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Dance of the Dead by Christie Golden

Posted by travizzt on August 28, 2010

The music of the swamp tugs at Larissa’s mind and body, making her want to dance. However, this dance does come with consequences.

Dance of the Dead by Christie Golden- This is the third book that was released in the Ravenloft line of novels based off the Ravenloft setting in the pen and paper roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. This is also a stand-alone novel and can be read without any prior knowledge with Ravenloft or Dungeons and Dragons. Christie Golden has written a number of books in shared universes and otherwise. She has written two other novels based in the Ravenloft setting, Vampire of the Mists and The Enemy Within. She’s also written a number of stories that are set in the various Star Trek universes. Her Star Trek: Voyager works include; The Murdered Sun, Marooned, Seven of Nine, the Dark Matters trilogy (Cloak and Dagger, Ghost Dance, and Shadow of Heaven), Homecoming duology (Homecoming and The Farther Shore), and the Spirit Walk duology (Old Wounds and Enemy of My Enemy). In Star Trek: The Next Generation she co-wrote the six book in the Double Helix series titled The First Virtue with Michael Jan Friedman. She wrote one book in the Star Trek: S.C.E. titled Hard Crash. She contributed a book to the Star Trek: Gateways series titled No Man’s Land. She has also written a book in the Star Trek: The Original Series series called The Last Round-up. Another shared universe that she’s contributed to is Warcraft. She’s written Lord of the Clans, Rise of the Hoard, co-wrote Beyond the Dark Portal with Aaron Rosenberg, Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, and The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm. She’s also written a trilogy for Starcraft titled Dark Templar (First Born, Shadow Hunters, and Twilight) as well as writing a book for Starcraft II titled Devil’s Due. She wrote two books for the Star Wars series called Fate of the Jedi titled Omen and Allies. Some of her original works include the Verold series (Instrument of Fate and King’s Man and Thief), A.D. 999 under the pen name of Jadrien Bell, Invasion America series (Invasion America and On the Run), and the Final Dance trilogy (On Fire’s Wings, In Stone’s Clasp, and Under Sea’s Shadow). Christie Golden has also contributed a number of short stories to various anthologies. Dance of the Dead was released in 1992 and published by TSR, Inc. However, this book is hard to find and you’ll most likely need to pick it up used.
Larissa Snowmane’s world is turned upside down. As the Lady of the Sea in the play The Pirates Pleasure, the dancer has had an uneventful and peaceful life. All that changed when after a performance, she finds the lead singer, Liza, strangled in her room. After the captain of the showboat and Larissa ‘uncle’, Raoul Dumont, finds out about the death, he sets off and heads into the Mists. During the horrifying trip into the Mists, the showboat comes out unharmed. They find themselves near a port in a place called Souragne, a swamp-like island. After disembarking at Port d’Elhour, the captain offers his entertainment to the town, for a free taste of the show. During a scene from the play, Larissa encounters a friendly man named Willen who can see her when she’s invisible. But before she could ask anything more about him, her scene comes up and has to leave to act. After the brief taste of the play that Captain Dumont gives the town, he takes Larissa on a walk, only to cause a schism between their relationship. With the help of the mysterious Willen, Larissa is able to hide from Dumont and his unwanted advances. However, she decides to return to the showboat for the first full performance. After the successful show, a strange human asks Dumont if he can accompany them to their next destination. He accepts after the stranger, Lond, shows his ‘usefulness’. Larissa finds Willen again, after Willen joins the showboat to help navigate the swamp. But Willen has something awful and horrifying to tell her about her beloved ‘uncle’ and that she’s special. What is this horrifying secret that the captain has? Who’s Lond? Will the showboat escape the swamp? Why is Larissa so special?

