->''I cut off his hand, yet he thanks me for not doing worse. That is the power you must one day command. Let them think every breath of theirs is a gift, not from the gods, but from you.''
-->-- '''Thren Felhorn'''

''The Shadowdance Trilogy'' (Later Upgraded to the ''[[TrilogyCreep Shadowdance Series]]'') by David Dalgish chronicles the childhood, [[TrainingFromHell training]], and rise to power of [[BrokenBird Haern]], the [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Watcher of Veldaren]].

The trilogy consists of:
* ''A Dance of Cloaks'': Aaron has been groomed since birth to be heir of an underworld empire. Yet when sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.
* ''A Dance of Blades'': When the son of Alyssa Gemcroft, one of the three leaders of the powerful Trifect, is believed murdered, slaughter begins anew in the streets of Veldaren. Mercenaries flood the city with one goal in mind: find and kill Aaron, now known as Haern, the King's Watcher.
* ''A Dance of Mirrors'': Haern travels south to confront a copycat killer, finding a city ruled by the corrupt, the greedy, and the dangerous. Rioters fill the streets, and the threat of war with the mysterious elves hangs over all. To stop it, Haern must confront the deadly Wraith, and the man he might become.
* ''A Dance of Shadows'': Alyssa Gemcroft is threatened by The Widow, a SerialKiller, while a man named Victor Kane enters the city supposedly to destroy the corruption plaguing Veldaren. Another Thieves' Guild, the Sun Guild, also sets its sights on Haern's city.
* ''A Dance of Ghosts'': Haern and Thren set off to confront the mysterious priest Luther, while Zusa fends off more threats to her mistress's life. In the Watcher's absence, an elf named Muzien takes control of Veldaren.
* ''A Dance of Chaos'' (Coming Soon): Haern and Thren attempt to remove Muzien, while TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt looms near...

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!!These books contain examples of:

