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Literature / RWBY: Before the Dawn

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Spoilers for RWBY: After the Fall and all RWBY works preceding it will be left unmarked.
What do we fight for?

RWBY: Before the Dawn is a novel written by E.C. Myers, with help from Kerry Shawcross and Miles Luna. It was released July 21, 2020 by Scholastic, Inc.

The sequel to RWBY: After the Fall, focusing on several supporting characters from RWBY as they adjust to their new lives at Shade Academy. Teams CFVY (Coco, Fox, Velvet, and Yatsuhashi) and SSSN (Sun, Sage, Scarlet, and Neptune) have formed the Beacon Brigade, a group of students that survived the destruction of Beacon Academy during Volume 3. As they struggle to adjust to their new lives at Shade Academy, the students investigate The Crown, a criminal organization involved in human trafficking.

Before the Dawn provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: A downplayed case. While the book is advertised as sharing the spotlight between CFVY and SSSN, the story is predominantly focused on CFVY and Sun. Neptune fares best out of the rest of his teammates, getting an established backstory and his character fleshed out along with interacting with Fox and Yatsuhashi. Scarlet fares slightly worse, largely used to express the frustrations the team has with Sun. Sage however is completely Out of Focus, mainly stuck giving Sun the silent treatment with no real indication towards his personality or abilities and the only one who isn't a focus character.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the series proper, Sun is often rather carefree and supportive with his worst quality being that he's Innocently Insensitive at times, being described by Blake as very earnest, and even coming to the conclusion that while he had done it to help Blake, his running off on his team made him a horrible leader, leading to him deciding to go to Vacuo with his team to try and improve. Here, Sun is ignorant and dismissive of his team's issues with him, and repeatedly demonstrates Never My Fault over his running off and thinking the team just needs to get over their issues with him. It takes having the issues spelt out to him by Velvet for him to finally realize how shitty he's been to his team. His team-mates believe he's incapable of staying in one place for too long out of fear of growing attachments to either places or people, which pushes his friends away in the process.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Like After the Fall, the book is set up to explore a different main character's perspective in each chapter. However, the third act includes Jax and Gillian Asturias becoming viewpoint characters, as well, despite not being members of either Team CFVY or SSSN.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Part of what makes the Crownsmen so hard to fight is that they gain power from the Crown to function beyond their normal level. However, they're brainwashed as part of that process. Professor Rumpole, Sun, Velvet, and Yatsuhashi all fall victim to the brainwashing over the course of the story. Yatsuhashi's Semblance turns out to be the only effective counter to it, enabling him to break the brainwashing by manipulating their memories; he even has to use it on himself to break Jax's control over him.
  • Culture Clash: There's a lot of tension between the Vacuan students and the refugees from Beacon and Haven. The refugees struggle to understand and adapt to the harsh environment and culture of Vacuo, resulting in them accidentally coming across as ungrateful and rude. Meanwhile, the Vacuans don't understand what happened at Beacon and Haven in terms of either the threat or what the refugees experienced; they therefore see the refugees as people who give up and run when the going gets tough, and assume that these refugees won't stick around to defend Shade or Vacuo should anything happen.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • The book continues the focus given to Team CFVY from RWBY: After the Fall, but whereas that one had a larger focus on Coco and Fox, this one shifts the focus to Velvet and Yatsuhashi.
    • The book has Team CFVY share the limelight with Sun, after he was initially the deuteragonist in Blake's story lines. In particular, great focus is given on his background, psyche, and newfound friendship with Velvet.
    • The book introduces the Beacon Brigade, a group comprised of the people who survived the Fall of Beacon and came to Shade Academy. Among the Brigade are the surviving members of teams ABRN and BRNZ, with Arslan and Nolan in particular getting proper character exploration after being advertised extras in the series proper.
  • Deus ex Machina: Grimm suddenly being attracted to both Aura and negativity, despite the main show only establishing that Grimm are attracted to negativity. During the battle for Shade, the Grimm congregate on the battlefield as normal, but then attack only the Crownsmen because of their excessively powerful Auras. This saves the day for the Academy, who couldn't win without this unexpected twist. Fox reveals to Gillian that the Grimm are being attracted to the enhanced Aura she's given to the Crownsmen; while Coco does question if Fox is telling the truth, the Grimm largely ignore the Academy forces until the Crown is defeated.
