A Dance of Blades by David Dalglish – Book Review

A Dance of Blades by David Dalglish

Book Review

Dalglish_ADanceOfBlades_TPWhen I reviewed book one, Dance of Cloaks, I compared it to Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, which seemed to be an obvious source of inspiration for Dalglish. As Night Angel developed it shifted from a story of smaller forces to one of an epic scale.

Dance of Blades instead functions much the same as the first of the series– assassins, plotting-through-marriage, and revelations of identity, without enough to be different beside the setup for book three.

Don’t get me wrong; the story is still fun and filled with action and intrigue to keep you hooked. The relationship between reader and characters is so strong that they practically beg you to keep turning the page and say “Just one more.”

It’s been five years since Thren’s failed attack on the Trifect. Haern has fully assumed the mantle of the Watcher, a killer of thieves that prowls the streets of Veldaren signing his name in the blood of his victims. Alyssa and Zusa have continued working together, Alyssa raising her child Nathaniel and Zusa her most loyal guard. Veliana has installed a puppet leader of the Ash Guild, but she finds her control of him is slipping just as a mysterious masked man named Deathmask comes looking to join.

Perhaps the greatest addition to the cast was Ghost, a mercenary from a land away. An ebony-skinned man who paints his face white (the source of his moniker), Ghost is a complex character that serves as the avatar of the theme of identity. While he is introduced as nothing more than a skilled killer, his is the character that gets the most development and reader attachment as his motives and origins become clear. Ghost’s reasoning behind adopting a new name and hiding his true visage with paint is strong for it’s complexity and made me stop to ponder the question of identity, a theme that initially began with Aaron/Haern in book one.

The biggest detracting point lay with Alyssa Gemcroft. It’s been five years since the plotting of book one where she was engaged to a man who didn’t love her and only wanted her title. Book two, unfortunately, is much of the same, only using her son has a chess piece instead of Alyssa’s affections. With a character that has inherited such tremendous wealth and is an acting leader of one of the Trifect families, Alyssa has amazing potential to be a powerful female lead in a male-dominated society. Put her past these surface-value conflicts that has more to do with winning her hand or controlling her through her feelings as a mother and give us a character to be proud of.

Dance of Blade neither dramatically succeeds nor fails. The plot, characterization, and events of this book echo too strongly with the first book to be considered anything more than a continuation of the first book’s plot. The first two books give the impression of a larger book that was divided, something that could have worked if not for the time gap and other hallmarks that divided the two.

I’m excited to continue with this multi-book epic and see what happens next. As much as I pushed against it, the “more of the same” structure hasn’t sullied the characters or series, if taken at face value. As a standalone title Dance of Blades would work fantastically, I’m just more hesitant at how well it manages as a second book.

Book three, Dance of Mirrors, is next and I’m eager and hopeful to see where Dalglish takes us this time. With any luck there will be a new threat to challenge our hero and favored characters that takes us away from the now well-worn path.



A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish – Book Review

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Book Review

(*Small Spoilers – Reader BEWARE*)

9780356502786More than anything else A Dance of Cloaks is novel that takes clear inspiration from authors such as Peter V. Brett and Brent Weeks and crafts a story that, like The Warded Man or The Way of Shadows, focuses on deep, personal character development.

While there is an array of characters that are the focus, it’s Aaron Felhorn who stands at the center. The youngest son to the master assassin and head of the Spider Guild, Thren Felhorn, Aaron has been trained since the age of 8 to be the perfect heir. He’s been forbidden two things: love and religion. Instead he’s been taught absolute obedience to his father, including murdering his older brother in cold blood early on in the book.
The plot focuses on Thren’s plans to unify the assassin guilds through force and end a war between the guilds and the Trifect, three families of great wealth and power (the Gemcrofts, Conningtons, and Keenans).

Meanwhile, Alyssa Gemcroft, heir to the Gemcroft’s, has to outmaneuver her betrothed, who cares only for her name and wealth. Joining her are the Faceless, three women that have been punished for their sins and wield shadow magic from their god Karak in order to help absolve them and perform the commands of their priests.

Dalglish handles the themes of religion with a deft hand, using an old fallback of a “dark” god against a “light” god. Karak, the “dark” god, is more prevalent in the series, we do get a glimpse at the workings of the priests of the god Ashhur towards the end. It’s an interesting plot point that will hopefully feature more prominently in forthcoming volumes, even if it’s just to see more dark paladins doing battle – which included some of the most interesting uses of the magic system and direct fight scenes in the book.

Through Kayla, Aaron discovers infatuation and love, and through an elderly tutor, Robert Haern, he eventually finds religion. These ideologies infect Thren’s perfect heir and soon Aaron begins questioning everything his life has meant until this point. These feelings boil over after he chooses to protect a priest’s daughter and betray his father by not assassinating her.

