A good novel is like going home and the characters from a good series are like family. For twenty-five years, Jennifer Roberson has been my favorite novelist; the adventures of Tiger and Del have been my chosen couple. My original copies of the Sword-Dancer series have grown ragged and dog-eared from frequent reading, and I have replaced the set at least once. When Roberson announced plans to release a seventh (and an eighth!) book, I wooted and whooped—and almost performed back flips.
Roberson paints a canvas with words, creating a world alive and vital--full of memorable characters, vivid places. In Sword-Bound, she resumes the adventures of Tiger and Del, a story set two years after where they last left the reader. The plot kicks off slowly, depicting domestic life in a peaceful canyon, where the couple lives with their two-year-old daughter, Sula, and Tiger's grown son, Neesha. They operate a sword-dancing school and Tiger appears quite domesticated—up until his son accuses him of being so and challenges him to go on an adventure.
The pace picks up swiftly, covering ground and combats, with caravan guard duty and what may be Tiger's most challenging sword dance ever. Overall, it comes fast and furious, and keeps on coming. There are occasional bits of back story, explanations for those not familiar with the series that slow things down a little. Umir-the-Irritating (not his real name) is back to his old mischief. All in all, the story is absolutely absorbing—an "I can't put this down" thriller.
The worst thing about a series is when it ends because the couple gets together. Tiger and Del provide the reader with the rare and satisfying experience of watching a beloved couple continued to evolve and grow—together. There are touching moments of shared affection, amusing glimpses of our dynamic duo confronting the messy realities of parenthood, and that hilarious competitiveness of a man and woman who keep their significant other on their toes.
A six star read. Unfortunately, I can only give it five stars.
The first six novels in the Sword Dancer series are currently available in reprint.
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