1) Side Characters. The characters themselves were not bad at all. The problem is that there is just too many characters. While some characters had some nice development and interesting enough, but there was just too many that didn’t have enough. For example, the pilot Jahedrin and Gelaar needed more time to develop. While Jahedrin didn’t have that big of a role, it was awkward to see him get so much scene time at the end. He does seem like a very interesting character, but it almost seemed like his character was just thrown in for some exposition and lines. However, Gelaar is the most disappointing side character. He had a constant presence throughout the story, yet not any development other than him losing his daughter. He’s the most disappointing character because at the end of the story he just suddenly becomes a dues ex machina and has a moment of great development but then he is suddenly forgotten. While the side characters were good, they seemed to need ‘more’.

1) Villains. The villains were just wonderfully evil. The mysterious stranger, Lond, is the more straightforward villain. He’s evil and you can definitely tell that he is. While this wouldn’t be a good thing, somehow this just works. He does things late in the story that is utterly horrifying and vile, and he’s made to be hated. Then you have the sympathetic, yet not sympathetic character of Dumont. For half of this story, Dumont comes off as a rather nice character. Sure, he killed one of the boats pilots to make Larissa fall in love with him, but even past that he was likeable. He had this charisma that it seemed no matter what he did, you couldn’t help but like him. It could have been his friendship with his first mate Dragoneyes or how he generally acts towards his cast, but something about him makes me like him. However, he does slowly became a mean and vile character but even when this happens, I couldn’t help but like him. He also has a kind of ‘redemption moment’ at the end that was really good, if tragic. All in all, the villains were wonderful.
2) Protagonists. I also really liked the protagonists. Larissa was good and Willen was interesting. Larissa had a lot to make her a wonderful and interesting character. She had a well-developed and heartbreaking background. She matures throughout the story and has very good character development and progression. Not to mention her naivety in things is kind of (for lack of a better term) cute. That makes her change all the more shocking and well-earned. She doesn’t seem like a good heroic character, yet she pulls it off almost flawlessly. Willen is pretty much the same way. His background is a little more mystical, but for some reason it’s interesting. I really can’t say much about Willen without some major spoilers, so I’ll just say that his character is surprising interesting.
3) Natives. I really liked how this story had characters that are native to Ravenloft. While this is a very minor thing, I really liked it. There was no real need for a famous character from another setting to be transported into this realm. It was just nice to see this change after having the first two books of other settings having an introduction in another setting. It was also nice to see that characters that from the Ravenloft setting hold their own.

Side Notes:
1) Horror. I do have a hard time calling this a fantasy horror novel. For seventy percent of the novel, it had the feel of a ‘normal’ fantasy book. Then at the end it started to get a little horrifying.
2) Swamp. I really liked the whole Louisiana-esque swamp feel this story had. It had a different kind of feel to a fantasy story.
3) Cover Art. I honestly hate it. The dress color on Larissa is horrible and looks like puke. Her face is just demonic and disturbing. It’s so disgustingly disturbing. The whole cover is plain awful and hurts the eyes.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Dance of the Dead is a great read, with one problem. The side characters needed to be a little more developed. They were just there for most of the story, and what development they were given was quickly forgotten. Another small problem is that the story never really felt like a horror story, but it wasn’t a terrible thing. However, the characters are wonderful and the story is solid. Larissa and Willen were just wonderful characters. They have a lot of depth and a very interesting and well-developed backgrounds. The villains were also great. Lond was absolutely vile, and I loved to hate him. Dumont had a likeable quality to him that even when he does terrible things, I couldn’t help but not hate him for it. Would I recommend Dance of the Dead? Yes, of course. It was a wonderful read with great characters.

2 Responses to “Dance of the Dead by Christie Golden”

  1. I read this novel waaaaaaay back in high school in a matter of 2 days! It literally got me hooked on reading novels and to this day remains my favorite novel (due to nostalgia no doubt). But still a great read and highly recommended. I even named my sister’s cat after one of the characters, “Malken”, love that name. I’m grateful for this review as I was trying to remember what the name of this title was, I’m going to pick up a copy and read again for old times sake!

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