* AbusiveParents: Both Thren and [[spoiler: Leon Connington]].
* ActionGirl: Zusa. She is one of the hand-full of people who can match Haern when it comes to fighting.
** Delysia is no slouch either, implied to be one of the most powerful priestesses of Ashhur alive.
* AlwaysChaoticEvil: Karak's priests seem to always be LawfulEvil, with only a few exceptions.
* AndNowForSomethingCompletelyDifferent: Book 3 is set in a different town completely, with very few of the same characters and a lot more political intrigue and FishOutOfWater scenarios as part of the plot.
* TheAntichrist: [[spoiler: Nathaniel]] seems to be shaping up to be one.
* ApologeticAttacker: [[spoiler: Ghost]] in ''A Dance of Ghosts''.
* ArchnemesisDad: Thren is this to [[spoiler:Haern.]]
** [[spoiler: Melody Gemcroft]] becomes a female example after the fourth book.
* BackForTheDead: [[spoiler: Ghost]], in the fifth book.
* BadassNormal: Both Thren and Haern.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: Don't piss Delysia off, and don't back her into a corner. You'll regret it.
* BlackAndGrayMorality: There are multiple factions in the series and none of them have totally clean hands.
* BlackAndWhiteMorality: Followers of Ashhur see their war against Karak as this.
* BlessedWithSuck: Karak's "blessing" to [[spoiler: Ghost]]. Sure, it gives him cool powers, but he essentially becomes a slave to Karak. He fights through it with HeroicWillpower long enough for Delysia to break the curse [[spoiler: only to get killed two minutes later.]]
* BlueBlood: King Edwin, a particularly ineffective and [[DirtyCoward cowardly]] king.
* BigBrotherInstinct: Tarlok to Delysia. Don't threaten his little sister, you'll regret it.
* BrokenBird: Pretty much everyone in the series is broken to some extent.
* BreakTheBadass: Haern, Zusa, and Delysia all go through a lot of breaking.
* CameBackWrong: While [[spoiler: Ghost]] was OnlyMostlyDead, his rehabilitation eventually brings him into this.
* CastingAShadow: Priests, Paladins, and Faceless Women of Karak do this.
* CrapsackWorld: The world the story takes place in is pretty wretched. You're more likely to get butchered in five different ways before breakfast than get a happy ending.
* DeathSeeker: [[spoiler: Both Luther and Ghost]].
* DespairEventHorizon: Alyssa when she thinks her son is dead in ''A Dance of Blades''.
** [[spoiler: Luther]] has already fell victim to his before his appearance, [[SuicideByCop seeking out death]] for his role in the Sun Guild's takeover of Veldaren [[spoiler: as the plaques they've erected to show their dominance are rigged to explode and reduce Veldaren into a smoky crater)]].
** Both Haern and Zusa have fallen prey to this by the end of ''A Dance of Ghosts'', [[spoiler: leading to their LastMinuteHookup]].
* DisneyDeath: Nathaniel, though he loses an arm due to frostbite.
* DontYouDarePityMe: Zusa's attitude at the end of book 5.
* TheDragon: [[spoiler: Melody]] to [[spoiler: Luther]].
* EarnYourHappyEnding: [[{{CrapsackWorld}} Oh, yes very much so]].
* EmpoweredBadassNormal: [[spoiler: Ghost]] becomes one due to Karak's "blessing".
* TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt: Apparently, Karak's prophet seems very intent on causing this...
* EnfantTerrible: Aaron at the begining of Dance of Cloaks. Subverted as he's basically molded by his father, but still, he does [[spoiler:kill his older brother.]] At age ''eight''.
* EvilMatriarch: [[spoiler: Melody Gemcroft.]] Alyssa may also qualify, depending on where you see her on the morality scale.
* EyeScream: Happens to all The Widow's victims, including [[spoiler: Alyssa]].
* FatBastard: Leon Connington, an obese BlueBlood.
* FragileSpeedster: Haern, plain and simple, especially in the first book. By the second book, he's considerably stronger, but when fighting against a worthy opponent, he has to rely on speed, the element of surprise, and his cloakdance technique to defeat them.
* FreakOut: Haern has a big one when he finds out [[spoiler: Ghost is alive, and Delysia has forgiven him.]]
* GambitPileup: The series is starting to devolve into this, with several gambits all going off at once and [[SpannerInTheWorks spanners]] galore. It's starting to boil down to two main conflicts- [[spoiler: Luther versus The Priests of Karak]].
* GlassCannon: Tarlok is one. He can dish out a lot of magical damage, but if anyone manages to get close enough to hit him, he goes down fast.
* GodOfGood: Ashhur.
* HandicappedBadass: [[spoiler: Alyssa Gemcroft after book 4]].
* HealingHands: Ashhur's priests in general can heal people.
* HeelFaceTurn: [[spoiler: Ghost]], due to getting kicked around by Karak's priests [[MistreatmentInducedBetrayal one too many times]] and befriending a priest of Ashhur.
* JackTheRipoff: The Widow.
* JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope: Victor Kane and Alyssa seem to both be going down this path.
* LastMinuteHookup: Haern and [[spoiler: Zusa]].
* LightEmUp[=/=]HolyHandGrenade: Delysia, and all the priests of Ashhur.
* MamaBear: Alyssa. Just try to look at Nathaniel funny and see what happens.
* ManBehindTheMan: Melody to [[spoiler: Stephen]], [[spoiler: Luther]] to Melody.
* MentorOccupationalHazard: ''Everyone'' that becomes a father-figure to Haern ends up dead. [[spoiler:Robert Haern. Senke.]] Everyone.
* MistreatmentInducedBetrayal: [[spoiler: Ghost]], betraying Karak's priests, and the Faceless Women in general.
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Lots of them. The Watcher Of Veldaren, The Widow, The Wraith, Ghost, Muzien the Darkhand...
* OfficialCouple: Haern and [[spoiler: Zusa]] seem to be this at the end of ''A Dance Of Ghosts'', but seeing as they've both been pushed past the [[spoiler: DespairEventHorizon]]...
* OnlyMostlyDead: [[spoiler: Ghost]].
* OrderVersusChaos: The followers of Karak see their war against Ashhur as this, with Karak as Order and Ashhur as Chaos. The truth seems to be the reverse.
* TechnicalPacifist: Delysia. She doesn't like killing people, preferring the healing arts, and generally won't [[spoiler: unless she had absolutely no other choice.]]
* ThePaladin: Delysia.
* TookALevelInBadass: Delysia. Being trained as a priestess to a GodOfGood will do that.
* PunchClockHero: Tarlok, again, is supposed to be one, but evil always tends to piss him off enough that he'll do some heroic acts without pay just because he's upset.
* PuppetKing: King Edwin, by ''A Dance of Ghosts''.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: [[spoiler: Ghost]].
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: Alyssa, after she believes Nathaniel is dead. She spends her entire fortune on a week of slaughter and death.
* RoyalBrat: King Edwin. Even the man who raised him hates him.
* ScrewYouElves: Elves are either [[StupidNeutral extremely apathetic]] or LawfulEvil in this universe, with only a handful of dissenters. Humans in general hate them.
* SerialKiller: Technically most of the main characters, but The Widow is a particularly nasty example.
* ShootTheShaggyDogStory: [[spoiler: Ghost's arc in book 5. Everything he does besides saving Zusa's life is eventually wasted.]]
* ThanatosGambit: [[spoiler: Luther's]] plan revolved around getting Thren so pissed he came to kill him.
* SpannerInTheWorks: Delysia and [[spoiler: Robert Haern]] were this to Thren's plans, Zusa was this to [[spoiler: Melody's]], and Haern has been to several.
* TrainingFromHell: Both Haern and Zusa went through it to become the people they are.
* UnwittingPawn: Several, including [[spoiler: Steven]] to Melody.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: [[spoiler: Luther.]] He's manipulated Melody Gemcroft into turning on her daughter, helped orchestrate the Sun Guild's takeover of Veldaren, and [[spoiler: plans on reducing the city into a smoking crater]], all to prevent TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt.
* WhileRomeBurns: Alyssa in ''A Dance of Blades''. She's caused the burning, but is so apathetic to the world at this point she doesn't care.
* WideEyedIdealist: Lord Victor Kane starts out as this. He grows out of it very quickly.
* WildCard: Tarlok is technically this, but in practice he's always on Haern's side due to the Watcher's friendship with Delysia and the fact that people associate them with each other, and thus try to hurt him to get to Haern.
* WorldOfBadass: Almost ''everyone'' is a badass in some capacity in this universe.
* WorthyOpponent: Haern has many over the course of the series. Zusa, Thren, Ghost, the Wraith, [[spoiler: Muzien]]...
* WouldHurtAChild: Thren, and pretty much any antagonist, would.
* ZeroPercentApprovalRating: Everyone hates King Edwin, and by the fifth book in the series several factions are outright vying to replace him.

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