In taking a quick break from my Dr. Who series, I would like to take an opportunity to introduce my readers to the author KM Tolan and his Science Fiction series, the Dancer series. This is a unique review, because instead of looking at just one book or one character, I’m going to review the series as a whole while doing my best to avoid spoiling what happens to the characters or in the plot.
Before I delve into the world, let me at least share pertinent publication information. I did not receive free copies of these books or any compensation for writing these reviews; I read cool books and decided I wanted to share them with others. The books, Blade Dancer (2008), Rogue Dancer (2010), Defiant Dancer (2010), and Battle Dancer (2011) are published by Burst Books and are available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. They are available in both regular and electronic formats.
The World: The series takes place on a planet called Dessa. The people, called the Qurl, are divided into four separate but equally important races or Sects and live in several different holdings throughout Dessa. The Sects are all the same people, but have dramatically different genetic differences that mark members of each sect. In addition, Each Sect is able to utilize different electrical impulses within their biology to do marvelous things. In addition to four specialized sects, there is a “sub-race,” the Servants, who do not have specialized glands. They were created by the ancestors of the Qurls (the “Taqurls) expressly for slavery. After a disastrous Civil War amongst the Taqurl, the Servants overthrew their masters to live independently of their former Masters. The Servants maintain a separate society from the Qurls, independent though not recognized as their own nation. Due to weakening bloodlines and genetic throwbacks, many Servant children are born with Qurl traits, and their children are seen as “cursed.” Cursed children are sent to be raised by the Qurls. The Sects live spread throughout a number of Holdings. Every Qurl born is born to a single Sect, and often, Qurls marry those from other Sects. Once a generation, in every holding, Creation spins out a Suria, a female born of one sect that develops the traits of another. The Suria learns under the Tasuria, the leader of a Holding, and eventually becomes Tasuria herself. Males with second sect traits, “Surs” are far more common, and can only come to power by marrying a Suria. Most Surs and Surias only gain one additional Sect, very few ever get all four. There. That is about all I can say about Qurl Culture without getting spoiler-y.
The Main Character: Mikial Haran. She is a Dathia, a rare female member of the Warrior sect. She was Servant-Born, raised by Qurl parents and has a best friend, Paleen, a member of the Ipper sect (communicators). At the beginning of the series, Mikial and Paleen are finished with training and starting to carve out their niches in their own sects. After a series of events, Mikial comes to realize the Qurl are not alone in the universe; there is another race, one that will destroy her and her people with their superior weapons; Humanity.
Mikial is a strong female character. I could do an entire Strong Female profile on her, actually, but doing so would spoil a lot of the series. She comes to have great power within the world, and even though she is manipulated by others, she does not let the manipulations, the politics, or the schemes of her enemies (and sometimes even friends) get in the way of her plan for who she is and what she is to become. She goes Rogue when she thinks it will be the best for her people. She breaks up with a lover when it becomes apparent that they are not destined for one another, and even encourages her lover to be with her own friend. She takes great pride in both her Qurl and Servant heritage, and, when receiving devastating news, fights onward, continues to work for her society, and helps many people to see long-hidden truths. Throughout the series, Mikial makes friends and enemies with people from all sides of the war, Qurls from other holdings and sects, aliens from a different species that hopes to use Dessa in their war with Earth, Humans, even her own friends and family.
As a series, the books are entertaining. The first book serves as a good introduction to the World of Dessa, the second shows how she went ‘rogue’ to save her people, the third shows her attempting to balance romance and power, and the final book provides great resolution. Throughout the books, the threat is Humanity. Humans have spread from Earth to Dessa’s galaxy. Dessa has not invented Space Travel, and is still in a relative “Dark Age” after the devastating Civil War centuries before. What is worse, due to events that unfold in the books, the holdings and sects are at the brink of a second civil war, one that, with the addition of some Human technology, could be even more devastating. The final two books were my favorite. Mikial is strong, but is also involved in some intricate romantic plots, pulled between two potential suitors who are both distracting her from her own goals. She makes her choice, but as she grows in power, alienates all her friends. Then, STUFF HAPPENS and the plot is resolved. I don’t have any complaints about the story. KM Tolan designed a great world, focused on a wonderful character that has strengths and weaknesses, and told a good story. The only problem I had with the series was that it took me the entirety of the first book to really ‘get’ the world and understand what was going on. That, however, happens with every book series I read. Even when I read the Wheel of Time series, which I love, I had to make myself get through that first novel. The only other issue I had was the lack of a map within the books. Maps, however, can be found on the author’s website, as can a description of the different sects and deleted scenes from the books.
Series Rating: 8 of 10 on the “Moon Sedai really liked it Scale!” With One being equivalent to “WHY DID I READ THIS!” and Ten being “WHY DIDN’T I READ THIS SOONER!” I will read these books again (and actually read the first book, Blade Dancer, twice before writing this review).