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Friday, May 25, 2012

Blood Of The Underworld by David Dalglish (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Order Blood Of The Underworld HERE
Read the First Two Chapters HERE
Read FBC's Review of “A Dance of Cloaks” 
Read FBC's Review of “A Dance of Blades” 
Read FBC’s Review of “A Dance of Death” 
Read FBC’s Interview with David Dalglish
AUTHOR INFORMATION: David Dalglish was born in Missouri and graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a degree in Mathematics. He is the author of the popular Half Orcs series, The Shadowdance trilogy and The Paladins series. He has previously worked as a manager and as a para-professional for Spec-Ed students. He lives with his wife and children in Missouri. 

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:You told me I would inspire fear from the shadows, yet you would be the light to banish all shadows. You still can. Be stronger than them. Be stronger than any of us. Prove to Veldaren that you can stand against the darkness, without mask or cloak, and live.” 

Haern is the King’s Watcher, born an assassin only to become the city of Veldaren’s protector against the thief guilds. When Lord Victor Kane attacks the city, determined to stamp out the thief guilds in revenge for past crimes, foreign guilds pour into the city to take advantage of the chaos in an attempt to overthrow the current lords of the underworld. 

And when a mysterious killer known as the Widow begins mutilating thieves, paranoia spreads until it engulfs the city. Haern knows someone is behind the turmoil, pulling strings, and if he doesn’t find out who, and soon, his beloved city will burn. 

CLASSIFICATION: The Watcher’s Blade trilogy is a dark, gritty, character-driven fantasy trilogy in the vein of works by David Gemmell, Brent Weeks and Peter V. Brett.

FORMAT/INFO: Blood Of The Underworld is 304 pages divided over thirty-one numbered chapters with a prologue, epilogue and an Author note. Narration is in the third person via several different point-of-views, both major and supporting characters, including the main protagonist Haern the Watcher, Alyssa Gemcroft, Zusa, Lord Victor Kane, Guild lord Thren Felhorn, Grayson of Mordeina, Antonil Deathmask, Nathaniel Gemcroft etc. Blood Of The Underworld is the first volume of the Watcher’s Blade trilogy.

The trilogy itself is set in the same world as The Shadowdance trilogy, and is the sequel to that series with mild spoilers within. May 9, 2012 marked the independent publication of Blood Of The Underworld in multiple E-book formats. Cover art is provided by Peter Ortiz.

ANALYSIS: David Dalglish’s previous trilogy was a revelation for me as it introduced me to the author as well as his dynamic storytelling prowess. The series was supposed to focus on Haern’s origins and explore his need to become the person he is currently. It was a dark and unforgiving series that was tough on all of its characters, ruthless in character deaths and perhaps the author’s homage to  Batman's beginnings. The final book however didn’t complete the arc as set by the first book and the author has spoken a bit about it in this guest post.

The trappings of the trilogy was that a son rebelled against his father’s wishes and that was the underpinning that powered the main character as well as galvanized the readers as they wanted to see how it would end. While the original trilogy didn’t exactly end on that note, the current trilogy plays out to that very end. It also serves as a bridge between the Half-Orc series, the Shadowdance trilogy as well as the Paladin series. The main theater of action would be set in the city of Veldaren primarily and also focusing on other regions as per the story dictates. The book also aims to bring together all the characters and infuse the story to make it an explosive one.

The story begins the king of Veldaren receiving a letter of intent from Victor Kane, lord of a nearby region who wishes to accomplish a task that no one has attempted so far. He wishes to rid the city of all its thieves, murderers and other scum. To do so, he has brought his own private army and is ready to start his mission. Alyssa Gemcroft has recovered from the events of the city of Angelport nearly two years ago and she has learnt to be more cunning while also growing in her economic strength. She however is unprepared for a new surprise that awaits her in mansion of a fellow trifect member. Zusa is resilient and has constantly been the pillar of support for Alyssa in many ways however she will have to face demons and problems from her past as well and this time it might just be enough to break her. Then there’s Thren Felhorn, the greatest and most feared guild lord who is still trying to regain his lost glory and lastly there’s the Widow who is going around on a killing spree motivated by reasons stranger than most men can fathom.

Thus begins the first volume of the Watcher’s Blade trilogy which attempts to fuse the character driven storyline of its preceding trilogy with the epic action and intrigue of the sequel Half-orc series. This powder-keg is all set to explode and explode it does, in a spectacularly brutal onslaught. The prologue opens with a riddle and a murder and then quickly the plot threads and characters are introduced with enough of a background presented for all new readers to get caught up adequately and for returning readers to whet their memories. The highlights of David’s previous books are spectacularly present, beginning with rapid pace of the story, multiple plot lines, intriguing characterization and sharp plot twists.

The best part however, is the characterization beginning with Haern and his troubled past, this series is basically about the confrontation that has been ordained between Haern and his father. The seeds for the confrontation were laced in the first two books of the Shadowdance trilogy and it’s in this book can the reader see them coming to fruition. There’s also Alyssa, Zusa, Thren, Victor Kane and a few other characters who each have their own plans and work towards their own ends. The equally awesome part is that while the series is about the Watcher, in this book the focus is shared by many characters each of whom can be confidently considered as a compelling protagonist or antagonist (depending on how you view their story).

This multifaceted character approach makes this story come alive tremendously as the reader is kept guessing on all fronts and something is happening in each POV character thread to keep the plot tension high strung. In this regards, the plot confusion and the thriller aspect of the story really shine through. The pace of the book also seems to make the book more akin to a thriller and this is another plus point in regards to the book. I can’t say that this book has no drawbacks to it but for the type of story I like to read, it had everything; tense mystery, believable characterization, epic action and lastly a strong authorial grasp on the story. All of this along with the book’s humor that is present but in minute amounts and is character specific which makes this story a fantastic read. 

Lastly while this is a sequel trilogy, newer readers will have no problems jumping in and picking up the story, and for the older, returning readers this book is a crossroads of all the three previously written series thereby giving them a big crossover high. The author has commented upon this aspect in the afterword and it shows in the book as we come across a wide array of characters that confabulate and conflict to give the readers a rousing tale. The plot threads come to a reasonable conclusion at the end of this book and the reader is left with a big hint of the story direction of the next book Blood Of The Father.

CONCLUSION: David Dalglish is an anomaly of sorts, his books while seeming generic are turning out to be a unique combination of dark fantasy and exciting thriller modes, thereby giving the readers a potent story and making sure they are left wanting more. I was hooked with the previous trilogy and this one does more of the same in spades. If you truly wish to discover a fantastic new author, give this book a try or if you want, start with book I of the Shadowdance trilogy and experience the origin story as its unfolds epically.

2 comments:

Nayan said...

What I liked most about the Shadowdance trilogy was the strong characterization as you have rightly pointed out. Thanks for updating us on this new book. (Somehow couldn't find it on Goodreads)

The Reader said...

Hi Nayan

Surprisingly its not on Goodreads yet but if you liked the Shadowdance trilogy then you are absolutely going to love Blood of The Underworld as well.

Mihir

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