Jen reviews Dances of Deception, the third book in JC Kang‘s epic fantasy series, The Dragon Songs Saga.
Thank you to JC Kang once again for the ecopy!
|Series: The Dragon Songs Saga #3||Genre: Fantasy/Asian setting|
|Date of Publishing: January 1st, 2016||Trigger Warnings: rape- talking of and off screen/ death/ blood/ gore|
|Page count: 488||Publisher: Self-Published|
The world knows Kaiya as the Dragon Charmer.
After vanquishing the Last Dragon with the power of her voice, all she wants is to return to a quiet life of anonymity. Instead, the Emperor tasks her with an onerous task: negotiating with the aggressive Teleri Empire for the extradition of her cousin, who tried to murder the imperial family and usurp the Dragon Throne.
The mission reunites her with her childhood friend Tian, now an assassin-spy who loathes killing. He is no longer the adorable, gullible boy from her memories, any more than she is the adventurous, sweet girl from his. Instead of rekindling nostalgia for a youthful innocence they both yearn for, their reunion ignites a mutual hatred.
When the Teleri Empire breaks off negotiations, Tian must help Kaiya escape. Orcs, Ogres, and enemy soldiers stand between them and home, and their volatile relationship could get them captured… or killed.
“The imperial guards, perhaps sensing the shift in momentum, surged outward in unison. Spears flashed towards the closest enemy. Just as swiftly, the men spun back into a protective circle around the princess. Their vicious coordination and efficiency was jaw-dropping.
Tian glanced around, evaluating the results of the imperial guards’ split-second attack. Chen Xin’s lightning strike had impaled an altivorc in the throat, while Zhao Yue thrust through the eye slot of another’s helmet. Three altivorcs had suffered injuries.
Those three had no time to fall back. The circle flared out again, this time in a crossing burst of precise thrusts, before reforming around the princess. One second, three more altivorcs down. No wonder Jie had come to respect them.”
Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne
Kaiya’s mission to negotiate her cousin’s extradition from the Teleri Empire becomes more dangerous when the first Consul’s plans to destabilize the Nothori kingdoms, involve keeping Kaiya as a hostage.
With the fragile truce falling apart, Tian, Kaiya’s childhood friend and spy, is tasked with getting her out of the country to safety.
Dances of Deception, the third book in this series, takes quite a turn from the gorgeous serene palace setting of the first two stories – the fanfare of the princess’s arrival in the Empire, with her palanquin, horses, foot soldiers, and drummers is probably the closest to that lavishness of palace life as we get in this book.
Not to say the palace was any less dangerous than the situations Kaiya finds herself in now, because Kaiya’s fortitude is severely tested in all areas of her being – mentally, physically, and spiritually, in this story.
I’m keeping this review a little vague; it’s hard to talk about a series and character growth without revealing things that made that happen.
I am team Kaiya all the way, and I hated everything she had to go through in Dances of Deception but I am proud of her for keeping her head on her shoulders and being strong, smart, and capable. I hope she can come through this ordeal while still being that caring person underneath and keeping those lessons close. I hope Kaiya gets her happy ending because I’ll have to send JC Kang letters if she doesn’t.
Tian’s long-awaited reunion with his childhood friend, Kaiya, might come as a shock to him with how much the last few years’ escapades have taken that young naive girl and changed her into a strong capable woman. But first, he has to open his eyes and quit only seeing what expects to see from her. And what he sees is a spoiled princess.
I liked Tian a lot when he was introduced way back in Songs of Insurrection. He was a favourite and I was glad of his reappearance in the series – especially since I had him pegged as first lead because of his love for Kaiya, and I hate being wrong. He peeved me off more than once this time around though, with his judgy attitude towards Kaiya, almost making me decide he wasn’t worth it. (No matter how much I like being right and that he looks a lot like Yang Yang from You Are My Glory on the book’s cover).
Tian was one of those characters that captivated me from the beginning because a mistake when he was younger had him banished from Cathay; changing his life’s path from prince to spy and assassin. I figured he was going to end up a main player at some point and I was curious to see how that would come about. I want to talk about him more but there’s some hefty spoilers that I am trying to avoid.
Jie is another character I’ve loved a lot in previous books (and still do). She doesn’t get as much screen time but what she does have is fun. I got a kick out of her and Tian ribbing one another with chess moves. I do hope she can put aside her hurt feelings and be there for Kaiya because Kaiya is going to need some friends.
The story had so many memorable and stress-inducing moments. Also, some crazy gorgeous fight scenes.
The scenes where the Imperial Guards are protecting Kaiya on the battleground are awesome – I used part of one in the quote (if you’re reading this on the blog).
I loved all the scenes where Kaiya’s gift of music was used in battle – incredibly tense, especially the drums’ use in one of the later scenes.
Also, the fight scene between her and Geros where she incapacitates him in each step of her warrior dance. Beautiful scene and cool as hell!
So, it did take me awhile to settle into this one and get the surrounding players set in my head, the cast is large in these books, and it’s been a long time since I read Orchestra of Treacheries, but it evened out for me as the characters fell-away to our main players. I was able to roll with it without too much trouble up until that point.
Dances of Deception is also wider in the political maneuvering scale than the last book – which was rather singular focused by comparison – as a lot of the background politicking that we were getting in bits and pieces before, has moved into the foreground for this story.
I did enjoy the last book more just because I prefer a little narrower focused story and this was so full. But this is a solid entry into the series and like the previous stories, it’s filled with cool magic, tense battles, and fun stuff like that. The losses are closer to home this time around too, as betrayals abound, long-time companions are lost, and friendships are tested. I’m looking forward to seeing how this series finishes.
Also. I’d like to close this by saying – Dear author, how could you end it like that?