A Dance of Death by David Dalglish is the third and final book in the Shadowdance Trilogy. After blazing through the other two books, things finally come to an end with our beloved night time assassin, Haern. Being crowned the King’s Watcher, Haern is a name to be feared among both nobles and thieves alike in Veledren. However with A Dance of Death, the author takes us away from the streets of Veledren and instead puts the characters in Angelport, home of Trifect leader Laurie. When a copycat killer going by the name of The Wraith starts killing people while etching The Watcher’s symbol in the victims own blood, it’s bound to draw Haern’s attention. Being the third and final book in the series, I was left a little bit disappointed with the overall plot here. Also, I can spot some of the author’s more apparent weaknesses in my own eyes.
With A Dance of Death, the trio of Haern, Zusa and Alyssa will be the main focal point. Of course, other characters also play a pivotal role in the story. These include Madelyn, Ulrich, The Wraith and Togar. What I did appreciate was the author bringing in the elves into the mix. I thought that this simple act was refreshing simply because I was getting tired of just reading about backstabbing mercenaries and pampered nobles. Throughout the book, you get a feeling that the author wants to give you a deeper insight into the main characters themselves. However, I kept feeling it was completely unnecessary because I already know how they will behave and act and that in the end, they will be exactly the same person as when they first started out. With Alyssa, while no longer the young girl we know of from book one, she’s still only mildly interesting enough for me. She has to do what is needed to protect her son’s future and to keep the Trifect from crumbing. With Zusa, she was one of the more interesting characters when presented in the beginning of the series but her mysteriousness has dwindled in my eyes ever since. She’s loyal to Alyssa and here in A Dance of Death, her partnering with Haern was a fairly good gamble. Her character is unique for a time until you figure out that not much is going to change going forward with her. Haern, well, is Haern. Again, once you have the core of his character down, not much will change. He’s the equivocal to the “I have to kill but I don’t relish in it but it has to be done nonetheless” type of person. This is the one major problem I have with the author in that he doesn’t do that good of a job with character growth over time.
By this book, I have a pretty good understanding of the author’s writing style. He’s a very good writer and that again hasn’t changed much here. As I said in my other reviews, he strikes a pretty good balance between plot development and action and that once again follows suit here. Throughout the whole Shadowdance Trilogy, heavy emphases lies in intrigue and character scheming. I felt it was done very well throughout the entire series, especially here. However, with A Dance of Death, I still can’t shake the feeling that the book doesn’t read and feel like a conclusion to trilogy. It feels more like just a side story at times.
Expect the same familiar action sequences as in the other previous books. At this point, I actually grew a little tired of reading the minor battle scenes because I’m already sure of how it will end. While still knowing the outcome of some battles, what the author could have done is add more elements to the fight scenes and one that I was desperately hoping to see was of more magic. Tarlak, the wizard, sadly does not have any role in A Dance of Death and so does the magic element die with him. With the elves in the picture, I thought surely they have some magic up their sleeves right? Nope. Didn’t get that here again. I did say that the author strikes a good balance between plot development and action but in future books, I’m hoping he can add diversity to his battle scenes so that it doesn’t feel as dragging to read.
Overall, the Shadowdance Trilogy was a very good read. A Dance of Death concludes the main story of Haern although the author states clearly that he will also be in the Half-Orc series from book two and on, although I’m suspecting he won’t play as big a role. While the story wasn’t a huge letdown, I expected something more grand seeing how it’s the last. I suspected this book to finally get into the father and son thing but Thren Felhorn doesn’t even make an appearance here at all. I thought this series was going to be about family vengeance but that can’t be any farther from the truth. I’ll definitely keep the Half-Orc series in mind after having read this trilogy. I highlighted a couple of weaknesses of the author (clearly my opinions) and what bothers me is that they probably won’t be corrected in the Half-Orc series being how they were written prior to this series. There’s only one way to find out though…