Skip to main content

Retro Friday Review: Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson

I read Jennifer Roberson's historicals long before I discovered her fantasy books. But after downing her two Robin Hood retellings and one Scottish massacre novel, I discovered she was actually much better known for her earlier Sword-Dancer saga. I loved her historicals for being so character-driven. I loved them for their strong women. And I loved them for their chunkiness. So I went into Sword-Dancer--the first book of six in the Sword-Dancer saga--with a sense of happy anticipation but with no knowledge of what they were about. The covers are a mixed bag, the cover artist changing with every two books. I prefer the first artist, as the third is just cartooney looking, while the middle one makes my beloved Tiger and Del look like members of an 80s Glam Metal band. *shudder* Of course, right after I finished the series DAW re-released all six in three trade paperback omnibus editions, natch.
A look at the original cover for the first book and the cover of Volume I of the omnibus editions:














The story opens in a backwater cantina on the edges of the great Southron desert known as the Punja. The mighty sword-dancer the Sandtiger is ensconced in his usual corner, enjoying the wine (and the cantina girls), when in walks trouble in the form of a woman from the north with ice-pale hair, a sword strapped to her back, and vengeance on her mind. She gives her name as Del and seeks to hire Tiger to be her guide through the Punja on a journey to find her brother, free him from slavery, and kill the ones who stole him. Always up for a challenge, particularly when it comes in such a lovely package, Tiger agrees to her terms and the two set off. Amid sandstorms and sandtigers, in between venomous insults and first-rate swordfighting, these two opposites are forced to learn a few things about each other as well as themselves and Tiger, for one, realizes that when the dust settles the world as he knew it may be virtually unrecognizable.

I will just go ahead and start by saying you will not like Tiger at first. You will not like him at all. He is irascible and monumentally arrogant. He is a womanizer and lazy to go with it. And he narrates the story! But then he is a living legend, after all. He slew the sandtiger that was systematically decimating his village and has the claw-shaped scar on his cheek to prove it. He completed his master-level training at an unprecedented speed. To a certain degree, his attitude is to be expected. But you must remember this is how it begins. Trust the storyteller. Tiger has a long way to go and plenty of pages in which to make a transformation of sorts. And the wonderful thing, the thing that had me jumping up and down inside as I read this book for the first time, is the fact that Del is just as remote and prickly and hard as Tiger is annoying. Having sacrificed everything to exact revenge for her brother, she has given up most of her humanity along with it. And so it's not a case of her getting him to come around or him breaking through her icy exterior and either of them "fixing" the other. On paper they are the definition of heroes, but as you get to know them you realize how very far they really are from their outer personas. It takes guts to start a series off with two such difficult, problematic characters. But rest assured, by the time the end of the first book rolls around your hearts will be won over. The fighting is awesome, the stakes emotional and high, the magic complex and everchanging, and the romance subtle and stretching out over the whole series. I hope you'll want to continue on as each book gets better and better. Another wonderful example of a series staying true to itself. Reading order: Sword-Dancer, Sword-Singer, Sword-Maker, Sword-Breaker, Sword-Born, and Sword-Sworn. As usual, I highly recommend all six.

Linkage
Retro Friday Roundup

Comments

  1. I am so glad I bought this when I bought Prince of Ill Luck. Woohoo!

    I just finished Suite Scarlett , by the way, loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ana, grin. Wonder which one you'll read first? Hm. Given the choice, wonder which one I'd read first? So glad you enjoyed SUITE SCARLETT. I just adore Spencer and found myself laughing out loud several times.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love your wonderful pick for Retro Friday, I can definitely second that! :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, Samantha! I'm happy to have it seconded. Would love to talk about the series with more people who've read it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Angie, I just picked up this book the other day at the library. I couldn't remember who had recommended it, I'm thinking you must have mentioned it in a previous post? Anyway, I'm excited to dive in and meet Del & Tiger!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kath, I did mention it in an under-the-radar post I did a little while back. I hope you enjoy this duo. They're both a little off putting in their own special ways at first. But I came to care about them very much. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm about to order this book or another one- whether it is fate or I didn't want to choose myself, your review makes me lean towards Sword Dancer, Sword Singer.
    So thank-you
    seahn

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous6:59 PM

    Wow! Great review - it makes me really really want to read it now =)
    I love it when you can trust the author to make a very annoying character into something endearing as the story progresses!

    --Sharry

    ReplyDelete
  9. Seahn, wow, you're welcome! I'm glad you got the first omnibus volume and hope you enjoy it very much.

    Sharry, thanks! I completely agree. I'm one who has to have a character I care about and so it's a talented author who can win me over from unsure to in love. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think I will read Prince of Ill Luck first, because I love the funny. *g*

    ReplyDelete
  11. I loved these books! (And I'm glad that at least I don't have to add these to the list, too.) :-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ana, sounds good to me.

    Darla, ooh, I'm so glad to hear it. I just love Tiger and Del so much and was happy to follow them on all of their adventures.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Review | A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

The first review of the year! Writing this one always feels fresh and hopeful to me and like it may set the tone of my reading year in a way. This was a very good one to start with. And the moral of this story appears to be: I will never tire of Beauty and the Beast retellings. A fact I was not unaware of, but that I am happy to have confirmed once more, this time after reading Brigid Kemmerer's A Curse So Dark and Lonely. My favorites tend to run the Robin McKinley way, with the most recent favorite retelling being Meagan Spooner's wonderful Hunted. But this is the first retelling of my favorite fairy tale that I've read that includes both traditional fantasy and modern contemporary settings. I didn't think it could work. Or, at least, I was skeptical that the one would interfere with the other or that the different dialogues might clash. How happy I was to find that the whole thing played out seamlessly. How happy I am to have discovered Brigid Kemmerer's writin…

Review | All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

I thought today would be the perfect day to review this unicorn of a book. It is All Saints' Day—a fitting day to revisit all the crooked ones, no? It is also the first day of November and so, today, . . . well, you know the rest. What I'm saying is, today is kind of the perfect day to do all the Maggie Stiefvater-related things! Which is, of course, why I'll be attending her signing event later this evening at my local indie, key in hand. I know. I win today. I do. What I do not do is take it for granted. My good fortune or this book. This beautiful, beautiful book. But before we get into my reaction, I want to make a brief request. If you haven't yet had a chance to read Maggie's post on how this book came about and what it was originally going to be and what it actually became, I straight up implore you to do so. It is one of my favorite things I've read this year and it is something I needed to read this year. My favorite line? "I discovered that I wa…

Angie's Best Books of 2018

It is the last day of the year. Are you with me? We made it this far. I think we'd better keep going. I always enjoy arriving at this final post of the year so much. I love seeing all of your lists and all of the books and words and hearts and monumental efforts that gave you life this year. That helped get you to this point. With me. I have felt rather keenly these last 365 days how in it together we are. How we have to be. And I am grateful for you. For each of you who leave comments and send recommendations and write and read and push forward into the darkness. I'm so grateful for you. 
And so here I leave my best books of the year. It's a whopping 28 titles, guys. Twenty. Eight. I haven't had a list that long in a handful of years at least. That is something to smile at. A record of a year well read, indeed.

Photo by @aamith (in the order in which I read them)

Circeby Madeline Miller The Princeby Katharine Ashe Burn Brightby Patricia Briggs Any Groom Will Doby Charis …