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Tiger and Del #1


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He was Tiger, born of the desert winds, raised as a slave and winning his freedom by weaving a special kind of magic with a warrior's skill. Now he was an almost legendary sword-dancer, ready to take on any challenge--if the price was right...or the woman pretty enough.

She was Del, born of ice and storm, trained by the greatest of Northern sword masters. Now, her ritual training completed, and steeped in the special magic of her own runesword, she had come south in search of the young brother stolen five years before.

But even Del could not master all the dangers of the deadly Punja alone. And meeting Del, Tiger could not turn back from the most intriguing challenge he'd ever faced--the challenge of a magical, mysterious sword-dancer of the North

286 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 1986

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About the author

Jennifer Roberson

96 books711 followers
Over a 40-year career (so far), Jennifer Roberson has published four fantasy series, including the Sword-Dancer Saga, Chronicles of the Cheysuli, the Karavans universe, and urban fantasy series Blood & Bone. Other novels include historicals LADY OF THE GLEN, plus two Robin Hood novels, LADY OF THE FOREST, and LADY OF SHERWOOD.

New novels are percolating in her always-active imagination.

Hobbies include showing dogs, and creating mosaic and resin artwork and jewelry.  She lives in Arizona with a collection of cats and Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

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5 stars
2,778 (34%)
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3 stars
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106 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 254 reviews
Profile Image for Choko.
1,166 reviews2,568 followers
September 17, 2017
*** 4 ***

Another read with the Fantasy Buddy Read Group. Because we like Sword-Dancers:)

I had no idea what to expect of this 1986 published Fantasy by J. Roberson. A bit skeptical going in, since the writing of the Ronald Reagan years was not of the height of the works I consider among my favorites. However, having no expectations, I was very pleased with this Fantasy Adventure with some romance mixed in.

The story is told from the POV of a 30-something, very macho-horn-dog sell-sword, a master Sword-Dancer in the Southern Deserts, and a apparently irresistible to women Sandtiger, aka. Tiger. It is kind of fun to read the thoughts of this man, who is as frustrating as alluring and has as many strengths as weaknesses. He is smooth and charming, but he is also as blind to women's' natures as he thinks he is good with them. So, this paragon of manhood meats our female lead in a tavern, where he is drinking with two "ladies" on his lap, just so he does not deprive either of them of his magnificence:):):) In a place where most people are dark eyed, dark haired and with skin like caramel, the newly introduced northern beauty stands out glaringly. Not only is her skin white as porcelain, but she does not wear a decency covering and is caring a sword. This intrigues Tiger and he gets ready to pounce. However, Delilah, or Del as she prefers, is not interested in his flirting skills, but his connection to a local slaver, who may or may not have sold her younger brother about 5 years ago. Not ready to give up on seducing her, our brave sward-dancer decides to assist Del in finding her brother and protect her while in the desert lands, no matter that she does not want him to.

"...“What did he do to you?” I asked her, ignoring the darkening of the bear’s looming face. “Nothing,” she declared, enunciating distinctly. “Do you think every man wants to get me in his bed?” “Every man who’s not dead already—or gelded.”..."

While most of the story is a rode trip desert adventure, Tiger and Del's developing relationship and the mystique of the Northern Swords are in the core of the tale. Their characters are seemingly simple, but there is a lot both hide behind of a facade of confidence. However, the story is linear and not to complicated, it is not difficult to predict, and is compact, thus it could seem simple and frivolous. This might be so, but it is engaging and the protagonists are likable, so it makes for a quick and alluring read. It also follows in the steps of traditional adventure novels and as such I can recommend it to most readers with ease, if they feel like a light and fetching unassuming tale. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series:)

Now I wish you all Happy Reading and many more wonderful books to come!!!
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
576 reviews777 followers
March 9, 2018
There is one advantage to reading vintage books. They are usually so off stream that there are hardly any reviews and so one can read them open-minded, without any expectations or preconditions. And so I plunged into the story of Tiger and Del not knowing what to expect and not really expecting anything. It has been fun - nothing more and nothing less.

The story is narrated by Tiger aka. Sandtiger, a sword-dancer. That is to say, mercenary for hire with extreme skill and slightly mystic approach to sword duels in a drawn circle. Tiger is your usual charming sexist-warrior and his macho man narrative is hilarious. All hail the mighty alpha-romeo male!

