Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review - A Dance of Cloaks

A Dance of Cloaks - David Dalglish
A Dance of Cloaks

Hmm, this book is kind of.....well you see I thought it was....hmmm!!
Normally when I finish a book I know exactly how I felt about it and what the majority of my review will say. With Dance of Cloaks, I simply cannot make up my mind whether I thought the book was quite good or terrible. Notice I only said “quite” good. This is definitely not a good book. It is a million miles away from the quality of anything George R R Martin has written but at the same time I can’t bring myself to wholly condemn it. In that regard it is a little like Brent Weeks.
The story centres primarily around Thren and his son Aaron. As least I think that is supposed to be the focus. You see Dalglish introduces so many characters that are so non-descript you struggle to keep track of who they are and what they are doing.
Thren is the leader of a guild of thieves (the Spiders). There are twelve other guilds who are largely permitted to run amok by the real faction that controls the city the Trifect.
Thren is looking to unite the thieve guilds and overthrow the Trifect whilst also grooming his remaining son to be his successor andn be even greater than him in every way.
Undoubtedly, Thren and Aaron are the best thing about this story. Their characters are strong and believable. Their relationship with each other starts off strong and gradually deteriorates in an intriguing fashion. Aaron continually has doubts over his father’s decisions whilst Thren is always one step ahead of everyone and is a badass to boot.
However, despite there being a host of other characters, none of them grabbed my attention and made me care what happened to  them. Some I have already forgotten about and I only finished the book two days ago. Other were introduced 3/4s of the way through the plot and you think where the hell have you been? It is not as if these new characters are introduced to feature later on in the trilogy either,  they are merely brought in as a device to resolve part of the plot.
Scathing review so far huh? But this is where the book upsets me. Some of the characters have good story arcs. It is clear that Dalglish has attempted to make them more than just cardboard cut outs and I commend him for this. The problem is he has devoted so little time  on developing the reader’s relationship with them that when a plot twists occurs or a characters experiences a revelation I felt more disappointed then shocked. Disappointed in the sense that I felt it was a shame as that part of the story would have been really good had I cared more.
Not all the characters are non-descript. The mentor Robert Haern is intriguing and one of Thren’s right hand men is likeable, but overall everyone else is much of a muchness. At times the book has a decidedly Erikson feel about it in the sense that a new character is introduced meant to be more cooler and uber powerful than the last.
The setting never really establishes itself. The city fills very similar throughout. The magic is well handled however. It is understated and not bogged down with any sort of lengthy explanation.
When the conclusion happens it feels very anti-climatic. There are deaths galore but none that moved me. I think somewhere hidden amongst the confusing plot and multitude of characters a very good story is hidden. I sincerely believe that. There are enough positives for me not to rule out Dalglish’s writing and I will revisit him at some stage. My rating: 6.2