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Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson
Review by LyssaSword-Dancer is a fast-paced story, replete with the sights, sounds, and all the searing heat of the desert in which it is set. It has the feel of Conan meets Lawrence of Arabia and for that, it is in a class with only a select few (Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince and Frank Herbert's Dune come immediately to mind). It is the story of magic and skepticism; danger, rage, and lust, sprinkled liberally with humor and ornery animals. Tiger (aka Sandtiger) is a rugged, no-nonsense sword-dancer; a famous, ritually-trained hired assassin ready to kill any man in the sword-dancer's ritual, as long as the price is right, and . . . well, he'll just outright kill anyone for the right amount of gold. He has no problems making a liquor and women-laden tavern his home, or a desert stone his pillow.
Then Del happens into his favorite watering hole and his life gets fuzzy. Nothing exists beyond Del and trying to convince the Northern Beauty (untested in the fury and ways of the desert) to give up her insane quest and return to the comfortable life she says she's known in the frigid North. Del is having none of it-she can't. She is in search of her brother, stolen from her only a scant five years before. He may have been taken by Southron slave traders, she may or may not have some secret she's hiding, but she's too beautiful to leave alone in this wasteland, and her promise (and her gold) are too hard for Tiger to ignore. She is determined, but she is also smug, mysterious, and maybe even a little crazy-she can't possibly believe in magic, can she?
Nonetheless, Tiger takes on her quest and off they go, across the Punja (the desert Tiger was born and bred to, the desert that just may kill Del before her quest is over). The search is long and hard, slave traders, bandits, sandstorms, and lusting men following them (especially the blonde Del) every step of the way. And why does she keep stopping in the midst of chaos to jam her sword in the sand and meditate? Will Tiger go crazy, slap her silly, or just leave her stranded before the quest is over?
Oh, but it is a fun trip! Even in the midst of a sandstorm, and faced with possible capture by slave traders himself, he manages to keep his sense of humor-even faced with a strange Northern sword-dancer, his jests and bravado are only slightly tempered. But being faced with his horse is another matter entirely!
Sword-Dancer is an excellent novel, one not really to be savored, but to be giggled over, loved, enjoyed. There is danger, love, sorrow, regret, humor, magic galore in these pages and I guarantee you will fall in love with it. Give it a try!
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