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Friday, April 5, 2019

Soulkeeper by David Dalglish (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
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's review of A Dance Of Shadows
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cloak & Spider
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with David Dalglish 
Read Fantasy Book Critic cover art interview with David Dalglish
Read "Sequels And Satisfying Endings" by David Dalglish (guest post)

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 BOOK BLURB: When ancient magic suddenly returns to his land, a warrior priest must answer the call and protect his world from monsters that were once only legend in the first book of USA Todaybestseller David Dalglish's epic fantasy trilogy.

Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, traveling through remote villages as a preacher and healer. But when a mysterious black water washes over the world, the veil is torn, flooding the land with ancient magic and forgotten races: fire that dances as if alive, corpses that walk, and creatures that can manipulate time itself. And not all the creatures that have re-awakened remember humanity fondly.

As the land grows more dangerous and more chaotic, Soulkeepers are turning up dead, their bodies transformed into macabre works of art. Devin must set aside his words of peace and accept his new role: slayer of monsters and protector of the human race.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I’m a fan of David Dalglish, I’ve been an unabashed one since I first read A Dance Of Cloaks more than 9 years ago. Soulkeeper however is the start of a new series set in a new world. I was super excited to read this one when David told me about it. The book was definitely a distinct departure from what he has written about before.

The story opens up Devin Eveson, our protagonist and a soulkeeper, who is a part of the church that worship the Three Sisters (Goddesses who nourished and nurtured humanity). Devin is our window into the world and the world is a very different one than what we have seen previously in all of David’s titles. Devin is by nature a peaceful person but accepts the realities of being a soulkeeper. One such task that he’s asked to look into, is a village in crisis wherein people & livestock seem to be running away from something. Upon arrival at Dunwerth village, he finds that all of the strange occurrences can be tied to the black water which has encroached upon the village and its surroundings. Pretty soon Devin finds that the water is tied to more strange occurrences and is forced to retreat to the main city of Londheim. It’s there wherein majority of the plot & action will unfold and we meet several other important characters both protagonists and antagonists. There’s also the presence of a giant mountain that while seemingly important doesn’t quite translate its oozing menace.

This story is a distinct departure from his previous books wherein they were more about the darker characters. Devin Eveson is a more clean-cut figure who is kind, considerate and good-natured to a fault. This was a distinct surprise in this book as David Dalglish’s protagonists are usually from the shadowy walks of life. But besides Devin we have a huge character cast and within that we have quite a few who hearken back to his Half-Orc, Paladin and Shadowdance series. Chief among them is Janus who seems to fit in solidly with some of the Dalglish’s famous deadly creations in the past.

The world history and magic system isn’t quite as revealed as I would have preferred but there’s a lot that is laid bare. Such as the evolution of humanity which was entirely thanks to the sisters Alma, Lyra and Anwyn. The world however is much more than what humanity knows and soon fable and myth become reality and hazard becomes horror. All of this wonderfully unfolds as the characters soon realize what is happening but not how or the why of it. Action sequences have always been David’s forte and it’s no surprise that he excels with them over here too. Big action sequences, terrifying magic usage and dark villains, Soulkeeper definitely has it all but what it also does different from his preceding titles is a world that’s on the cusp of an apocalypse.

Chracterization is an art that David Dalglish has always had an excellent grasp on and it’s no wonder that within this book, readers will have their favorites. Mine were Jacaranda, Tesmarie and Puffy. Especially Puffy who is a veritable delight on every page that they appear and I hope the author gives us more and more of Puffy in the future volume. Jacaranda is a person who perhaps has the most twisted path but showcases that she’s not one to be easily categorized. It will be intriguing to see where the author takes her next. Lastly Devin as the main protagonist is a solid choice but is a bit of a goody two-shoes. This isn’t a criticism but I feel that he will have a lot to do in the future books and he might not get a lot of choices.

Lastly as with any Dalglish title, you can expect amazing action sequences, cool magic systems, terrifying monsters (of both the human and non-human kind) & the sort of fun that was found in 90s action thrillers. Soulkeeper is no different as the author unleashes a world that features some truly horrific monsters and that leads to some cool action sequences to satisfy the action aficionados. The magic system isn’t entirely revealed but I’m excited to see what happens in the sequel and know more about the three sisters as well as those who hate them and their progeny.

Lastly I had a couple of criticisms about the book, firstly the pace of the book isn’t typical of a David Dalglish book. Namely in the first third of the story, it’s much on the slower side as events unfold and many set pieces are slowly moved into place. But from the middle, things take off and we never have to look back. I felt that with this book being perhaps the longest one in the author’s career. The pace was perhaps lost for better exposition. Secondly I know many have loved the cover, however I think Orbit books completely missed the mark with this one. I say this because I have seen the fantabulous efforts they have done for the Shadowdance series and the Seraphim trilogy. Compared to those two series, this cover seems like a sub-par effort. I hope that Orbit can up their game as I know how wonderful their covers are (for eg. checkout any of their other books) as I was definitely flabbergasted to see this cover.

CONCLUSION: Soulkeeper is the start of a new trilogy that promises quite a bit of fun twists mixed in with trademark Dalglish action, cool magic & characters who will stay with you for a long time. This seems to be a new direction in the author’s career and I can’t wait to see what exciting experiences he brings to the table.



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