  • Divided We Fall: Theodore enacts a team reshuffling to try and bring people closer together. No matter which kingdom they're from, the students are all horrified and very few of them adapt to the change well. The plan is Rumpole's, who is brainwashed at the time, and the consequence is to shift blame for the tensions onto the newcomers while ensuring the worst possible team combinations; experienced leaders become followers and inexperienced or poor leaders put in charge. Year groups are even mixed up so that first years and fourth years can end up together, and the entire experience leaves all the students poorly balanced, resentful and ill-matched. It's a deliberate attempt to destabilize the academy and undermine its defenses in preparation for the Crown's plan. It almost works.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Vacuo is a brutal kingdom, with danger everywhere. Not only are the Grimm a constant threat, the native wildlife is also extremely dangerous, and the desert itself is a constant threat. The refugee students from Vale and Mistral struggle to adjust to living in such a harsh, dangerous land.
  • Fight Clubbing: The Mirage is an underground club that holds cage matches. It's a front for The Crown, who use it to scout potential recruits.
  • Girl Posse: Team NDGO don't take kindly to the influx of refugee students, and are particularly harsh towards Velvet on multiple occasions. They adapt particularly badly to the team reshuffle and are quite hostile to the team-mates they end up with.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Zigzagged when Fox and Yatsuhashi "interrogate" Neptune. Neptune thinks they're doing this, but Fox just replies that they're both "bad cop" as long as Velvet's in danger. When they try to use Neptune's fear of water against him, he nearly has a panic attack; Yatsu quicly stops the routine, saying there's a line between being harsh and being a bully.
  • Incoming Ham: Headmaster Theodore's entrance involves him arriving voice first, booming out to the crowd of students "Good morning, Shade Academy!". From there it descends into him trying to encourage the students to spar with him.
    "Good morning, Shade Academy!" Headmaster Theodore's voice boomed over the crowd. "How are you doing?"
  • Irony: Huntsman are trained to kill the Grimm so as to defend humanity from their attacks. During the Crown's attack on Shade Academy however, the Grimm only attack the Crown due to their high aura levels, effectively making them Shade Academy's temporary allies. The students, and even the teachers, feel a little unnerved by such a unnatural situation.
  • Leader Wannabe: Nearly all of the reformed teams place leaders of the original teams beneath people who've never led before and have no aptitude for it, causing tension and fraying the teams before they start. The only exception is team NOVA since their leader Nebula was previously the leader of NDGO, but that's negated by the fact that there's another leader on the team (Arslan Atlan) who is decidedly unhappy with Nebula's leadership.
  • Lack of Empathy: Sun is called out on this behavior repeatedly through the story, unable to see why his team is angry with him, or how the group therapy sessions with the rest of the Battle of Beacon survivors helps them. When he does apologize for being rude at a previous session, he immediately ruins it by acting like he was doing them a favor because of how apparently elitist the group looks to outsiders. It's noted that he doesn't really feel bad for Velvet when she is distressed at being separated from Yatsu during the sudden assignment of new teams. His bond with Velvet and Coco makes him realize how his behavior is coming off to others, and he improves as his understanding grows.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Jax is an arrogant, delusional, selfish man who has absolutely no problem manipulating other people into doing his bidding. This directly leads him to be manipulated in return in order to defeat him. His Semblance allows him to control the minds of others, brainwashing them to do his bidding. When he and Yatsu fight for the fate of Shade Academy, Yatsu can only stop him by using his own Semblance to manipulate him by wiping his memories.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Threefold.
    • The Crown is this to Salem and her forces. Salem seeks to cause the destruction of the four kingdoms so as to claim the Relics for an unknown purpose, and cares for little outside her own goals. The Crown however seeks to abolish Shade Academy and reinstate the monarchy, believing Vacuo to be weakened by what the other kingdoms have done to it and desiring to subjugate the other kingdoms under their rule.
    • Bertilak Celadon is an amoral and racist huntsman, however they only worked for the Crown because they were Only in It for the Money, and doesn't subscribe to their ideals in the slightest. Fittingly, once they betray him, he turns his back on them and decides to hunt down his ex-partner Carmine.
    • Gillian may be one of the two leaders of the Crown and despise the other kingdoms, but she has no real faith in the cause of the Crown, only apart of the group because she's a Love Martyr for her brother Jax, wanting to make his desires a reality. Once it becomes clear though that they've lost and he betrays her, she aids Yatsuhashi is stopping him once and for all.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: A lot of the survivors of Beacon's fall become that much more determined to become stronger so they can keep Shade from suffering the same fate. They get their chance when the Crown attacks.
