A Dance of Cloaks (Shadowdance #1) by David Dalglish
Age: Adult / Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Rating: 4 stars
Rosie Thinks: The way Dalglish came up with this story was thinking about which character in his Half-Orc series would make a good side-story - and his one side-story somehow ended up into the Shadowdance Series, books I absolutely adore! Rather than the magic and elves and orcs of his Half-Orc story, Dalglish wanted to write a story more focused on the struggles of the people - in his words, "I could focus on humans, the low and the desperate".
Aaron Felhorn, our protagonist, is introduced to us in a brutal, emotive prologue, which shows his quiet, watchful nature, and the beginnings of his powerful father, Thren Felhorn, crafting him into the perfect heir to his legacy. The story then fastforwards, and we're introduced to the bloody war between the three most powerful nobles, the Trifect, and the thief guilds, headed by Thren Felhorn. Aaron is 13 years-old and has already witnessed and participated in acts that have forced him to grow up too quick. When he meets his new teacher, Robert Haern, Aaron's mind is opened to the idea of right and wrong, and gives him the power to break away from his father's cruel teachings.
The slow escalation of the war took a backseat for me as Aaron's character was developed and explored. He is torn between two sides - that of Thren Felhorn's merciless, cold-killer heir, and 'Haern', a protector with a keen sense of morality. I truly love Aaron and his struggle with himself as he tries to find out who he is and what he stands for. Although this series is focused on Aaron, this novel has a large cast of characters that were all part of their own subplots. Each of them moved the plot forward in their own ways, and created so many twists and turns that made me not want to put it down. It was a convoluted mess at times, yet it all unravelled perfectly, with no story thread left unexplored.
It is mostly in close 3rd person POV, but sometimes the perspective would switch to nearby characters for a bit - this is something I truly hate, but thankfully, the plot was absorbing enough that I didn't get too annoyed about it. The only other thing that keeps this book from getting a 5 star rating from me was that the dialogue sometimes verged on juvenile and overdramatic. Luckily, this only happened a few times.
To me, this is a classic 'mafia boss and the heir' story with a fantasy setting - although saying that doesn't include the complexities Dalglish has included in this. The action is non-stop, and I have a feeling the next few books are going to be even bigger and better!