.

Full disclosure: I received a free advance review copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I loved Awakening and am excited for the next book in the series. I loved the characters and the worldbuilding!
Looking forward to reading more from this author!

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I love going into books blind, so I didn't really read the synopsis. I was so shocked by the first chapter and I think I read this book pretty quick! I was also surprised by the romance and the smut (you know I love it). Definitely a quick and easy to read book. So if you're looking for a nice sci-fi adventure with some romance; pick this up!

Characters: The characters and relationships and bonds between people are so fun in this book. The power Ayla has is so unique, I've not seen it in other books before. The personalities of various characters really shone through, even to the way they spoke! Recently I found out that I'm more character than plot driven (most of the time) so this book was a hit for me.
Electricity: Oooohhhh booiiiii. The electricity between two of the characters is yum, yum, yum. It was right there in your face and just simmering beneath the surface. And yes, the SMUT. I want it AAALLL. You know I love it. And then the combination? Sci-fi with smut and spice? I've not seen that very often.
Questions: The questions that I have after this book make me really want to read the second one. And I definitely will, I put it on my TBR already.

Pace: I recently find myself talking about the pace of a book much more. I feel like some books are so fast paced, that I'm missing details. There is so much happening in this book. I just needed a breath and to enjoy the characters and relationships they have, instead of something new happening every chapter. There are new characters, new companies, new locations every chapter. It made me sometimes lose the story.

Definitely a great book for people who are character driven, but also for people who are plot driven, because SO much is happening. The characters and their relationships were definitely my favorite part. Ayla is so badass and I'm just really curious to see what she is going to do next!

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