Guardians of Dawn: Zhara
by S. Jae-Jones
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Pub Date 01 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 12 Sep 2023
St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books
Sailor Moon meets Cinder in Guardians of Dawn: Zhara, the start of a new, richly imagined fantasy series from S. Jae-Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong.
Magic is forbidden throughout the Morning Realms. Magicians are called an abomination, and blamed for the plague of monsters that razed the land twenty years before.
Jin Zhara already had enough to worry about—appeasing her stepmother’s cruel whims, looking after her blind younger sister, and keeping her own magical gifts under control—without having to deal with rumors of monsters re-emerging in the marsh. But when a chance encounter with an easily flustered young man named Han brings her into contact with a secret magical liberation organization called the Guardians of Dawn, Zhara realizes there may be more to these rumors than she thought. A mysterious plague is corrupting the magicians of Zanhei and transforming them into monsters, and the Guardians of Dawn believe a demon is responsible.
In order to restore harmony and bring peace to the world, Zhara must discover the elemental warrior within, lest the balance between order and chaos is lost forever.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 93 members
I can’t describe how much I love this book. I fell in love with Zhara (my new version of Cinderella) within a few magical moments of reading chapter one. And magical she IS! Zhara, the courageous young woman, who loves her sister, and is abused by her Step Mother, has a relationship with an awkward friend named Han (can we all swoon for this cutie-pie prince?), is worthy of a whole series, and adoring fans everywhere! I know other readers will do the same thing I did - breeze through this book in one night.
Can Zhara become the warrior that’s needed, and defeat the blight that will sentence all magicians to lifetime despair? Can she save her sister’s soul? And if she does, can Zhara still write her own happy ending? Mother of Demons, if this book didn’t own me from the beginning…! I look forward to seeing young adults everywhere line up to get this book out of the library as soon as it hits the shelves.
Five of five magical stars. And a bonus point to Zhara (spoiler alert - she loves books as much as we do!)
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sharing this arc with me!! I am SO invested in recommending this book to anyone I reach. For fans of “Cinder” and “Sailor Moon”, get ready to fall in love with your new heroine - Jin Zhara! I voluntarily read this and all opinions are my own.
What a fun book! I had added this book to my Goodreads to-read shelf way back when it was first announced based solely on the 'Sailor Moon' description, but I had basically given up on it after a few years with no release and no updates. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to see if available on NetGalley and very excited to get an ARC!
So was Zhara worth the wait? Yes, very much so! The book definitely gives off Sailor Moon vibes and also incorporates interesting mythology, painful but realistic family relationships, and a very sweet romance. The characters are also all wonderful. Zhara herself is certainly Cinderella-esque in that she's abused by her stepmother and missing her parents, but she has magic! Following Zhara as she learns about her powers and begins to use them to help others is a great journey, and Zhara's shyness, big heart, and sweet sense of humor make it easy to root for her. She's also easy to root for because she's so determined to take care of her sister no matter what the personal cost, and I love that type of sisterly bond.
The other characters are fun, too. Han (AKA Prince Charming) is funny and a bit of a dolt, but he's also sweet and big hearted, especially when it comes to protecting his younger brother. Xu is clever and humorous, Jiyi is wise but sassy, and Yulana makes a big splash and has a lot of secrets that she likes to reveal whenever it can create the most drama. The "bad guys" are also well-written, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the mythology and the magic system that develops as we learn more about the Mother of Ten Thousand Demons.
As I said, I really got Sailor Moon vibes from this book in the best sort of way. Zhara and Han are both sort of the Usagi character--Zhara because she doesn't know how to use her magic and Han because he's clueless a lot of the time--and Yulana pops in with a seasoned warrior/Sailor Venus vibe. Jiyi is the non-magical one with all the info (AKA Luna), and Xu makes me think of Sailor Uranus. And of course, you have the search for all the elemental warriors to defeat the Big Bad and save the world. Even if I hadn't loved everything else so much, I would keep reading this series just for all these connections.
All in all, Zhara is a series opener that is definitely worth the long wait, and I can't wait to see what happens next!
This was very fun, with just a smidge of Cinderella thrown in (which I wasn't expecting). The romance is adorable and very refreshing to see teenagers in total adorable crush rather than melodramatic "love". The fantasy aspects and world building elements were interesting, and I really felt like I got a sense of this world. If you like fantasy but want something that feels like it's built on hope, not the grimdark despair that seems so popular, this might be just what you're looking for.
I look forward to reading more about these characters in the future.
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