Review: Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Rating: 4 stars
Release Date: August 7,2018
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Genre: young adult fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
audiobook, from my library
Status: book 1 of the Dance of Thieves duology

A new novel in the New York Times–bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts.

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty's resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. This does not affect the content of my review.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been reading this blog or following me on Twitter for any amount, that I absolutely adore The Remnant Chronicles trilogy. The Heart of Betrayal really surprised me after I didn't quite connect with The Kiss of Deception the way I'd hoped and set some pretty high expectations for the end of the trilogy. And in an even more surprising move, The Beauty of Darkness utterly blew every single expectation away with its satisfying ferocity. And with the world of The Remnant Chronicles so big and so full of history, I was VERY excited when it was announced that Dance of Thieves would be a new duology in this world and that it would have connections to Lia's story. And ya know what? Mary delivered.

Dance of Thieves has a lot of ties to TRC as it explores the aftermath of The Beauty of Darkness. Yes, if you read DOT, you will be spoiled for TRC, but the focus is not on the same story. Kazi goes to the Hell's Mouth, which is controlled by the Ballenger family, to hunt one of the masterminds of TRC's big plot, but what happens after spirals far beyond the reaches of Lia's story. Dance of Thieves weaves together the present of the Kingdoms of the Remnant with the past and illustrates how history is told by the victors, the powerful, the rich. I love how even more than TRC, Dance explores the time just after the devastation of the world. The incident that is alluded to in Lia's trilogy is more clearly defined, and SPOILER ALERT in case you didn't catch it, the Kingdoms of the Remnant are actually a way way future United States of America, and Mary has been sewing the seeds of familiarity across four books (for example, the capital of Dalbreck is Falworth. That's Fort Worth. As in Texas as in 30 miles away from me. I LIVE IN DALBRECK WHOOOO!).

So Dance of Thieves tells us this story of how the stars fell and how the Ballenger empire came into existence even before Morrighan stopped wandering the wilderness to create her own kingdom while also introducing Kazi, a trusted Vendan soldier attempting to bring a criminal to justice, and Jase, who has only just inherited his father's  small not-quite-a-kingdom after his untimely death and who is trying to maintain order in a time of grief and confusion.

Two things about Dance of Thieves especially impressed me: Mary's solid and consistent world-building that ties this story to The Remnant Chronicles and the early days of Jase's ancestors just after the devastation (see above) as well as the sheer romance of this story. I think Mary does action and mystery very very well, and this book has plenty of both, but OH, the romance. *chef's kiss* It's utter perfection. Mary makes EXCELLENT use of the "trapped together for survival" trope as Kazi and Jase have to traverse the wilderness literally chained together. Oh, and they weren't exactly BFFs going into this situation so there's a bonus layer of delicious enemies-to-more trope-y goodness. There are some really good romance chestnuts in Dance like stargazing and dancing during a party, but I also love what these two do for one another emotionally, like Jase helping Kazi cope with her  PTSD and agoraphobia or Kazi helping Jase forgive himself from actions he took when his younger sister died years previously. I appreciate so much when speculative fiction stories explore mental health because trauma isn't confined to realistic fiction!

Dance of Thieves is another beautiful volume in the overarching Remnant Chronicles world, and it flawlessly bridges so many periods of time. As a companion to Lia's trilogy, Dance answers many questions, but as the first book in a new series, there are more new questions than old answers, and the mystery is one that will keep you guessing! You absolutely need to read this book, Vow of Thieves, AND the original Remnant Chronicles trilogy.

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About the Author:
Mary E. Pearson is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of eleven YA novels and one novella. Her works include the completed trilogy, The Remnant Chronicles, which in a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly called “masterfully crafted.” Her favorite activities as a child were climbing tall trees imagining she was a hero in some fantastical world, or running along fence tops and roofs pretending she was a spy with a bagful of amazing gadgets. She was rarely herself. Amazingly, she never broke a bone until she caught a basketball in gym class. Catching real balls was not her forte. These days she continues to live in make-believe worlds she creates in her books. Her latest 2-book series, Dance of Thieves, allows her do all kinds of dangerous things without breaking any bones. So far. 

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