The Deception Dance

The Deception Dance

The Deception Dance was written by Rita Stradling and first published in 2012. It is a paranormal romance novel which focuses on an eighteen year old girl who finds herself drawn to two handsome strangers. The novel is the first part of a series an is followed by The Lie Spinners (2013). A third book, titled Waltzing into Damnation, is due for release later this year.

Eighteen year old Raven Smith is excited to heading off on the trip of a lifetime. She has always wanted to visit Europe and finally has a chance to explore Rome while reconnecting with her older sister Linnie. Even the fact that her sister’s stuck up room-mate, Chauncey, has tagged along is not enough to dampen her spirits. She knows that she’s in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Yet before she even leaves the plane, Raven comes across a mysterious note in her luggage. It is a letter from her elderly neighbour that warns her against leaving the country as an evil agent of Hell is searching from her. Disregarding the note, Raven starts her holiday but soon notices that a dark stranger appears to be following her to every site that she visits. Andras is mysterious and frightening, yet Raven finds herself inexplicably drawn to him.

But then Nicholas enters her life – handsome, charismatic and heir to a Swedish fortune. Nicholas seems to have some kind of history with Andras and does his best to keep Raven away from him. Both men hide terrible secrets and, once Raven learns the truth, she realises that she does not know which to trust. The key may well lie in her past, yet as she uncovers this secret she begins to see that it is also something that could be used to invite Hell on Earth…

I’ve done a fair few middle grade reviews over the last couple of weeks so it feels nice to be looking at something for a slightly older audience. Before I begin, a word of warning. While I think this novel is technically aimed at young adults, it certainly pushes the boundary into new adult. While there is only implied sex scene in the novel, there is certainly a lot of talk about doing it and some pretty steamy scenes in the first half of the story. The second half, bizarrely, flips the other way and becomes incredibly violent. I would certainly express reader discretion if you’re sensitive to either sexiness or gore.

It terms of plot and structure, I have to say that my opinion of this novel is incredibly divided. While I didn’t hate it as much as some of the other paranormal romances that I’ve reviewed (*cough* Evermore, Hidden Deep and Hush, Hush), it still just didn’t speak to me at all.

The novel is very long for an indie debut, weighing in at almost 450 pages, and it certainly could have been trimmed for length. Although it is well written with only a few noticeable typos, the first half of the book is ungodly slow. After the excellent opening chapter, it trundles along for a good 200 pages without really advancing the story. It’s just a series of events which allow the reader to get to know Raven a little better through her interactions with Nicholas, Andras, Linnie and Chauncey. That’s about all there is to it.

Thinking back over the first half of The Deception Dance, I’m struggling to actually remember many distinct things about it (which is a bit scary as I’ve only just finished reading it). I didn’t hate it but it completely failed to strike any kind of chord with me. However, the novel completely changed at its halfway mark.

The second part of the story could not have been more different to the first. The plot suddenly takes off, moving at a breakneck pace as it develops its own mythos concerning the agents of Hell and the humans that hunted them. Personally, as a fan of horror, I was far more interested in this side of the plot. It felt a lot more substantial and certainly held my interest more. I’ll try not to spoil it for you here as it contains a lot of twists and turns (including some rather clever linguistic battles against creatures that are incapable of lying). However, even this half was not without its disappointments.

Writing action sequences is not this author’s strongest suit and I found myself sometimes feeling a little lost within the faster scenes. The climatic showdown with Andras was probably the best example of this. I have very little idea of what went on after the deal was struck. If you have read this book and can explain it to me, please do. I don’t even know where to begin in deconstructing it as I have no idea what actually happened.

The characterisation of the story was much better. Stradling did take a lot of time in fleshing out her characters – much more than most paranormal romance writers – and so they did all come across as being believable and well-rounded human beings.

Raven was certainly the most likable of the lot. Although she makes some very silly mistakes (who the Hell wakes up in a stranger’s bed wearing different clothes and then accepts a drink that he gives her?), she is a very witty protagonist and some of her internal monologues are laugh-out-loud funny. My other favourite was Chauncey. She was a horrible human being (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Cordelia, only a stage worse again) yet somehow she was just so entertaining to read. She was just so unrepentantly shallow. I loved it.

My biggest problem with the characterisation is found in the romantic leads. While Andras and Nicholas were intriguing characters, I felt absolutely no chemistry between them and Raven. This really is a major problem in a paranormal romance and I think it might put off some fans of the genre. While she lusts after Andras, she never really seems to feel like she has any romantic desire for him beyond this (in fact, she seems terrified of him most of the time). Similarly, Nicholas seemed like the better option in the early half of the novel but I never got the impression she was that into him. Raven occasionally wonders what it would be like to be with him but there are no butterflies or fantasies. She’s just too preoccupied with Andras to really pay him any attention.

I also feel as though I should mention Stephen here. Although he’s a late addition to the story, he is technically a third suitor for Raven. I say technically because, although Stephen is probably the best of the male characters, he never really shows any interest in Raven beyond friendship (and she never expresses any romantic feelings for him either). I’d go as far to say that I’m not sure who this story is actually aimed at. Its first half won’t really satisfy a horror fan yet it doesn’t really contain much relationship drama for fans of paranormal romance. It’s like the story is trying to cater for both but, ultimately, weakens itself in trying.

So, to conclude, The Deception Dance does have some good moments and is very different to a lot of teen paranormal romances that are on the market. However, it just didn’t win me over. It seemed unable to balance its horror and romance elements and in doing so reached a climax which was very confused and lacking in heart. It’s certainly not the worst novel of its kind that I’ve read but I’m also in no hurry to pick up its sequel.

The Deception Dance can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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  1. Trackback: Vampire Diaries: The Fury / The Reunion | Arkham Reviews

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