A Dance of Mirrors by David Dalglish

“People lie. People exaggerate. They view the world through tainted glass, yet see themselves in a gilded mirror.”

Whenever I need to take a break from the stress of picking a book (of which there is plenty, surprisingly) I tend to go after the pulpy serials that don’t tax the brain, yet provide oodles of entertainment. And what good book doesn’t do that?

Well, let’s just say David Dalglish’s third book in his Shadowdance series, A Dance of Mirrors, brought me out of my slump. It’s a rollicking good read with new characters and a new destination.

Now, if only the general plot was different…

Anyway, Haern the Watcher is back with his friend Zusa and her partner Alyssa. The Gemcroft lady is tasking these two badasses to escort her down south. See, this Wraith guy (a copycat using the Watcher’s symbol) just killed one of the Trifect’s children, of which Alyssa is a part of. This isn’t good. Add in an economic opposition in the Merchant Lords, elves ready to burn the city of Angelport to the ground, and monsters disguised as protagonists, and you have the makings of A Dance of Mirrors. Dalglish loses some of the personal ties that we saw in the previous two, opting to investigate only because of his moral high ground.

What he doesn’t understand is that he has no moral high ground. He’s a little delusional in the playing of this game, for about the entire novel. Still, Dalglish creates believability in Haern’s actions and ideas, even making me rethink the evil (revenge) the Watcher has done throughout his city. Yes, his city. That’s important character development, people. Spoilers, and all that jive. Sorry.

I can feel a bigger scope being produced with this book, something that tried to work itself in the previous two, yet failed. However, I feel that Dalglish needs to scale down his plots when it comes to international problems and politics. He managed this somewhat, but the tapering elf/human clash destroyed any closeness when it came to a character story.

What I’m getting at is that coupled with Dalglish’s speed and prolific writing, it wouldn’t be a wrong move to make the tales smaller in scope, like say the 16-series detective novels you see riding bestseller shelves. There’s a reason these authors sell so much, and I believe Dalglish has the same attributes: A somewhat intelligent plot with fast action and tension grabbing you by the throat. Sure, it’s cliché, but it’s riveting and fun.

“Warrick felt only tired amusement at the attempted grand entrance.”

There’s a vast market for Sword and Sorcery that’s untapped right now. Sure, we have big name authors like Michael Sulllivan and Scott Lynch that exist there, but they don’t have the same formula and speed Danglish does. I’m positive he could create something spectacular (and a lot of it).

Besides all of the sharp action and intrigue, Dalglish has improved on his characters. Least, he did with the two major villains. Ulrich Blackwater is one of the most fascinating antagonists Dalglish has written, besides Thren and the main villain of this novel. He’s somehow made a man only wishing for money and security rather than a twisted destruction of his enemies. Yeah, that may come about through business, but it’s not his only goal. And it’s not his only option. It’s refreshing.

But, the Wraith can stand toe to toe with Thren. Any day. Yep. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the reveal, motivation, and conclusion were all deftly done and surprising. More than that, we finally have a fun villain. Loved it. Making the man Haern’s mirror, from where the title gets its name, is great, too. Fun character exploration, I’ll say.

Unfortunately, Danllish still doesn’t know what good dialogue is. And I think I know how to fix this.

ADD CONTRACTIONS.

People don’t speak proper English. We muddle our words. We leave off some. Learn this. Saying you’re trying to reenact the Old Stuff is not an excuse. Give us Grimdark with real dialogue.

Rant over with.

Oh. Wait. One more thing. I’m really not liking the “POV for plot’s sake” game. Killing off a character without them having a single chapter is ridiculous. It doesn’t create shock. It doesn’t create an attachment. Except for when Laurie Keenan’s wife went all Lady Macbeth on us. Yeah, that was rough.

Okay, now I’m done.

“In all of Angelport, he saw little kindness, little worth saving. Worse, he knew Veldaren was no different. He’d grown up there, and familiarity had blinded him.”

Shadowdance’s third book in the series solidifies David Dalglish’s standing as a writer to read when pure enjoyment is all that you need. Is that bad, per se? Not at all. Some depth peppered throughout or threads that don’t tail off into the abyss would be nice every once and a while, but it’s not enough to make me write off the writer. If anything, this book tells me to keep going with the guy, very much unlike the second. And that, I think, is its biggest strength.

*I was given this ARC for my honest review.*

Rating: 7.5/10

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