The books starts with him sitting in a cantine, with a prostitute on each knee and drinking when the most gorgeous woman walks in challenging his libido and sense of masculinity. This gorgeous woman is, of course, Del (surprise, surprise, also a sword-dancer, just from far up north). She is not impressed with Tiger, but she needs his help in her quest. And so the fun begins.

The story is build on the "opposites attract" premise. The world is divided into North and South, described as similar and yet different like man and a woman, like day and night, like summer and winter. And so North is all ice and snow, while South is all sun and deserts. But the differences go beyond the mere physicalities into the culture, traditions, patterns of belief and behaviour. Accordingly, Del is blue-eyed, fair and blonde, whereas Tiger is copper skin and black hair. She is also rather introvert and mistrustful because of her hardships, but not biter or jaded. Her withdrawn, icy manner is I guess part of the design, but it really suits her. And then all her traits are even more pronounced when juxtaposed with the extravert machismo of Tiger and his easygoing, devil-may-care attitude to life. Even if some things were a bit exaggerated or overly emphasised, I did not mind that much, because clearly this has been the key design. More importantly, they both grow throughout the novel influencing, changing and shaping each other.

In terms of plot, this is a romance-based, but not a romance driven story. What happens between Del and Tiger is important, but happens on the margins of the actual plot-line (yes, there is a plot line, imagine that! yes, I am talking to you, majority of contemporary YA fantasy novels). It is not very original, but just nicely wrought up and with a potential for further development. Bonus: there is fun factor and there are kittens!

Narrative might appear as crude but it is fitting in the light of the general setting. The simplicity of the style/language somewhat reflects the fact that Tiger is not a philosopher, but merely a fighter for hire (even if better than average). Not to mention the fact that the whole story was apparently written in a single week.

Overall, not bad and I shall surely continue the series.

Also in the series:

2. Sword-Singer
3. Sword-Maker
4. Sword-Breaker
5. Sword-Born
6. Sword-Sworn
7. Sword-Bound
Profile Image for Mimi.
690 reviews187 followers
February 13, 2019
Stopped at chapter 5

If written from Del’s point of view, I would have been done with this book years ago and probably would have finished the series by now. But no, in between Del’s chapters, you get Tiger’s chapters and he is an irritating he-man sort of character who’s also kind of an ass, and I have no patience for that kind of nonsense, not in fiction or irl. Fortunately though, I hear he and the series get better in later books, which is good to hear and the reason I’m still trying to finish this book.

Verdict: Will finish… some day…

Did Not Finish, Vol. 1: https://covers2covers.wordpress.com/2...

* * * * *

UPDATE: December 2018

Not quite 3 stars because the beginning was a rough read that took me 3 tries to complete, but I'm rounding up for the sly subversiveness of the storytelling and the subtle ways in which the writing plays off of classic genre tropes.

This book wasn't what I expected, but it turned out to be a lot better than what I was hoping for.
Profile Image for Anne Osterlund.
Author 5 books5,529 followers
December 17, 2011
He is Tiger. A sexist Southron sword-dancer. Paid to step in the ring and fight whoever he is paid to fight.

She is Del. A woman from the North. Naïve. Ferocious. Determined to save her younger brother even if it means traversing the desert and hiring Tiger as her guide.

He assumes she will fail. She assumes he cannot understand.

And neither of them will survive.

If they continue to underestimate one another.

One of my all time favorite fantasy novels! Sword-Dancer is the first of six books in the Tiger and Del series by Jennifer Roberson. Plenty of action, adventure, and traditional fantasy. And plenty of heat. But what makes these books so surprising, and entertaining, is Tiger’s hilarious commentary. And his painful realization that he has met his match.
Profile Image for Solseit.
286 reviews72 followers
September 13, 2017
This is a 3.5 stars read.
It is a fantasy classic, told in a first person point of view - Tiger - of a fantasy tale about swords (and to some extent magic).
The characters are the best aspect of the book in my opinion and the desert should be considered a character in the story. Just splendid!

I cannot wait to read the following story!
Profile Image for Angie.
645 reviews993 followers
July 24, 2009
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.

