A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish‏

Summary from Goodreads

Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Marshalling the thieves’ guilds under his control, he declares war against the Trifect, an allegiance of wealthy and powerful nobles.

Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since birth to be Thren’s heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.

Guilds twist and turn, trading allegiances for survival. The Trifect weakens, its reputation broken, its money dwindling. The players take sides as the war nears its end, and Thren puts in motion a plan to execute hundreds.

Only Aaron can stop the massacre and protect those he loves…

Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

Paperback, 448 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Orbit (first published August 16th 2010)
 
My Review
 
Wow! A Dance of Cloaks is an epic first instalment in the Shadow Dance series. It swept me off my feet and trailed me along on a super tense and action packed adventure.

This is a personal thing: I’m terrible with people’s names and places – this book is FULL of both and it took me quite some time to get to grips with all the details (I still don’t think I know the half of them).

What I loved the most were the fierce women that played behind the scenes and I thought were the real dangerous threats. They truly kicked ass and in a male dominated world full of blood and battle that’s quite the feat.

David Dalglish writes with precision and with great attention to detail. I felt every blade and every blow like I was in the thick of the action myself. The world building is very in-depth, complex, extremely inviting and I very easily got lost in it.

There are some of the most interesting characters in this story. I’ll tell you about a few of my most favourites:

Aaron: He is so intelligent and I love how he always tries to do the right thing. He is strong, young and develops beautifully from start to finish. I can’t wait to get to know him a little better…

Thren: He is a ruthless, cut throat leader that is dominant and a serious force. You would most definitely not want to get on his bad side. I loved the way he used trickery, manipulations and brute force to get everything his own way.

The Faceless: This intriguing group of women are seriously fierce, they fight with beautiful brutality and ease. Out of everybody  found these women the most interesting.

The lead up to the ending is spectacular, everything is on point and I was riveted. I’m not going to try and sum up this story because I would fail epically (see summary above).

A Dance of Cloaks is a fantastic book that has a little bit of everything going for it. Dalglish knows his stuff and he sets the perfect setting for his fabulously moreish story. Fans of A Game of Thrones should most definitely take note of this extremely exciting first book in the Shadow Dance series. Bring on book 2!

4.5 / 5 Stars

*Special thanks to Orbit for the review copy*

Interview with David Dalglish

Q: In A Dance of Cloaks there is such an interesting mix of characters. In a world filled with blood, money, conflict and epic battle scenes, it seems pretty male dominated. But it’s the women who are the strongest characters, pulling the strings behind the scenes – I think they are some of the fiercest women in fiction. Did you set out with strong female characters in mind for this story?

It wasn’t a goal I consciously set out to meet when I very first began the series. It was more that I wanted all the characters to fit this brutal, dark world, and shockingly enough, women just happen to live in that same world as the men. It’d affect them, change them, just like anyone else. I did try to have characters have different struggles, ones that made sense for them to have. Alyssa Gemcroft was certainly never designed to be a melee powerhouse trying to kill in the dark, but instead struggling with discovering just what her position was, and how skilled she actually was at navigating her confusing world (no different than any teenager, really).

When things go to crap for her, I’ve gotten flak for having her feel it is her fault. It certainly didn’t help that in the pre-Orbit book these feelings of hers came after a rape scene (which has now been removed). I know that many women who endure such horrible situations do feel guilty, regardless of how insanely not true that is. But there’s having a character feel something, and conveying that I as the author believe something, and I did a freaking terrible job clearly separating the two, especially in that pre-Orbit edition. Alyssa made a mistake, thought her ideas were wiser than her father’s (again, common youthful behavior). Because of it, terrible things happened. With Alyssa, I wanted her to overcome these results. I wanted her not to hide from the consequences, nor avoid them, but instead to rise above them, conquering them.

Strongly tied to Alyssa’s story is Zusa, one of the Faceless, a scarred woman living in an ultra-strict religious sect. I wanted her to be mysterious but powerful, and someone painfully aware of just how male-centric the world could be at times. That she’d rebel while simultaneously helping to protect Alyssa from another male seeking to overthrow her claim on her family’s wealth was definitely not accidental.

From the other side I had Veliana and Kayla. One was a woman who had risen to power in the Ash Guild, the other someone who had avoided the guilds for as long as she could, only to be eventually seduced by its power and wealth. I wanted them both interesting, likable (Kayla in particular, given her relationship with the main hero, Aaron). Their fates are wildly different come the end of the book, but I thought they each showed a glimpse of the underworld from a unique perspective. Plus they were awesome. And that’s really what fuels all my major characters. I want them to seem awesome, and cool, and to have people want to name their D&D and World of Warcraft characters after them, regardless the character’s gender.

Q: The Faceless were truly frightening, tell us a bit about them?

Quick backstory. With A Dance of Cloaks, I was telling a prequel about one of my more favorite characters, Haern the Watcher, who first appeared in the Half-Orcs series. Well, with the Half-Orcs, I’d done plenty involving the two deities, Karak and Ashhur. So when I went to bring in more involving

Karak, the dark god of Order, I wanted to try to do something new. Given the whole theme of assassins and discrete, underhanded dealings, I tried to imagine just what Karak’s followers would have in that regard. And from that came the Faceless.

I started with the simple idea of people who were exiled from the temple, yet still called to serve. What could cause that? Given how I’ve always tried to imbue in Karak everything that can be perverted or ruined involving faith and belief, the idea of women exiled for their own sexuality wasn’t too far of a leap. I covered their bodies in wrappings, hid their face and eyes behind a cloth, banished them from holy ground, and had them viewed as inferior in every way to the priests in their temple. And then to emphasize the ridiculousness of it all, I had the Faceless remain faithful. In fact, they’d always been faithful, but within the enclosed confines of the hidden temple, such things were irrelevant when it came to sexuality, doctrine, and punishment.

Once I had that beginning, giving them powers just came about based on making them more shadowy, stealthy versions of Karak’s dark paladins. And as usual for me, if it sounded awesome, or would make a fight scene spiffy, I let them be able to do it. And then of course I just couldn’t resist. If I had these feminine, rebellious outcast versions of dark paladins, well, how could I not send an actual dark paladin after them?

Q: I loved Alyssa’s transformation, can we expect to see a different side to her in A Dance of Blades?

With A Dance of Blades, it’s been five years since Cloaks, and she’s still a single mother raising her son, Nathaniel. Obviously, there’s plenty of people unhappy with such a situation. So while dealing with outside pressure, she also must try to find a way to raise Nathaniel safely. More and more, I have her starting to realize why her father raised her as he did, and she sees his decisions in her own. I think it helps show her maturing, growing older and realizing that just maybe her father actually understood things far better than she ever gave him credit for.

But at the same time, I’ve always wanted Alyssa to have that independent streak, and a firm belief that she is capable of accomplishing things on her own. And when Nathaniel’s life is put in danger, well…let’s just say you don’t want to be the one to blame.

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