The January Dancer by Michael Flynn (The January Dancer 1)

I needed something to listen to on my way to work and the January Dancer sounded interesting and I am always willing to try new authors, you might find something you really like. This is what I found.

Title: The January Dancer
Series: The January Dancer 1 | Firestar Future 1
Author: Michael Flynn
Narated by: Stefan Rudnicki
Publisher: Tor 2008 | Blackstone Audio
Genre: Space Opera
Hardcover: 352 pages
Audiobook: 13h
Order from: Audible | Amazon US | UK | B&N | sfbok

“The January Dancer tells the fateful story of an ancient pre-human artifact of great power and the people who pursue it. Starting with Captain Amos January, who quickly loses it, and then the others who fight, scheme, and kill to get it, we travel around the complex, decadent, brawling, mongrelized interstellar human civilization it might save or destroy. Collectors want the Dancer; pirates take it; rulers crave it; and they’ll all kill if necessary to get it.” This is a story of love, revolution, music, and mystery, and it ends, as all great stories do, with shock and a beginning.


I listened to the audio book version and I connected with that voice from the very beginning. It was a good choice with the right accent and dynamic enough for the other voices in the story.

In the best Gaelic tradition a beautiful redhead Harper walks into a bar looking for a man who can tell the tale of the January Dancer so she can make sweet music of it. She finds ‘the Scared man’ and he tells her the Tale of The January Dancer.

I feel that listening to this instead of reading it added extra realism in the storytelling, I could feel myself sitting in that dark alcove listening to the scared mans masterful word weaving as he dealt out piece by piece to keep the suspense high.

I would have gladly brought him all the uisce beatha he could drink to get him to finish his story.

World building

The story of the January Dancer takes place in a future world were humanity is spread among the stars along the highways of space. Known space is divided by a rift that may have been created in a war or a cataclysmic event. Much of history and science is lost in legends. Legend has it that the Rift was created in a cataclysmic war that shattered the Commonwealth of Suns, devastated Terra and plunged everyone into ‘the sundering’ when dark ages ruled and many worlds lost contact with mainstream humanity.

The side of the Rift centered on Terra consists of The Confederation of Central Worlds under the dictatorship of ‘Those of Names’. Flynn has his way with names.

The other side is occupied by the United League of the Periphery a more loose association of worlds under Ardry of High Tara. The ULP is kept together by highly trained agents called ‘hounds’ or ‘pups’.

Technology is not very well understood by most, many legends claim that it was more advanced ‘before’. They can still manage interstellar travel along the high roads where space travels faster than light. The roads have named like ‘Route 66’ and ‘the Silk Road’.

The world just is, I am there. Michael Flynn is a master world weaver I can never do his intricate weave justice with my scribblings.


One side of the plot is the scared man and the Harper but they tell a story some twenty years before.

A motley crew under Captain January finds an alien artifact (The January Dancer, named after the Captain) on a desert planet when they stop for repairs. This sets off a series of events where different actors across the spiral arm try to gain control over it. An ancient legend of an object of power a Twister is involved. The story focuses on a group that seems to get together by chance; it consists of  the Fudir, an opportunistic criminal from Jehovah, Hugh a guerrilla leader and once planet manager of the first planet where the Dancer changed hands and two kennel agents Greystroke and Bridget ban. They eventually track down the Dancer and confront its power.


The Fudir is my favorite character but they are all great. The voices on the audio were superb and the way they are described really makes them come alive. It feels like the scared man has meet each and every one of the characters and he tells their story like you would tell your best friend.

The way it is done is perfect for the story and the way it is told. But I as an outside reader gets so curious about those characters that I want to know more! Some of the characters like the Fudir and Hugh you get to know a little more about.

My View

I am in awe with this book, the combination of wonderful prose and just the right narrator meshed perfectly. Its only drawback is that it is too short. I am not sure the story telling technique will fit everyone but I would recommend that you give the audio version a try. The January Dancer is space opera wrapped in a Gaelic saga served by a Harper and a scarred man. I am already on the sequel Up Jim River.