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.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,851 reviews1,490 followers
August 13, 2013
I must be suffering from a heavy case of nostalgia as this is yet another favorite from my youth reread. I haven't read this one as an adult, so I really didn't remember any of the plot or characters very well—just that I loved it. Unfortunately, those memories are now replaced by knowing that it is pretty much a waste of paper.

I'm not sure if it's an artifact of the 80s or just the desert culture Roberson described, but the unrelenting sexism really grated on me. Both culturally and individually, the novel is kind of a cesspit of sexual dysfunction with every woman either whore or harridan (and treated as such by even the likeable Sandtiger). Del is supposed to be an exception, but any time she is ready to assert her... uh... personhood (did I really just write that?), Tiger steps all over himself being an idiot.

The story is kind of okay, as far as it goes, I guess. Though I have to wonder if Roberson really had to make every ruler a venal waste of skin and if they really had to be betrayed by every single person with any power that they met. Add an ending that skipped the culmination of the most important fight and denied giving us resolution to the protagonists' relationship and in the end you have a dissatisfactory mess.

Okay, it isn't a complete waste of paper. Tiger and Del develop a foundation for a relationship that may be interesting and with some depth and complexity that counters my sexist charge above (though only barely, and not terribly strongly). I'd be interested in a follow-up novel if only to see their relationship now that they've each gotten over themselves enough to have something worthwhile. As it stands, though, it's not worth it to me to wade through all the dreck to get to the glimmer of something hinted at in the end.

What's that, you say? It's part of a series? Now why didn't I know that. Well crap, now I have to decide if it's worth pursuing further books. Probably not without some better enticement than I get from reading this book, though...
Profile Image for Quintin Zimmermann.
229 reviews32 followers
November 20, 2017
This is essentially your traditional pulp fantasy. It is not going to set the literally world alight, but is was a joyous uncomplicated read.

I will definitely continue the series as I am keen to find out what is next in store for Tiger and Del.
Profile Image for Phoenixfalls.
147 reviews80 followers
September 29, 2010
I knew going into this that the Sword-Dancer books were light sword-and-sorcery reading. I was prepared for minimal world-building, cursory character building, and purple prose. But what totally threw me at the start of the first book (Sword Dancer) was that Roberson seems to know absolutely nothing about how to survive in the desert. The entire novel is a trek through the desert, and yet the two main characters set off with a little dried meat in their bags and a couple of waterskins on a moment's notice. Apparently this is a desert where waterholes and oases are only a day or two apart, but Tiger spends a lot of time talking about how sometimes wells are fouled, and sandstorms come up in a moment, and there are all these dangerous animals that can lay you low, and no time at all preparing for any of those dangers. If a seasoned trekker is going off into a desert that dangerous, he rides a camel (by the way, where were the camels? it was definitely supposed to be the Arabian desert) if he's not in a major rush and he brings along at least one extra in case his animal goes lame and to carry extra supplies. He should have a small tent he can pitch around himself to provide some protection from a sandstorm. He should have a heck of a lot more water and food. It would have been one thing if the idiotic Northerner had tried to go into the desert with no preparation, but for the supposed world-wise Southerner to do it completely ruined my faith in the author's ability to handle her own world.

Del's character was also problematic for me at the very opening. She has supposedly spent five years training herself for this mission, but she is unwilling to wait a day (or an hour) to properly prepare herself for a dangerous journey through the desert? Those are incompatible world views. She should be patient after spending so much time breaking down cultural barriers in the north, and she exhibits no patience at all in the novel. With the decisions she made (or wanted to make) she should have died almost immediately having come nowhere near achieving her object for simple lack of foresight.

And because Roberson lost me so early on, I spent a great deal of time looking for other inconsistencies. For instance, the desert seems Arabian, and some of the tribes seem Bedouin, which fits, and several cultures seem Arabic, but heaven is called Valhail (and sounds quite a bit like Valhalla when it is mentioned) and all the terms related to sword fighting seem drawn from Japanese culture. I don't mind authors picking and choosing things they like from world cultures, but if they aren't cultures that naturally mingle in our world, the terms should be disguised quite a bit more so that an average reader doesn't detect the source material. That sort of thing I might have overlooked if Roberson had my trust, but since she handled her desert so poorly I wasn't willing to extend her any credit on those accounts.

