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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cloak & Spider by David Dalglish (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the book HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Dance Of Cloaks 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of A Dance Of Blades
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Dance Of Mirrors 
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with David Dalglish 
Read Fantasy Book Critic cover art interview with David Dalglish 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: David Dalglish is the author of the popular Half Orc fantasy series and the Paladin series. He was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He graduated from Missouri Southern State University in 2006 with a degree in Mathematics and used to work with Special Education students. He lives with his family in Missouri; A Dance Of Cloaks was his traditional publication debut.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: "Every king must have his heirs, and I will have heirs worthy of my legend..." 

Thren Felhorn is a legend of the underworld, the leader of the powerful Spider Guild, father to the Watcher of Veldaren, and the most feared man in a city flooded with crime and death. 

Cloak and Spider contains six interconnected stories that work as a novella, chronicling Thren's tutelage under the fearsome Darkhand, his bloody rise to fame, the creation of his infamous guild, and the birth of his son, Aaron, who would grow up to be a legend all his own.

FORMAT/INFO: Cloak And Spider is 121 pages long and contains six novellas. Narration is in the third person via Thren Felhorn exclusively. Cloak And Spider is the prequel novella to the Shadowdance series and readers can read it without having any knowledge of any of David Dalglish's works. There's also some bonus material and a note by the author.

December 3, 2013 marked the e-book publication of Cloak And Spider by Orbit Books

ANALYSIS: When it comes to David Dalglish's books, I always set aside some extra time because I know once I start reading, I won't be able to stop until I complete the story. His Shadowdance series has become an alltime favorite of mine with its complex story of politicking between thief guilds, squabbling cities and ultimately a battle of wills between a father and his son.  When it comes to Haern, he is by far the favorite character of most David Dalglish readers. I happen to enjoy his tale too but in my opinion, the more fascinating character is Thren Felhorn, a guildlord who is ruthless, far-sighted and a swordsman extraordinaire.

This novella traces his origins and reveals half a dozen pivotal movements in his life which have lead him to become the fearful character that we meet in A Dance Of Cloaks and the remaining books. I'll be listing each story and talking about it briefly:

1) Stealing Spoons - The first story introduces Thren as a nine year old orphan in the city of Mordeina who faces a cruel person named Muzien the Darkhand while trying to steal a pair of silver spoons. Thren and his bosom buddy Grayson are then cornered into coming to a Sun guild meeting where a strange game of "And Then There Were None" seems to be starting and Thren and Grayson will have to pit their wiles against forty hardened killers.

2) Stealing Hearts - This is the second novella and it features Thren, and Grayson when they are young men making a name for themselves. The target is one of the Trifect and a family heirloom, however they have strong competition from someone who is as tough as them and has a deft advantage as well.

3) Stealing Crowns - The third novella shows Thren and Grayson's induction into the thief guild culture in the city of Veldaren. Thren is pitted against the leader of the Spider guild as they race to see who is the better thief. This is the first story wherein we get to see Thren's ruthless streak arise and it is a chilling one.

4) Stealing Life - Stealing Life focusses on the birth of Thren's son Aaron and it is a heart-warming story. Perhaps the only light story in this entire collection and even then it has its share of darkness to it. I very much enjoyed this story as it showcased a different side to Thren.

5) Stealing Memories - The penultimate story in this collection is the cruelest one of the collection and easily the most riveting one as well. This tale looks at a covert battle between guilds namely Thren's Spider guild and Carr's Scorpion guild. After the light hearted nature of the previous story, this one is entirely gut-wrenching as it shows what happens when Thren's plans don't awry. The first cracks in mental facade are shown and even then he's cold-hearted to the extreme. This story bears a lot of importance for the events happening in the forthcoming A Dance Of Shadows ( book 4 in the Shadowdance series) and therefore is the most significant one of this collection.

6) Cloak And Spider - The titular story of this collection is a folktale which Thren narrates to his son Aaron, when asked about what is Aaron's role in the Felhorn family. This story almost reads out like a prophecy and should be interesting for readers to draw their inferences in regards to the Shadowdance series. From a narrative point, it is a smooth story that ends on a sombre note as it easily leads into the events that make up the prologue of A Dance Of Cloaks. A terrific finishing short story to round off an intriguing collection about a character who perhaps rivals Tywin Lannister in his calculative maneuvering and ruthless persona.

Cloak And Spider is a fascinating prequel novella to a series that itself is a prequel series to the author's self-published debut series. however this novella effectively stands on its own due to the tight narrative focus on Thren Felhorn and his legendary but infamous exploits. The stories are are tightly written with each  one opening and ending swiftly but not before a crucial facet about Thren is revealed to the readers. These stories also reveal a lot about his orphan friend Grayson, the love of his life and the mother of his children. This collection while being a must read for all David Dalglish fans, is also a good starting point for all new readers who do not wish to invest a whole lot of time to his longer works.

CONCLUSION: To all those new readers, I would heartily recommend reading this novella collection as it elegantly illustrates all of David's writerly plus points, while also giving a compelling omniscient view in to the first half of Thren's lifestory. I can vouch that once you read this collection, most readers will ever so curious to know more about Thren and what happens next in his life in A Dance Of Cloaks and the rest of the Shadowdance series.


Anonymous said...

Does Dalglish own this blog?

Cindy said...

No. Fantasy Book Critic is a collaboration between several individuals who share a love for reading and reviewing fantasy, sci-fi, horror.

Daligish is not amongst the reviewers on here.

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