Good lord. This book.
Dance of Blades starts off dark. Incredibly, mind-numbingly dark. If you've read the farm scene where they question Matthew's family, you know what I'm talking about. That entire scene is just terrible, monstrous, and depraved...and by the end of the book, the story is laughing at the absurdity of asking a wizard wearing bright yellow robes if he can be stealthy.
It's such a conflict of extremes, but it somehow worked. Instead of dwelling on all of the evil in the world, this book did its best to show a bit of good in everyone. Except for Arthur. Arthur's a prick.
The story doesn't diverge from the normal David Dalglish depression-fest. Most of the characters are still making selfish choices, and doing terrible things. This book just admits that there's more to them than that. It admits that yes, people can be terrible...but they can also be good. It helped a lot towards characterization, and making the reader feel sympathy for at least some of the horrible things the characters did. Alyssa's attack against the guilds wouldn't have been quite so tragic if we weren't allowed to see her grief that drove her to the point of insanity.
Once more, the story felt like it could have stopped with this one, but there's still another book in the trilogy to go. I wonder where it can possibly go from there...