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This website is dedicated to the memory of Jessica Lincoln Smith, a John Marsden fan.
Lost tragically at 26, but never to be forgotten.

The Other Side of Dawn
Book 7 in "The Tomorrow Series" by John Marsden

WARNING: Blows the plot of this novel
Please don't read on if this concerns you

"The Other Side of Dawn" draws "The Tomorrow Series" to a fittingly troubled conclusion. John Marsden has again avoided producing a "more of the same" novel. Instead we have a novel which deals with combat fatigue, self destruction, grief and recovery.

In this novel the stress levels on the team are ratcheted higher and higher. After the conclusion of "The Night is for Hunting" with the terrible battle at the gates of Hell and its aftermath the team's confidence in the safety of their haven is destroyed, but at the same time they are asked for one last supreme effort by the New Zealanders.

Since the end of "The Third Day, The Frost" the team have been fighting a losing battle with their nightmares. Stress after stress has been placed on them, horror after horror has been thrown their way since they we captured near the end of that book. They have fought back against the nightmares, fought with themselves to keep their sanity and humanity. Now they have to fight yet another desperate battle to protect Hell and the ferals, hours later they have to blackmail the NZ army into saving the children, then prepare for a style of combat they are not used to, battle fought to a schedule rather than when the opportunity presents.

It is too much, they crack. More specifically, Homer and Ellie crack, nothing spectacular, just deadly. Homer loses contact with reality; Ellie loses ability to think clearly and her will to stand up to Homer.

They don't see it but the reader can. They are so wound up they start to hunt and kill enemy soldiers simply as a way of relieving the stress. They lose focus, they fail to plan, when they do plan the planning is over-complicated and missing crucial elements. They become overly ambitious. They are in a destructive spiral that even their courage and combat skills cannot overcome. As they go into their last battle they are emotional wrecks.

The terrible thing is you can see it coming. The lead up is littered comments from the team showing just how close to the edge they are. They way they all dive into killing motorcycle soldiers simply as a way to relieve their own stress levels is like a red flag waving. The vagueness of Ellie's concerns about how things are going as they set up for the attack - so different to her normal thinking - sets off alarm bells in your head. Homer had lost it, he is a long, long way from the careful, logical boy in the second half of “Tomorrow, When the War Began”, Ellie just goes along with him, Robyn is dead and with their three leaders ‘gone’, they are doomed. I found myself wanting to shake Ellie as the pages passed, to say “Wake up, wake up, start thinking” but all you can do is read along, waiting for the wheels to fall off, for the inevitable disaster to occur.

Then it does. They crash and burn.

On the way do incredible damage, accomplishing their mission. Ellie again demonstrates the risks she will run to try to save her friends, then the depths of cunning and determination she can draw on to survive and continue to hurt the enemy. Yet again her determination and courage lifted me. Her so human failures of will, the fear, the uncertainly coupled with her inability to give up and her determination to succeed reached out to me from the pages. Ellie Linton is someone you respect. Yet eventually even her luck runs out and she finds herself seriously wounded, a prisoner and with her friends wiped away.

We follow Ellie as she struggles to recover physically then to come to terms with her overwhelming grief for her friends and her anger at being left as the sole survivor. Simultaneously she must hide her real identity from those around her and endure the dreadful conditions of the prison camp. Crushed, she survives through the kindness and care of the other prisoners, and particularly her two tent mates, who do whatever they can to help this girl who will not talk.

Grief, and dealing with it, forms the heart of the middle part of “The Other Side of Dawn”.

It is clear the war is coming to an end but before it can, Ellie's identity is discovered. The inmates of the prison camp come together to help Ellie escape, accepting whatever punishment will come their way as a consequence. This is the first time that any adult has taken a significant risk for Ellie or any member of her team since the start of the series. More than 1,500 pages before Ellie finds adults she can trust, who will risk themselves for her. Immediately she is separated from them as she escapes and sets off, in the dying days of the war, to reach her mother.

The meeting with her mother is yet another of those touching scenes that John Marden handles well and, of course, being Marsden, it is not how Ellie expected it to be. But again she finds it within her to cope and, the war over, they return home to Wirrawee to a reunion with her Dad.

The novel could have ended here, at the end of Chapter 16, after the confrontation with the mad woman on Tailor’s Stitch. It could have ended here with Ellie the only survivor, having to cope with a broken country, her damaged parents, her loss of her friends and the grief stricken parents they have left behind. A dark ending to match the darkness that runs through the last four novels, but it was not to be. I guess that would have just been a bit too much and its hard to blame Mr Marsden for wanting to have his cake and eat it too.

So instead, Chapter 17 turns the situation on its head. Colonel Long lied, most likely to keep Ellie’s alive. Gavin, Fi, Homer, Kevin and Lee are returned, alive and kicking. Suddenly we have another ending, a much lighter one though still with its darker elements. I am a bit torn between the two. Over the course of this series I had grown very fond of Lee, Homer and Fi so was happy to see them survive, but at the same time I know which ending I would have thought more powerful.

For quite a different take, see Declan's comments
then, of course, the is Tim Chmielewski's view
and Georges T. Dodds', different again
and finally David Beagley's thoughts

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