I did make it through the entire first novel; it read quickly, and it was pretty much as I expected. But every time things were moving along decently well and Roberson was rebuilding my suspension of disbelief she would do something else that revealed her lack of control over her novel: the characters would do something inconsistent, or some aspect of the world would get lost that was set up earlier, or a passage of time would be handled badly. By the time the climax was reached, I still didn't like either of the main characters, I didn't buy their growth, and I didn't care at all whether they accomplished their goals. Given all that, I am undecided on whether or not to read the next novel. It is incredibly light, easy reading -- probably only an afternoon's worth -- and I already own it, but I still don't know if I want to bother.
Profile Image for Dana.
152 reviews9 followers
March 11, 2009
Continuing on with my project of re-reading all my Roberson, I started in on the Tiger & Del series. I really loved the series back when I first discovered it, especially since I had read several of the short stories about them in various of the Sword & Sorceress collections. This first novel stands up well upon re-reading. According to the S&S volume where they first appeared, MZB nearly threw Roberson's short story across the room at the beginning, responding to Tiger's apparent stereotypical barbarian-man behavior. By the end, though, she was forced to admit that it was an excellent counter-example of the type without actually being a parody. This book is an expanded version of that, telling the story of a strong and independent woman through the eyes of a man within a very traditionally male-dominated society. It works, and it explores some of the complexity of living in a traditional society that a lot of fantasy novels, particularly those starring women, choose to magic away by placing everything in a more egalitarian society from the beginning.
Profile Image for Laura.
989 reviews13 followers
September 15, 2017
BR with the Sword-Dancer Group from FBR: Emily, Aristea, Veronica, Shaitarn and Mayim.
Just because we're women doesn't mean we don't know how to dance! :)

This was a light sword and sorcery classic from the 80s and a real entertaining read.

A search for a long lost brother, and a perilous journey through the desert serve to bring together a tough macho from the south called Tiger, deadly with both his blade and looks, and a fierce proud woman from the north Del, just about as deadly as her companion.

Their adventures, told from Tiger's macho type perspective, are hillarious at times and touching at others. We have a solid plot and even a little bit of romance based on the opposites attract perspective.

The writing could have been a bit better at times but that is fairly well compensated through the charm of the characters, the beautiful description of the desert and the strength of the plot.

All in all, it would be the perfect wind down read at the end of a long day!

I'll definitely continue with the series.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,628 reviews144 followers
May 21, 2017
Wow, I've been meaning to read these for at least five years. Probably longer.

I never read these as a kid, but they made me nostalgic for the kind of books I DID read as a kid. The fantasies and the . . . this might still sound terrible, but it's one of those books that you can see is trying so hard not to be sexist but is still a product of the 1980's it was written in, so . . . well, is still sexist.

Was hoping this would be one of those romantic relationships I fell hard for and so far it's not, but maybe the next books will convince me.
Profile Image for Emily.
213 reviews8 followers
November 5, 2017
Sword Dancer by Jennifer Roberson

Always an enjoyable comfort read. Original review below.

Yet another novel that hooked me from Page one. I instantly disliked Tiger's attitude, but his internal monologue had me laughing out loud. I actually made some of my friends sit so I could read them the first couple pages. Being a woman I don't know how well Ms. Roberson captured the essence of a man, but if I guessed I would say brilliantly. Tiger is at once chauvanistic and yet caring. He thinks ahead but still manages to act recklessly. And who couldn't love Del? She put Tiger in his place so quickly. She was troubled and mysterious and I wanted to see Tiger break open her shell. The interactions between these two characters is very real. They are wonderfully multi dimensional which does create conflict between the two, but this conflict helps push the story along.
Profile Image for April.
2,099 reviews951 followers
June 3, 2011
Relatively few reviewers hold such sway that their recommendations cause me to drop my current book commitments in lieu of reading their latest reviewed book. Ya’ll Angie has that power. Combine this with a glowing review from See Michelle Read and I am done for – hook, line, and sinker.

The book in question is Sword-Dancer by Jennifer Roberson is currently out of print I think. However, lucky me, I date someone who comes from a literate family. You see, my boyfriend’s grandmother left behind a treasure trove of fantasy novels, and with some digging, I found among her shelves a faded copy of Sword-Dancer, complete with a receipt inside from the 1980s. Finding this book does make me sad that I will never get to meet my boyfriend’s grandmother, because with her fierce taste in books, I think we would have gotten along very well.

