Dance of Thieves stole a cliche plot and transformed it into something amazing


I love a cliche as much as the next person, but I would so much rather read something infused with ambitious originality. Upon first glance, Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson was the banal and overused enemies to lovers plot set in a new fictitious world. However, misled my first impression, I picked up Dance of Thieves and discovered it was everything I had been searching for.

The story is told from the point of view of two main characters, which was is an added bonus. The female protagonist, Kazi, is a soldier in the Vendean Queen’s personal guard with a knack for stealing and thievery. Along with two other guards, it is her mission to investigate the rumor that the most infamous and diabolical traitor from the recent war is being harbored by the Ballinger family.

Jase Ballinger, the male protagonist, has just inherited the title Paterei. He and his family are amidst a power struggle and will not back down from ruling their kingdom inside a kingdom. After a meeting ripe with danger, dislike, and distrust, Kazi and Jase land in an unfortunate situation, forcing them to overcome their differences and help one another in order to survive.

In the chapters before the two meet, it was a struggle to read it in all its blandness. As with all books, the first few chapters are establishing characters, relationships, and settings, which is naturally dull. However, it was so lulling, even a bit befuddling, that I seriously considered foregoing this reading excursion for one a bit more interesting. Nevertheless, I am so glad I persevered through because I would have missed a truly beautiful and engaging work of language had I not.

Actually, engaging might not be the correct word; it doesn’t do the plot justice. There were so many pieces of the story shifting, coming together, and diverging like a well-oiled machine. Each part worked with another, which prevents what I consider “attention dips.” When books slow down and nothing of significance occurs, the reader attention dips. Not in Dance of Thieves.

Throughout this alluring and fast-paced book, bits and pieces of Kazi’s personal history are dropped. Every so often, one of her friends or her own thoughts refers to a specific part of her past that the reader won’t quite understand. When the time is right, it is revealed to the reader. Somehow, Kazi’s murky and mysterious past made me love her all the more.

Kazi also undergoes quite a bit character development, initiating from her first encounter with Jase. He is the catalyst that changed her, made her better. Jase brought out a new, soft, yet also paradoxically strong, side of her. So many of her most cemented and biased views liquidated and washed away as Kazi got to know Jase.

For example, in early chapters, Pearson makes a point to write how Kazi doesn’t have time for love, how Kazi is so dedicated to her work that love doesn’t matter. She desperately tries to ignore what she feels for Jase, even telling him she can’t promise him any tomorrows. Clearly, this all changes.

Furthermore, Kazi and Jase’s relationship is unlike all the cliches I originally assumed theirs to play into. Usually, those relationships are born from pity, an eye-opening experience into each other’s past hardships. In an attempt to seem more realistic, these types of relationships accomplish the opposite with the added bonus of being shallow.

Kazi and Jase’s relationship is deep and meaningful. They see and bring out the best in one another. I love that they didn’t jump into this relationship head-on, keeping it casual and temporary. It drove me crazy that they wouldn’t commit, but it made everything so much sweeter.

Dance of Thieves also had a couple of recurring elements, two of which made me fall in even more in love with Kazi and Jase as a couple. The first is oranges. Kazi loves the fruit, and Jase knows this. So, throughout the story, Jase brings her oranges which is, in a small way, almost a confession of his love for her. The other was riddles. Riddles are what broke down the wall between them in the first place.

I can only hope the next will be delightful as the 512 pages I just read. This stereotypical YA book was everything I love about a predictable, feel-good book but with an added flavor of fresh individuality. Fingers crossed that the next book in the Dance of Thieves series will embody everything that made the first spectacular.