It’s at this point that the book really shines as Aaron’s internal struggle between remaining loyal and obedient to his father and what he believes to be right and fair fight for dominance in his psyche.

Following a life-altering moment Aaron dons a mask, a move that’s used to hide his identity from other’s in the guild as well as to help him mentally differentiate between another identity. Aaron’s use of a mask and alternate identity is evocative of an almost superhero alter-ego and it’ll be curious to see how this will play out in following books as Aaron forges a place for himself rather than the one his father had planned.

Following in the steps of other authors, notably G.R.R. Martin, from whom Dalglish has said he was inspired, A Dance of Cloaks does feature a number of characters and POVs that keep you bouncing from character to character when all you want to read is more on Aaron and Thren. While this switching does need a touch more work to be as seamless and engaging as possible, Dalglish does an admirable job and the pacing remains excellent throughout.

David Dalglish is one of those few authors who chose to self-publish his novels and has since gotten a book deal due to the success of his series. The first four books in the series have already been digitally published and now Orbit will release each book in consecutive months, the sequels to A Dance of Cloakscoming in November and December. A move that’s reminiscent of another series from Orbit, Brent Weeks Night Angel Trilogy, which were released in October, November, and December of 2008.

Dalglish is well on his way to join the ranks of Peter V. Brett and Brent Weeks as influential authors in a new generation of fantasy. Who knows, maybe in another few years The Shadowdance Trilogy will be the inspiration of a new author looking to breakout.

Perfect Shadow by Brent Weeks – Book Review

Perfect Shadow By Brent Weeks

PerfectShadow_cvr300dpiPerfect Shadow is a look into the 700-year-old immortal wetboy we grew to love and admire from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Trilogy, Acaelus Thorne, a man soon to be remade into Durzo Blint. This novella gives us a glimpse at the man before he became bitter and disillusioned by the mission given to him by his friend, his king, Jorsin Alkestes all those centuries ago.

This book was released long after Night Angel Trilogy first appeared and features spoilers for those books. It’s debatable whether those spoilers are enough to deter you from reading this before Way of Shadows, but it’s enough to merit a mention and as such proceed with caution: Here, there be spoilers.

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Durzo Blint is a man that has lived many lives over many centuries. Often he would be a hero, other times, a simple man trying to live a normal, quiet life. He fellin love and had many wives, sometimes even children. It’s not the callus love of loneliness but rather a true kind of love that is probably the reason he’s still alive nearly seven centuries later.

Its the brutal death of the pregnant wife and young daughter that drives Gaelan Starfire away from his farm and eventually to Cenaria to meet Gwinvere Kirena, the Mistress of Pleasure.

In Cenaria he trains with Scarred Wrable in the ways of the wetboy, eventually killing the other wetboys employees by the Sa’Kage and installing “Momma K” as the new head of the criminal empire. Sharp-eyed readers will see subtle allusions to characters and places from the Night Angel Trilogy – including the butcher Hu Gibbett.

It’s a solid novella that isn’t constrained by telling its multiple narratives in chronological order, instead trusting the reader to be able to follow along.

“I’ve turned my back on my king. Fire pursues me, but emptiness can’t be threatened. Emptiness holds nothing dear. Emptiness knows no fear.”

Concurrently with the thread line involving Durzo Blint’s introduction to the world of the Sa’Kage of Cenaria and the wetboys that inhabit it we get a chance to see Durzo swindle a man from the Society of the Second Sun in order to steal his ka’kari, the red, and its subsequent banishment into the heart of Mt. Tenji, a soon-to-be re-active volcano. It’s at this moment that we also get a glimpse into the far past, the moment Jorsin Alkestes used Curoch to seal the krul around Black Burrow and burn every living thing for miles around.

It’s a poignant look filled with deep, philosophical thoughts concerning the origins and the man we’ve grown to know intimately in the time of the original trilogy and a stark reminder that immortality can weigh heavily on the soul.

“One shadow was different. One shadow stood, defiant, one fist raised, edges perfect, outline crisp – Acaelus’s shadow. The others were dim, washed out. Bleached by a flood of light that had continued even after the men who had cast them were burned away. But through all the fire, one man had stood.”

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Book Synopsis:

shortfiction2“I got a bit of prophecy,” the old assassin said. “Not enough to be useful, you know. Just glimpses. My wife dead, things like that to keep me up late at night. I had this vision that I was going to be killed by forty men, all at once. But now that you’re here, I see they’re all you. Durzo Blint.”

Durzo Blint? Gaelan had never even heard the name.


Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble. But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.