Read the rest of my review here
Profile Image for Brownbetty.
342 reviews162 followers
May 10, 2009
I grabbed this book because everywhere I go, there is book two, three, and four of this series, but never book one. I take that as a personal insult. When I am queen of the world, libraries will be required to have the first book in every series the stock; in fact, twice as many of the first as of the rest.

I'm glancingly familiar with Roberson from her Cheysuli books, but they're not my sort of thing; any series where I have to consult the genealogical graph in the frontmatter is operating at a severe handicap with me. This one, however, is perfectly good eighties sword and sorcery, or in this case, sword and sword and sorcery. It takes itself a little more seriously than it strictly needs to, and deals with rape and slavery and being below the bottom rung of the social hierarchy, but it isn't interested in wallowing in its heroes' degradation so much as their overcoming of it.

Tiger, the narrator, is rather fun. He spends most of the book deriding Del's skills in a manner which tells the reader, so long as she has read a book or two in her life, that he will eventually be proven thumpingly wrong. The book's take on gender dynamics is actually anachronistically progressive, and in a chapter near the end, the word 'equality' actually caused me to wince. (Not my normal reaction.)

Also, Tiger swears using "Hoolies," which is apparently the local hell, but just looked a bit too much like "Boobies" to me, on the page.

The geopolitics deserve a mention: the southern folk seem to have a whiff of 1001 Arabian Nights, although beyond a mention or two of Efreets, the resemblance is mostly cosmetic, and the northern folk seem vaguely Celtic, although again, mostly confined to a bit of polytheism. Which reminds me: would it kill more books to write from below the equator? The south could be your cold land, and the north is nice and warm, and voila, you've turned the world on its head! (No comments from the Antipodeans in the peanut gallery.)
Profile Image for Michelle.
393 reviews15 followers
March 7, 2022
This book is always a lot of fun to read. This must be the fourth or fifth time that I've read it since it was first published, and I still enjoy it.

The story is told from Tiger's point of view. He is a macho, arrogant, tough, chauvinistic southern swordsman. Del, a northern swordswoman, hires him to help locate her brother, (the last trace of him was in the south). Lotsa stuff happens during the search and rescue mission.

The male MC's outlook is really enjoyable! Sometimes the story became a little preachy when it came to the disparity of the sexes, but the book doesn't take itself too seriously. Tiger's character in particular experienced growth. He's such a jerk for the bulk of this story until he starts to see that there are some errors to his ways. I love that big lug ;)
Profile Image for Lisa.
490 reviews54 followers
August 26, 2017
Loved this! In a lot of ways it felt like a classic sword and sorcery novel and yet it also turned a lot of those tropes around. I think it was brilliant to have the pov character as Sand Tiger--it was the best way to make his character likable, if the story had been from Del's pov he would have come off as a chauvinistic jerk through more than half of the book. I also loved the character growth of both Tiger and Del throughout the story.
Profile Image for Michelle.
616 reviews130 followers
February 11, 2011
Known throughout the Southron for his courage and deadly skill with a sword, the Sandtiger has survived his fair share of dangerous and unusual scrapes as a sword-dancer. But from the minute the strange woman with the pale hair and a sword strapped to her back stepped into the cantina, Tiger knows he's out of his league with Del. Tiger is even more stunned to discover that Del wants hire him to lead her through the Punja desert in search of her brother who was stolen by slavers years before. Knowing a crazy undertaking when he hears it, Tiger still agrees to Del's proposal. No sooner do the pair set off, than they are set upon by viscous desert tribes, fierce sandtigers, and the harsh desert itself; that is when they aren't trading insults or clashing swords.

