Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review - Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Available at Amazon
DANCE OF CLOAKS is the first book I’ve read by David Dalglish, author of the Half-Orc series.  It is a stand-alone book that completely captivated me and there was no need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this one.  From the shocking twist in the prologue until the very last word, this book demands your attention.

Thren Felhorn is a ruthless and powerful assassin and guild master of the Spiders – a guild of thieves in the city of Veldaren.  He rules through fear, intimidation and murder.  He suffers no fools, no questions, and absolutely no disobedience to his orders.  Any who dare try are met with the cold steel of a dagger.  There are no exceptions to this rule, not even for his son and this is the crux of the story. 

His youngest son, Aaron, is being groomed to be Thren’s heir and from the age of eight Aaron has obeyed his father without question.  At thirteen he begins to see the world differently when he refuses to carry out his father’s order to kill a young girl.  He glimpses something foreign to him – goodness and unwavering faith and his quiet rebellion against his father begins.  The author is masterful in letting the reader into Aaron’s thoughts.  We feel his pain, his anguish, his struggles and his guilt over what he is becoming and his efforts to change. 

The story is filled with well fleshed-out characters from various members of the thieving guilds, to the nobles of the Trifect, but most commendable, this author shines the light on strong female characters.  From Kayla, the assassin, to Alyssa Gemcroft and the Faceless Ones, the women play a prominent part in the book.

This book is non-stop action filled with twists and turns that continually surprise you.  Anyone picking up this book better reserve ample free time because once you start it, you won’t want to stop reading until the final word is read.

 Chat with author David Dalglish

1. Aaron Felhorn aka Haern is a character you have introduced in your Half-Orc series. What inspired you to write Aaron's story?
After my father finished helping me with my second book, he was clearly enamored with one of my characters. “You know who has potential for a spin-off?” he asked me. “The Watcher. I think he’s your most fleshed out character of them all.”

This struck me as a little funny. I always worried he was my most shallow, and least amusing. And I originally told him no, I didn’t have any story in mind. But the idea stuck with me, and so I went back and reread the rather pitiful history I gave for him in the second book. I realized that even in that, there were the bones for a wonderful story.

Much to my wife’s chagrin (she’s really, really been wanting me to finish book five) I sat down and cranked out a prologue, going way back to when Haern the Watcher was only a small child of eight. By the end of the scene, I knew I had a story to tell.

2. Dance of Cloaks is filled with strong female characters that hold their own against the men.  Which one was the most difficult to write?  Which one is your favorite?
The hardest were the Faceless Women. One of my editors kept mocking me when he read through their dialog, saying I either sounded like Shakespeare or Yoda. Trying to give personality to faceless, featureless women who’ve been indoctrinated into a fanatical, oppressive religion is no easy feat. I think I did all right. By the end, I had grown rather attached to one, and ended up saving her from my original plotted path of her dying.

My favorite was Alyssa Gemcroft. She’s such a different character for me. No special powers. No magic. No skill with blade or bow. She suffers terribly, but grows throughout the novel and by the end ascends to her (rightful) place of power. Loved it.

3. Your one-on-one fight scenes are incredible.  Do you have any martial arts training to help you choreograph the action or do you see it as a movie playing in your head?
It’s all just a movie in my head. Fight scenes are easily the hardest part of writing for me. I spent much of my high school life devouring the Drizzt books by R. A. Salvatore, so I’ve adopted many of his characteristics when it comes to combat. I want readers to know what’s going on, to feel like they’re in the moment, but at the same time give a feeling of epic grandeur to the whole shebang. It’s a tough balance, but I think more often than not I pull it off.

4. The struggle between the two religions of the time is compelling especially the fates of the Faceless Ones.  Is this modeled after the classic Catholic vs. Protestant dogmas we've seen throughout history?  
The two religions are fun for me. I wanted to create a dark, evil religion with Karak. At the same time, I wanted it to be believable. So many times you’ll see cults depicted with sacrifices and murderous leaders who’ve gone insane, and I always wonder who in their right mind would join something like that. With Karak, I have leaders who are calm, intelligent, and faithful. It’s only when you dig down, when you search for their final purpose or see how they treat those who err (such as the Faceless Women) that you see their true danger.

As for their opposite, Ashhur, I again wanted to do something I so rarely see. I wanted the ‘good’ religion to actually be…well, good. Nine times out of ten when you see a religious figure in a fantasy setting or movie, they’re going to be hypocritical, unhelpful, quick to anger, and working for the bad guy. Besides, with so much darkness and murder in my book, sometimes it is comforting to know I have a nice little beacon within that stands for something more.

5. The one question everyone will want to know is will there be a sequel to DOC?
Yes, tentatively titled A Dance of Daggers. I don’t know when I’ll write it. So far, it appears demand for the Half-Orcs is far greater, so I’ll try to appease my fans as they desire most. Perhaps after I finish book five I’ll come back and detail Haern’s triumph over the Trifect and the thieves’ guilds.

6. Do you have any plans to devote another book to any of your other characters in your Half-Orc series?
The paladins, particularly Lathaar, will be getting their own book soon. I wrote their story once while in high school, but needless to say, it needs a rewrite. I hope to crank out a short story or two to help fill in the back story for a few other characters, but for now, Shadows of Grace (book four) is top priority.

7. What are some of your favorite fan reactions to your books?
I’ve gotten so many e-mails it’s staggering, and not just from the U.S. Just tonight I received an e-mail insisting that for him, I was on par with Terry Goodkind and Raymond Feist. Another said he preferred me over David Eddings. These aren’t names I’m supposed to be beside. I’m a silly idiot self-publishing his stories of half-orcs and paladins and shadow-walking assassins. I shake my head and wonder what’s wrong with these people, they can’t say stuff like that and really mean it…can they?

8. What are you working on now?
As I’ve said before, hard at work on book 4, The Shadows of Grace. I’m getting a hold of Peter Ortiz to get me another awesome cover made, and I’m about halfway through round two. I need to finish up my tale of the Half-Orcs, then take a deep, deep breath and figure out what the heck I’m going to do then.

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