If Dance of Cloaks was the story of Haern's creation, and Dance of Blades was the story of his triumph, then Dance of Death is the story of Haern coming to terms with his own limitations.
He's out of his natural element. He knows nothing about what drives the conflict. He doesn't even know who the enemy is. (Hint: it's everyone. Let's not kid ourselves - this IS a David Dalglish book.) And in the end, there's nothing he can do. It's a hard lesson to learn, but you can't be everybody's hero.
The setting change was a bit jarring, though I suppose it was partially to be expected, since Laurie's family wasn't a major part of the second book. It was also weird to suddenly have the Elven conflict show up, though since these books were always meant as a sort of prequel to the Watcher character in the Half-Orc books, it makes sense that the elves would be dragged in eventually. (Nice twist with the elves, by the way! I didn't guess it until the very end.)
Dance of Death felt much more balanced than the previous books. Not that any of them were bad writing! They were all really good books. But the first book was insanely character driven. The second one jumped from being serious to goofy at the drop of a hat. This one...it managed to maintain a more level tone throughout the entire story. Sure, it had its silly moments, but they were never strained, or seemed like they didn't belong in the plot.
My only real complaint about the story is the lack of Deathmask. What gives? Will Deathmask ever get HIS own spin-off series? Or does he already have a spin-off series that I just haven't noticed? Please, for the love of all that is pure and holy, if there IS a Deathmask spin-off, LET ME KNOW. O_O
I also noted that in the author's message at the end, Mr. Dalglish admits to learning a lesson about killing characters off too soon.
*sniffs* I'm still not over Kayla...
To sum up the trilogy - definitely not children's books. But if you enjoy stories about assassins and thieves, and don't mind dark twists, this is an incredible series to read.