  • Not Brainwashed: After discovering that the Crown has been mind controlling people into service, a secondary threat rears up in trying to figure out who's brainwashed and who's sided with the Crown willingly. When Yatsuhashi found fellow Shade student Umber in the Mirage, he uses his Semblance to erase a few seconds of her memory. This always frees victims from the mind control, but Umber proves to be a true member of the Crown and helps capture Yatsuhashi. In the end, when Jax is defeated, Gill reveals he had never had her under his control until the very end. She sided with him out of love for her twin brother.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Team CFVY is investigating the Crown, but are receiving next to no help from the locals. In the beginning, Yatsuhashi makes disparaging comments that no one would want to invade Vacuo and that it has nothing worth taking, and Sun points out that callous remarks like that are the reason why the natives aren't receptive to outsiders like the refugees from Beacon and Haven.
  • Out of Focus: While Team SSSN as a whole gets a lot of focus thanks to sharing the spotlight with Team CFVY, Sage Ayana receives the least focus overall, only having some basic character traits displayed.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": To get entrance into the Fight Club called the Mirage, the guard posted asks "What do we fight for?". To get in to the Crown's meeting place, you have to reply, "for Crown and Kingdom."
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Vacuan people are tough as nails, with a strong belief in the survival of the fittest. The people are more accustomed to hardship than the people of other kingdoms, accepting tragedy and suffering as simply the way of the world. Even civilians are prepared to defend themselves when necessary, and used to dealing with not only the Grimm but the numerous types of deadly wildlife.
  • Rightful King Returns: The history classes talk about a time when monarchs ruled Vacuo, but detail is sparse because so much of Vacuo's history has been lost. However, every so often, people show up claiming descent from the ancient kings. Vacuans generally don't care about these sorts of people; they're too busy trying to survive the present. The Crown's goal is to restore the kingdom's ancient monarchy because the Asturias family believes it's descended from royalty and that they possess an inherited birthmark to prove it. The twins' father originally didn't believe the family story until he read a book that had been published by Professor Ozpin, encouraging people to explore the truths found in the tales of Remnant's history. His decision to believe those tales led to him raising the twins to believe it, too. Unlike him, however, they decided to do something about it.
  • Rousing Speech: At Velvet's urging, Sun sends out one to the people of Vacuo, urging them to fight against the Crown.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Scarlet is extremely angry with Sun's history of running off to do his own thing when he's supposed to be the leader of their team. He's also upset with the way Sun refuses to acknowledge his mistakes and apologize. Almost all of their interactions involve Scarlet using venomous snark to pick on Sun's failings as both a leader and friend.
  • Series Continuity Error: Much like the prior novel, the Fall of Beacon is made reference to by several characters as taking place over a year prior to the events of the novel. According to Sun, his team had been at Shade Academy for a month since the end of the prior novel, and he makes the same claim. However, In-Universe the details on how long the timeskip between the end of Volume 3 and the start of Volume 4 actually was is vague, with details In-Universe suggesting a year hasn't passed. One of the most notable being Volume 5 having the attack on Haven start before the fall semester, but the Fall of Beacon happening during the fall before changing to winter. Even in Volume 6 when Sun admits to Blake he's taking his team to Shade, its said only two weeks had passed between then and the end of Volume 5, meaning winter still hadn't come yet and a full year hasn't passed.
  • True Companions:
    • The Beacon Brigade is a group formed by the survivors of the Fall of Beacon, who come to see each other as close friends if not family. They have to unanimously invite others into the group, and while there is initial tension, by the books conclusion Team SSSN has fully joined the group. Sun himself ends up bonding a lot with the leader of the Brigade, Velvet, over the course of the book.
    • While there may be resentment towards him due to his constant running off, after Sun apologizes, he is shocked to find his team declares they would always be a team regardless of his screw ups, he just needs to let them be there for him.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Nebula is supposed to be Velvet's team leader, but Rumpole insists they fight each other. Nebula uses the opportunity to vent frustrations and lays a severe beatdown on Velvet. When Rumpole insists the fight continues even when Velvet is trapped in sand and unable to defend herself, something even Nebula thinks is going too far, Nebula's old team-mate Octavia and Arslan step forward, angry with Rumpole for creating a scenario where the teammates are forced to fight each other rather than doing something to bring the new teams together.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Throughout the novel, tension flares up between members of the same teams. In particular, Team SSSN deals with their resentment over Sun's tendency to abandon them and go off on his own adventures.