Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Dark Dancer by Jaleta Clegg

Steampunk fairy land. is what first drew me to this book, and it didn't disappoint. There are elves and pixies, mushroom fairy rings, magic, and machines. The world Clegg has created here is fascinating, part traditional fairy folklore, part steampunk.

(Strictly speaking, 'steampunk' isn't a completely accurate description, as steam isn't really what powers the machinery. It's better than that. Clegg went and invented a whole new 'punk' genre: Magicpunk.)
This blending of steampunk-style machines with magic was my favorite element of the entire book because it works. The steampunk and the magic aren't in conflict with each other, but symbiotic. Granted, there is some repercussion in the world because of this symbioses, but that's just a plot bonus. Clegg found a way to make something new out of the two elements, rather than to try holding on too hard to their traditional connotations.

My fascination with Clegg's world doesn't stop with the magicpunk. There's an interesting twist on the old English feudal system going on with the politics here, bindings and oaths, and a natural order of the fairy land tired of being ignored. There is so much about this world to learn, the pages go by fast.

The story itself is mainly plot driven, but interesting enough to keep my interest. The main character, Sabrina, learns she is the answer to a prophecy in the fairy land, and everyone wants her allegiance. Or her death. There doesn't seem to be anyone she can trust, except maybe the dashing elf outlaw pirate captain on board his airship. Yep. Dashing elf outlaw pirate captain. If Dark Dancer didn't have you at 'steampunk fairy land', Captain Joren and his airship should pull you in.

Aside from Captain Joren, there's a whole fun band of characters -including a rather short-tempered pixie, a personal favorite of mine. I did wish I could have gotten better acquainted with them all. Being primarily plot-driven, it didn't delve too deeply into character development or back story, which I would have really enjoyed. I got the same feeling with these character as I did when I first watched 'Serenity' before ever seeing 'Firefly' -namely that there's a great cast of characters, full of fun rapport, but you've caught them in the middle of something, and it would be better to find the beginning.
Bonus points to Clegg because this story presented the perfect trappings for a love triangle, or at least dual love interests, but she resisted, and the book was definitely better for it.

I wish Sabrina -and myself- had more of a chance to become better acquainted with the fairy land. A lot of what she learns about the world and its people is second-hand or from a distance. A sequel or companion novel to explore more of the world wouldn't be remiss, though isn't necessary. Still, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

To Read or Not to Read?

While there was a lack of character development here, I think the fascinating world balanced it out. (I'd still love to see some more background info on Joren, like how Mikkle is previously acquainted with him, etc.)

The ending wrapped up the main story, but I still had questions. There were elements stretching back as far as Sabrina's childhood that weren't entirely answered, at least to my satisfaction.

The world building was steady, but not suffocating or overbearing. Clegg also managed the story well, balancing two villains and half a dozen conflicting sides throughout the story. The book is short and sweet, goes by fast, and leaves a sweet aftertaste of pure guilty pleasure reading. (Did you catch the bit about the elf pirate?)

Dark Dancer by Jaleta Clegg gets 3.5 stars, and is definitely a fun read.
Don't miss Jaleta Clegg at Salt Lake Comic Con September 4-6!

Find Jaleta online:
Website | Blog | Google+

Check out more of her books
Amazon | Smashwords


  1. Jaleta's at Comic Con? Awesome!

    This sounds like an interesting genre mix. Appreciate your review. :)

    1. I know, I'm really disappointed to miss it this year. A lot of great people are showing up.

      The genre mix works great. I still keep thinking about pixies and airships...