Joint Review: Blade Dance (Cold Iron #4) by D.L. McDermott

Reviewed by Meka and Marlene

Meka: I found this series quite by accident and contrary to my constant choosing of books that are not firsts in a series, I read this one in order. This is a rare thing! When I found out that Marlene would be writing a review of this book, I practically begged her to let me join in.

Marlene: I forget what made me read the first book in this series, but from my review here at The Book Pushers, it’s pretty clear that while I had a whole lot of quibbles with that entry, I liked the setup more than enough to want to see more. I kept following the series because I wanted to see where it went. And it got loads better as it went.

Meka: Blade Dance picks up where the third book leaves off, with Ann Phillips trying to come to grips with the events that happened in Storm Song, namely Finn spiriting her to safety via magical means while all hell broke loose. Ann is an elementary schoolteacher who loves what she does but struggles to hold back her emotions of deep anger. When one of her students shows up to class injured, she fights against the seemingly unwinnable in order to provide a place of safety for said student. She wants to help, but is thwarted at every turn because of the Fae.

Marlene: When I read Storm Song (reviewed at Reading Reality) I enjoyed it more for the way that it pushed the overall story of the fae in Boston forward than for the particular romance in the book. The story of Miach and Finn’s longstanding feud, and their battles to keep the Wall between the Worlds up and why they fight that war are the bits that kept me turning pages. So another story that gets even deeper into what’s keeping those two apart and what might get them on the same side was catnip for me.

Meka: Can I just stop for a minute and tell you how much I freaking loved Ann? She doesn’t back down, even when everyone else believes that she should, even when bad stuff happens, even when everything she knows or believes is turned on its head. She is a kickass heroine and she isn’t about to turn away from someone obviously in need of help, even if she has to go to a man that she’s afraid of and demand his involvement.

Marlene: I absolutely agree. I like this series best when the human females do not spend even part of the story as victims. I loved Ann because she always fights back no matter what the odds. I also loved Helene in Silver Skin (reviewed at Reading Reality) the same way. The men in this story are very powerful and even immortal. The heroines need to be women who are their equals and don’t need to be rescued by them over and over – if ever.

Meka: Meanwhile, Finn is trying to pick up the pieces after shit got extra real in book three. We see that the Fianna are falling apart and that Finn is losing control over his people by external events and complacency. He wants to do better, but doesn’t really know how. Then Ann comes into his life once again with the story of a child that is being abused, a child that should have been under his protection. She doesn’t care if he’s a crime boss or not, she wants him to do something about it. Right now! And so the adventure begins.

I have to admit that I wasn’t at all looking forward to Finn’s story because he was such a bastard in previous books, but D. L. McDermott did not disappoint. In fairness, Finn had reasons for being the way that he was after having to deal with the death of his wife by the hands of the druids. He stuck to his character of still being a bastard, but when he started falling for Ann, he really started to turn around and wanted only her. After his son’s defection, he wanted to do better by the Fianna and protect those under his command. I am so thrilled with how he turned out. I honestly didn’t think anyone could make a believer out of me that he’d be a great hero, but here I am eating all the crow.

Marlene: Finn has not been a likable hero in the earlier books, but as we have learned more of his history, his reasons become more clear. He’s not a bad man, but he has been operating under a worldview that owes way more to the Dark Ages than to the 21st century. He also has one hell of a lot of survivor’s guilt eating away at him. He needs Ann to slap some life and some sense into him, and she does so spectacularly. She makes him stop wallowing and look at the way his world is now. By that I don’t just mean 21st century mores by themselves, but that he has to adapt to keep his Fianna safe in today’s world. And also to make him finally admit that he has everything in common with Miach in the present and nothing holding him back but the dead past.

Meka: I don’t know if Marlene will agree with me or not, but I thought that Finn and Ann were the most romantic couple of the series. This isn’t to say that I didn’t like the previous novels, but I loved how their romance unfolded. They brought out the best in each other, while not sacrificing their own personalities. Finn went all in, wanting to make Ann his own. Once they figured out that they wanted each other, that was it. There may have been hesitation and concern, but neither one of them looked back and that made me extremely happy.

Watching this couple together was great for me. Not only did I love the chemistry, but their ability to handle situations both apart and together really impressed me. When Ann gets angry, she gets really, really angry. I don’t want to spoil what she really is, but people do not want to piss her off. The tender moments between the two were both unexpected and sweet.

Marlene: I loved Helene and Miach maybe a little more than Ann and Finn, but it’s a close call. These are both stories where the heroines are the equals of the heroes, whether they have any superpowers or not. Sorcha from Stone Song and Beth in Cold Iron spent too much time being victims for my personal taste.

One of the things I very much loved about Ann’s relationship with Finn is that she was finally able to accept all of herself, not just the parts of herself that society still deems appropriate for women. She is who and what she is, and watching her finally own that was fantastic.

Meka: I found myself really hoping that Finn would make amends with several people and begin to be the kind of leader that people could really count on, because bad stuff is coming down the pipes and they need to be ready.

One of the things I love about this series is how the characters don’t just change every single thing about them. Some of them still have jackwagon moments even after they meet their partners. On the flip side, I do love how some of them are like ‘I will never do this thing or change my mind.’ and then listen to their mates and are like ‘you know, maybe we should do things this way.’ This series is dark, and typically I like for my good guys to be good and my bad guys to be bad with very little shades of gray, but I’ve fallen in love with these characters. The series takes place in Boston, and the author seems to have a real familiarity with that area, at least in this reader’s estimation.

Marlene: Jackwagon moments. Yes, Finn has lots of them. One of the great things about Ann is that she is literally able to knock some sense into him when necessary. Miach is sometimes still more than a bit slippery, but that’s who he is. Finn owns the shit he’s done to Garrett and Nieve, and it helps him move forward. Miach is still a bit in the “enemy of my enemy is my ally” at the moment, but there’s a lot of water under that bridge and he needs to see that Finn has really changed his attitude.

Meka: The adventure and fight scenes kept me riveted. There were moments when I really got worried, and now I want to know what is next for the Fae. The arc that started in the beginning of the series is starting to come to a head, and can the rest of these books come out already? Please?

Marlene: I agree. There is a real sense of danger all the time. Their enemies are overwhelmingly powerful and coming at them from different directions and with different agendas. I wonder which is coming first, the confrontation with the rogue Druids or the wall coming down and the Queen returning to earth for retribution. I also have a sneaking suspicion that the Prince Consort is starting to rethink some of his positions, but I could be totally wrong. But I’m with Meka, I want the next book now!

Meka: Blade Dance ends with a happily-ever-after, but I know that there are things that will happen. Bad things! I am getting really worried about these people. For me, the book kept me on the edge of my seat, gave me moments that were tender in a stark setting where horrible things go down, and made me cheer for a hero that I previously hated. It’s fast-paced urban fantasy at its finest. Also, oh my gosh I almost want a book about the Prince Consort. He is terrible and yet so mysterious! I love this series, and Blade Dance was an excellent installment.
I give Blade Dance an exuberant A+ while hiding from all the bad druids.

Marlene: I would say that Blade Dance ends with a happy for now, not because there is any trouble in the paradise between Finn and Ann, but because the circumstances make me wonder how bad things are going to get for all our heroes caught between the Druids and the Queen. For a series that I initially had some doubts about, this book shows how much the author has turned things around. I’m looking forward eagerly to the next book, which I expect to feature the Penitent and the scholarly Druid.
I give Blade Dance an A.

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