Holy cow this book is a whole new animal. One that I feel in love with double quick. And that includes its 'unique' cover - which I absolutely adore to tell you the truth - because that is Del. Told solely from the perspective of the arrogant and often narrow-minded (yet oh so lovable) Tiger, Sword-Dancer excels at describing the tricky relationship of Tiger and Del. Both are incredibly strong personalities who are more than capable of taking care of themselves but together they form this crazy partnership that simply works. Obviously Del as a foreigner has buckets to learn about the Southron from Tiger but more often than not, she's the one teaching Tiger a thing or two about his deepest self. And Del. That girl won my heart with her fierce determination and her willingness to challenge every accepted tradition - especially when it comes to women being capable of wielding a sword and wielding it well. I love nothing better than watching strong characters go through the toughest of trials and Sword-Dancer does just that. Tiger and Del face some heartbreaking obstacles and emerge all the stronger. Love this book. Love the characters. I'm anxious to see where Tiger and Del go next.
Profile Image for Petra.
56 reviews18 followers
October 27, 2015
Meet Tiger:

Now meet Del:

Together they embark on a journey across the deadly Punja desert to find Jamail - Del's long lost brother.

This is an 80s pulp sword and sorcery novel. It's not a well written book by any means. The plot is furthered by characters making stupid decisions and as a result constantly getting captured, which made me wonder how they managed to survive into adulthood. There's some questionable handling of race. Also, the protagonist is a sexist jerk, and his companion a special snowflake.

Yet I enjoyed watching their relationship evolve and Tiger's character growth. After reading many fantasy novels with high stakes, I loved the small scale of it. No warring countries, chosen ones to save the world, just two people on a deeply personal quest.
It was a fun, light read.

Profile Image for V.
12 reviews1 follower
December 22, 2014
I've seen this novel criticized for several things - and the critics have good points, sometimes - but this is a very entertaining series. While true that it's not Shakespearean prose, something about the way Roberson tells the story is captivating. I read this first book many times as a child, but re-reading it as an adult hasn't changed my opinion much.

It's a very fast-paced and action-driven novel, but I could argue that it is character-driven as well; the characters are interesting, well told, and (mostly) three-dimensional. Some may object to the decidedly sexist content, but it always struck me as the author detailing a fictional culture, not justifying "real life" attitudes.

Weak points: There is a bit of repetition, and the novel is fairly short. Time that passes between action sequences isn't detailed at all, instead being mentioned in passing, so it sometimes seems that one improbable event after another is happening to the two lead characters. Even given that, I'd recommend the read. If you don't end up liking the story, you haven't wasted too much of your time.
Profile Image for Shaitarn.
484 reviews33 followers
September 10, 2017
Tiger is one of the mightiest sword-dancer's in the south, a renowned warrior, a legendary sword for hire.
Del is a woman from the frozen north, a woman with a magical sword of her own who is seeking her young brother, kidnapped by southern slavers five years previously. Unfamiliar with the southern desert (and it's chauvinistic culture), she hires Tiger as her guide.

This is a lightweight sword-and-sorcery novel from the 80s. It isn't an epic fantasy about saving the world or a grimdark heavy novel, but it is entertaining.

Tiger is the narrator and is an amusing, rather arrogant, character. He is sceptical of Del's ability to use the sword she wears (which means you just know he's going to be proved wrong at some point). Del is a cold, rather distant character at first: she's sacrificed everything to recover her brother, and will not allow anything to stand in her path. This isn't a great book by any means: the world building seems pretty sketchy (southern desert area that seems quite Arabian, northern area that sounds a bit Scandinavian), and many of the characters and situations seems drawn in rather broad strokes.

But the story is an entertaining, fast read, and as it's over 30 years old I'm willing to overlook some situations that may seem rather clichéd now. Both characters grow during the story, and at the end there is a possibility of something between them; certainly the ending is left open for the next book in the series. I shall be reading the other books in this series and hope that I continue to see the relationship develop - as well as some serious world-building!
Profile Image for Tessie.
Author 10 books20 followers
January 2, 2016
The first sentence on the first page hooked me instantly. The story is told from the point of view of Sandtiger, a sword-dancer. The first sentence describes his thoughts and feelings as Del, also a sword-dancer, enters the cantina where he’s playing with a barmaid and getting drunk. Immediately I liked him. Yes, he was an arrogant, condescending, womanizing drunk, but he was proud to be male and a skilled warrior to boot. Most of all, he said it the way he saw it, and I knew this was a man worth knowing.

As for Del, Tiger sees her value and cannot resist the challenge she represents in all her female form. He knows she is a woman to contend with, and I wanted to see how they would pare each other to the inner core of themselves. And they do, from day one until the end of the book.

