eBook cover of A Dance With Phantoms by Rowan Locke

A Dance With Phantoms by Rowan Locke – Indie Review

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“For coercion, no matter how sweet it can seem on the surface, is never made of the same strength as true love.”

I also just want to preface this review by thanking the author, Rowan Locke, for reaching out and offering me a copy of A Dance with Phantoms in exchange for a review.

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I wanted to format this review a little different from my other reviews, just to “stream of conscious” my thoughts on this book. So let’s dive right in!

Goodreads / Amazon

Summary from Goodreads

When shadows dance, love may be the only light. Dive into the sprawling labyrinth of Dekos, an underground city cloaked in darkness and ruled by corruption. Naleira, a renowned Elven assassin, embarks on her most dangerous mission yet—to bring down Adair Nostrum, the ruthless, enigmatic ruler of Dekos. Armed with lethal prowess and unwavering determination, Naleira dives headfirst into the city’s murky depths, where danger lurks around every corner.

But destiny has a wicked sense of humor. Enter Valen, a charming and fiery half-demon paladin, driven by righteous fury to hunt down Adair for his sins. Sparks fly as Valen crosses paths with Naleira, and they find themselves as unexpected allies in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

As they navigate through the labyrinthine streets of Dekos, facing ambushes, treachery, and the looming threat of dark magic, Naleira and Valen fall into a whirlwind of passion amidst the chaos. But the city’s insidious nature threatens to tear them apart, testing the furthest limits of their trust and blossoming love.

In this electrifying tale of danger, desire, and deception, every shadow hides a secret, and nothing is what it seems. Will Naleira and Valen emerge triumphant from the abyss, or will Dekos claim their souls within its voracious embrace, banishing them to the darkness forever?

Author’s A Dance with Phantoms is a standalone fantasy/adventure romance novel for ages 18+. It’s perfect for fans of romantic tension, witty banter, alluring villains, and hurt/comfort scenes. It also contains explicit, consensual spice scenes. Please check the content warnings in the preface before reading.

*I also wanted to note that in the preface of this book, the author lets us know that they did not want to write about women being injured/killed and so the fight scenes include no other women besides our FMC, Naleira. 

Initial Thoughts

The summary of this book grabbed my attention immediately and sold me on it. The more fantasy I read, the more I know what I like and don’t like. This book really pulled me in. I appreciated the warnings and the author’s note.

I liked how atmospheric this book was. In the beginning, I felt like I was walking next to Naleira as she entered the dark and sinister Dekos. 

The world-building is on the lighter side, but I didn’t mind this because we spend the whole story in Dekos. 

The pacing is good in this book and I enjoyed the writing quite a lot. It was very apparent the author put a lot of stock into perfecting this book and it shows. 

I did struggle a bit to connect with Naleira, our main character. She is tough and has a sad backstory, but I wanted to know more. I wanted to find something to relate to her. 

Our love interest, Valen, is quite the charming gentleman. Right from the start, he comes off a bit strong tbh, he manages to win over not only Naleira, but I found myself rooting for him as well. 

There were a couple of side characters that added to the story in different ways. Some to further the plot, support the main character, and help Naleira and Valen on their quest. 

As I Continued On

There were a few twists and turns and changes within the plot that kept the story moving and added layers of depth. 

We meet another side character who has seemingly always been in love with Naleira, although it is evident that she does not reciprocate his feelings. 

He felt a little jarring and seemed almost more like a distraction. And maybe I have been reading too many “villain gets the girl” stories because when we finally meet the villain, Adair, I thought there might be something about to happen with him. 

But that falls flat and I think a lot of my disappointment stems straight from Naleira herself. 

Like I mentioned earlier, Naleira was hard to relate to. She’s a tough as nails assassin, but she struggled to make her own decisions. Especially when it came to the men in the story. 

And maybe that is because they all wouldn’t stop coming onto her romantically. I realized the part of the story I was most drawn into was when Naleira finally catches Adair. 

The way the two of them seemed so fascinating together, I found myself wanting that storyline. 

Naleira’s relationship with Valen began very insta-love like which I did not like. As someone who dislikes that trope it turned me off a bit, but Valen is quite honorable and so after some time my dislike for him wore off.

By The Time I Reached The End

I was a little let down by the ending. The story wraps up very nicely and manages to tell a complete story within its 288 pages. (eBook page count, physical book pages may vary once available.)

It all (again) comes back to Naleira and her decision-making. For a tough as nails assassin, her decisions at the end of the book were surprising. 

Some of the fighting scenes felt one dimensional because there were no other women. Naleira fighting only men kinda took me out of the story a little bit but the author did preface this at the beginning of the book.

I wanted justice for her and for her mission to come full circle. The ending was not up my alley at all, but like I said, that is a me preference and not a problem with the story itself. 

I did like the epilogue so to speak. The story closes out very nicely and we get to see our FMC get the happily ever after she deserves. She’s been through a lot and deserves to live out her own happy ending. 

Overall, this book gets 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

While there were things I found I did not like, those stem from my preferences as a reader. 

You will enjoy this book if you like fantasy romance with spice, quest based stories, atmospheric writing, badass FMC, and slow burn tension. Valen also had some really good one-liners in this book.

TLDR: This book had some amazing writing, and I loved the atmospheric feeling the writing was able to convey. The plot was interesting enough and the world-building light enough as we spent the whole story in Dekos. Where I struggled was connecting to the characters. At some points, the book felt one dimensional, and I found myself really wanting more. But the slow burn tension was perfection and Valen, our MMC, has a lot of great dialogue that I found myself highlighting often throughout reading this story. 

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