Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish - Book Review

From the publisher: The Underworld rules the city of Veldaren. Thieves, smugglers, assassins... they fear only one man.  

Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. All the thieves' guilds of the city are under his unflinching control. If he has his way, death will soon spill out from the shadows and into the streets.

Aaron is Thren's son, trained to be heir to his father's criminal empire. He's cold, ruthless - everything an assassin should be. But when Aaron risks his life to protect a priest's daughter from his own guild, he glimpses a world beyond piston, daggers, and the iron rule of his father.
Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power

David Dalglish is the latest author to sign with a major publisher after starting his career by self-publishing.  A Dance of Cloaks is the first book in the Orbit reissue of the Shadowdance trilogy.  This trilogy is the origin of Dalglish's popular character Haern the Watcher.

Based on the popularity of David Dalglish and his success story, I jumped at the chance to review A Dance of Cloaks.  After reading it, I'd say it's a mixed bag.  There is something familiar about the story of a young boy who is destined to be the heir to his great father.  However, Aaron Felhorn isn't certain he wants to follow in the footsteps of Thren Felhorn, the head of the most powerful Thieves' guild in Veldaren.  Thren has a major plot going to seize control of the city and eliminate the three powerful merchant families, and Aaron is to play a role in this whether he wants to or not.

Along the way, the reader is introduced to a rather large cast of characters, many of whom only play cursory roles to the main plot line.  The story begins to sprawl like an epic, but in a very claustrophobic city and its surroundings.  At times it felt like Dalglish had much more story to tell, but he was wrangling the characters and plot to prevent it from becoming to large.  Many of the secondary characters were rather flat, either due to lack of background and motivation (which may be revealed in the sequels) or authorial lack of interest.  However, this wasn't a poorly written story.

The stand-out part of A Dance of Cloaks is the character of Aaron Felhorn.  The familiar trope of the youth destined for greatness is subverted by Dalglish, and he has created a very engaging main character.  Any issues I had with the rest of the story were put aside any time Aaron came on the scene.  The development of him, both physically and morally, are the heart of the story, and Dalglish shines in this area.

A Dance of Cloaks is an above-average fantasy, and is worth reading for the character of Aaron Felhorn.  I'm hopeful that as the trilogy progresses, Dalglish focuses more on Aaron.  It is also worth seeing if the large cast is tightened up.  I look forward to reading future installments in the Shadowdance trilogy.

I received a preview copy of this book from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review.

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