This highly-recommended duology in my favorite sub-genre (romantic high fantasy) jumped its way to the top of my TBR pile, and I was not disappointed.
Kazi is an elite warrior, a member of the Queen's personal guard. Along with her two comrades Wren and Synove, they embark on a mission to the remote city of Hell's Mouth to root out an escaped war criminal and bring him home to face justice.
Hell's Mouth is ruled by the Ballenger family, a ruthless clan with ancient roots in the region. Jase has only just assumed his father's mantle as Patrei, a transition of power that brings the wolves to the door searching for any signs of weakness, when Kazi and her crew arrive on his doorstep. A twist of fate finds them bound together in a struggle to survive, and the rest is history.
And that history? Fan-freaking-tastic. This was the best read I've had all year. Dance of Thieves is a winding, heart-wrenching, character-driven story about family, trust, and love. Featuring two exceptionally-written protagonists and a gritty, authentic world, Pearson's crown jewel duology kept me turning pages long into the night.
One thing I admire about this book is that it throws the reader right into the thick of the story, without it feeling disorienting. Kazi's relationship with her Rhatan comrades is established early and with conviction, so even though they quickly take a backseat to her adventure with Jase, the emotional connection lingers and they pick back up with just as much impact later as they had in the beginning. I also enjoyed the focus on personal conflicts that help shape the characters and gradually flesh out their sordid backstories throughout the course of the book. Kazi's dark childhood and the weight of Jase's responsibilities as the head of his family provide steady undercurrents of emotion tension, and their enemies-to-lovers romance hit all the right chords for me. I can't wait to dive into the second half of this duology!