A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

(8.0/10)

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 poison, daggers and the iron rule of his father.

Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

Dance of Cloaks was a rather enjoyable read, set in a world where the rich and powerful families of Veldaren are locked in a bloody war with the thief guilds. To me it seemed to have just the right balance of action, romance and politics, and although the story could have been more in detailed, it worked well.

The story follows several characters, although the central and possibly most important of those characters is Thren Felhorn, the leader of the Spider's Guild. Thren has great plans for Veldaren, attempting to defeat a Triad of rich merchants who practically run the city under a useless king. Following in his footsteps is his young son Aaron, who is being trained to be the ultimate killer and assassin until his training goes wrong and meets Kayla and Hearn.

Thren is a ruthless leader who demands respect from everyone and punishes those who defy him or turn against him. The excitement that is generated as he realises the climax of 5 or more years of plotting is finally coming to an end is fun to read. Although the book started off a bit slow and confusing everything seemed to come together nicely for an action packed ending with a few surprise twists. There were some points when I could not fully understand why something was happening but, like all good books, it made sense at the end.

The evolution of Aaron from a boy who blindly follows his father's orders into a young man who thinks for himself is interesting to see. I am always curious to read stuff like this in books, to see how the author can pull it off and if it is convincing. I am happy to say that I think David Dalglish managed it. Again, as with most of the book, I think that he could have done so with more detail but Aaron's adventures into the night as he grows reminded me somewhat of Zorro and Robin Hood.

On the other hand, Thren's struggle when he realises that his son isn't exactly what he planned is also good to read about as a father who struggles with what is best  for himself, his family or his ambition.

The secondary storylines involving characters like Alyssa Gemcroft and her father were also fun, showing a different aspect of the father/child relationship, this time with the child being too ambitious. I think Maynard Gemcroft was my favourite character in the story, taking everything in his stride and preparing for everything.

In all this book was a good way to kill a few hours, it was entertaining and had enjoyable characters. I will most likely go on to read the next book in the series and hope that the writer goes on to explore more of the world he has created.

Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish (Shadowdance #1)
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Orbit (8 Oct 2013)

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A Dance of Cloaks reader reviews

from USA

A Dance of Cloaks is-I’m my opinion-a fantastic whirlwind of adventure, emotions, and character progression. While it has its faults, it quickly makes up for it with its high-octane action that keeps you invested and eager for more. Dalglish paints a both beautiful and haunting picture of the city of Valderen by contrasting the view between characters of different walks of life. Where one character may see the beauty and goodness in the people of the city, another will reveal the scum hiding just under the surface. All in all, A Dance of Cloaks is a fantastic read, and a powerful starting point for a high fantasy book series like Shadow Dance.

from Ireland

While I undertsand that book reviews are hugely subjective I have to take issue with marking any of Dalglish's novels as highly as 8, while another recent review gives 6.5 to Julian May's The Many Coloured Land. Let me make it clear I am not particularly a fan of Julian May but he does have some distinct advantages over David Dalglish and those are that he can write passably well, can construct an intricate plot and describe character to a standrad that Dalglish can only dream of. I despair for the quality of this site when such positive reviews are laid at the feet of writers who would be better served finding an alternative line of work.

5.7/10 from 3 reviews

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