They are perfectly matched in their dance with each other: In the sword circle with swords; in their individual mental labyrinths which hide so many buried secrets; in their emotional depths which nurture unspeakable wounds beyond repair. Most of all, they are matched in spirit… in their determination to be true to themselves, even when such integrity takes each of them alone, and then, together, to the brink of death.

There are four books in the series. When I’m in the mood for an absorbing novel where romance blossoms amidst intense struggle for survival in an uncompromising world, this is the series I go to. I’ve read it three times since the early 1990’s, and I look forward to another round.
Profile Image for Kara.
Author 24 books69 followers
October 24, 2014

Big Sister has to rescue Baby Brother after he’s been kidnapped by the Goblin King.

It’s an oft-repeated plot line. Examples: Labyrinth, The Wee Free Men, Outside Over There, and any version of the Snow Queen.

You can play with the genders and relationship and the nature of what, exactly, happened, to the one in danger, but at its core, it’s a story of someone who will go to the Ends of the Earth, to Hell and Back, for Forever and Day, to rescue the one they love – and that kind of love and dedication is compelling.

The fun part of this version of the tale is that the narrator is the smart mouth mercenary the Big Sister character is forced to work with to get anywhere near her brother. Think an Arabian Nights version of Hans Solo meets Jayne Cobb.

It’s an exciting adventure, but WOW does it take a long time just to get from A to B because Stuff. Keeps. Happening. Cannibals! Sandstorms! Bandits! Thieves! Sandtigers! Etc.

Its gets SUPER intense a few times on the themes of slavery and sexual abuse, which pulls the story away from just a lighthearted action adventure fantasy quest, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. But be warned this is NOT a PG-13 story.

Robinson needs to do a little more work on showing not telling – we are told over and Del and Tiger are THE BEST FIGHTERS EVER – but we don’t SEE it as often as we are just TOLD it.

But I’m going on to Book II, so yeah, I liked it.
Profile Image for Tnkw01.
406 reviews12 followers
April 18, 2020
Some older fantasy books are just great. This is one. There has some very uncomfortable moments in this book but it turns out very satisfying in the end. I'll be reading this series.
Profile Image for Erika Williams.
163 reviews3 followers
March 7, 2020
Life's far too short for me to spend time reading a book where I hated the main character from the opening paragraph. I made it to the second chapter, surprised I even made it that far, before I had to give up on this one and the three other books I had already bought in the series. The opening tone of the book is set with the main character musing on how he likes to have sex with women, but not the ugly ones. It made me think of Russel Dunbar from Rules of Engagement and the No Fat Chicks sign on his office door. So then I tried to pretend it was Russel, but that didn't work out too well either. Not to mention his "reason" as to why he doesn't sleep with the ugly ones is because he has to save some women for someone else. And I'm supposed to deal with this guy's inner narration for how many books? I don't think so.

If that's not bad enough, he thinks our main female character is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen because she has white skin and blonde hair and blue eyes. Those are the things specifically he likes about her. Forget those brown girls that are surrounding him his entire life that are just tan because....I mean, I'm assuming they're just tan because there's a specific point where he tells us he's only dark from the sun because his genitals are white. I don't want to touch any of that that with a ten foot pole.

This one and the three others I bought because "Oh look, the half price book store actually has a good number of a series that I might actually like" are going back to whence they came.
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 165 books123 followers
June 23, 2009
I somehow acquired this years ago and it has been taking up space in my apartment. I never got around to reading it because every time I read a mainstream heroic fantasy novel written after 1975 written by someone I don't personally know, I feel like I get burned. Robert Jordan, I'm looking at you.

I meant to sell it, but the science fiction bookstore wasn't buying it. It somehow spilled out of the bag I took to Goodwill and got stuck under the seat of my car. I had just finished Roger Zelazny's Roadmarks and I wanted to read another sf-fantasy novel; I found this one and figured I would read the first page. I was completely hooked. From the first page the thing exploded from the page -- a great action-adventure sword-and-sorcery with a Conan-like, Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser-like flavor, but a strongly developed female character I didn't exactly love, as she's sort of a Mary-Sue -- over idealized, too independent, too romance-novely -- but I liked her well enough to keep reading. The male first-person viewpoint character is much more likable and feels more original. His voice is infectious and irresistible.

