A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

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A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: Dalglish populates an entire city with distinct characters and moves the story between them at a frantic pace. You may not love any of them, but you'll be gripped by each one.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356502786

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A couple of years ago, David Dalglish self-published a book called A Dance of Cloaks, the first in his Shadowdance series. After finding an audience and, subsequently, a publisher, it is now released in a revised edition which the author himself feels to be an improvement.

Thren Felhorn is the leader of the Spider Guild and is a name feared by everyone in Veldaren. For good reason, for Thren has united the Guilds, those groups populated by the thieves and murderers of the city. Thren’s long term aim is to lead the Guilds in a war against the Trifect – the three richest families who control the majority of the city’s legal activities.

Having killed his first man and his older brother aged eight, Aaron Felhorn is Thren’s heir and is proving to be as good as his father, even escaping attempts on his own life. Until, that is, he is sent to kill the daughter of a priest. Something about the way she prays makes him think that not everyone his father hates and not all his father does is right, suddenly Thren has internal squabbles to worry about, as well as making plans for the Trifect at their bi-annual meeting, the Kensgold.

Dalglish has put an awful lot into this book and it shows in the number of twists and turns that occur during the story. There are several Guilds and many of the Trifect have their own families and those they have wronged during their business dealings who are looking for revenge as much as the Guilds and aren’t above a little kidnapping and murder to get it.

The novel is very character driven, as the speciality of the Guilds is thievery and murder and they do it all first hand, not with magic. But Dalglish writes them so well that even as they kill, you find yourself agreeing with their aims, even if their methods might not be entirely comfortable. On the other hand, the Trifect come across as being quite despicable. Madelyn Keenan in particular came across as a version of Marie Antoinette, demanding the comforts of home as the streets fill with rioters, so much so that the killers seem like the most reasonable of the factions.

The size of the cast means that to follow them all effectively the pace of the novel needs to be kept very high to fit them all in. Dalglish achieves this admirably and whilst some characters get a larger share of the story than others, these are the ones who end up with the larger share of the spoils when the book comes to an end. There were very few characters that I felt Dalglish had treated harshly in terms of the attention he devotes to his characters.

Personally, there were a couple of aspects of the story I would have liked to have seen a little more of. Aaron’s change from loyal son to a killer to rebellious teenager happened a little too quickly and I would have liked a little more about how this came about. There were also brief references to competing religions with the priests of Ashhur and Karak getting mentions but with no obvious reasons as to why the religions are incompatible and what each stands for.

It may be that my own faith makes me feel that these elements were lacking and other readers may not need any more than is here. However, more on these would have impacted on the pacing of the story and even with my own preferences, losing that would have done far more damage to the novel than what I felt was missing.

This was an excellently paced, character driven fantasy novel. There was a lot of blood shed on the streets of Veldaren and whilst this may be a little much for some readers, I do like dark, bloody fantasy of the type that Dalglish has written here and he’s written it very well. The best thing he has done has whetted the appetite not just for reading this book again but for continuing with the series.

This may be the best opening novel in a fantasy series since I read Odalisque (Percheron) by Fiona McIntosh, which is well worth a look.

Buy A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish at Amazon.com.


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