I was expecting one of those Celtic fantasies that was all the rage around the time this book was first published ('86) and I was totally wrong. There's a Middle Eastern flavor to it, with a fairly complicated fantasy cultural system that actually didn't bore me to tears! Fairly rare, actually. The story moves fast enough and there's enough action so that the cultural exposition isn't dull and doesn't slow down the rollicking narrative; on the contrary, it expands it and is interesting. (Go figure!)

Looking for pure entertainment, I got exactly what I wanted and way more. More, in fact, than I usually bother to hope for from modern fantasy.

Just generally a straightforward kick-ass sword & sorcery novel. The first of a series, apparently.
Profile Image for Julie (Manga Maniac Cafe).
1,604 reviews473 followers
May 1, 2016
3 stars

I have wanted to read this book for years, and now that I have, I was disappointed that it's told from Tiger's POV, not Del's. I wasn't his biggest fan, and I thought that his thought-processes and speech patterns were too modern for the story. Tiger, a Southern, was raised in a misogynist culture where women have few freedoms. Del, a Northern, came from a culture that afforded women more freedom, leaving plenty of opportunity for conflict between Tiger and Del.

At it's core a revenge story, Del is searching for her younger brother, her last living relative. After her family was murdered by raiders, and Jamail sold into slavery in the South, Del swore revenge against the men who destroyed her family. She apprenticed to a sword-dancer, and after making very difficult and potentially soul-destroying decisions, blooded her magical sword and headed out in search of her brother. She hires Tiger, who is skeptical of this beautiful woman carrying a sword, and the two have many adventures, some of which seemed random and didn't move of the story along.

Del and Tiger had similar horrific experiences that prompted them to do anything to free themselves of the situations they were trapped in. In Tiger's case, innocent people died, and he carries the guilt and a distrust of magic. For Del, she carries a price on her head that she can't outrun forever.

Tiger annoyed me with his inability to accept Del as an equal. He scorned her sword training, and continually belittled her skills. It shouldn't have surprised me, considering that the book was written in 1986, and even now, in 2016, we still can't have kickass heroines in books or movies without pushback. I didn't feel that Del was ever allowed to save herself; she always needed Tiger's assistance to escape from perilous situations. With the cover, featuring a strong woman reaching confidently for a glowing sword, I expected Sword-Dancer to be more about Del and less about Tiger. The exact opposite was true. I don't know if I will continue the series.
Profile Image for Gwyn.
185 reviews11 followers
April 3, 2013
I read this many years ago, and just decided to re-read it. Not only was is still good, it was actually better than a remembered. Sword-Dancer is not a polished book; it's full of flaws and rough spots. But, at its foundation, it's a good story, and it remains an excellent read.

The pace is frenetic, with new obstacles thrown into Tiger and Del's path every page or two. Sometimes this reaches the point of absurdity, as when Tiger is jumped by some thieves for no apparent reason and must waste a week recuperating--a series of events that in no way furthers the plot or adds anything to the story, but simply fills up page space. This is especially puzzling since Sword-Dancer is such a short book, and one would think Roberson would want to save space, rather than waste it. It feels a little like Roberson generated large parts of the plot by rolling for random encounters. This means that the plot is never slow or boring, but at times does seem irrelevant.

Certain conversations are repeated, which is annoying, and sometimes information is dropped into conversation in a very heavy handed way. Also heavy handed is the way Roberson deals with gender roles and sexism. This may have been fine when in 1986, when the book was published, and the fantasy genre was far more lacking in heroines than it is now. There's still a surfeit of sword-swinging males in the genre, and it'll be a long time before addressing sexism is unnecessary, but Roberson's handling is just a little too blunt, maybe a little outdated.

But the dynamic between Tiger and Del is wonderful. The characters are real, alive, original. They pop from the page. In a genre where there are so many sword-swinging males, and relatively few strong women, Tiger is great: sexist, yes, but honest about it, and not misogynistic. A good man, but not too good--and Del is his perfect complement.
Profile Image for Paul Williams.
106 reviews26 followers
September 3, 2012
I was very sad to be so disappointed in this book. I'd heard that this was a great work of fantasy with lots of swashbuckling and a strong female character. While those elements are there, the execution wasn't as strong as I'd hoped, and I can see why this series was out of print for so long.

Frankly, the real problem this book has run into is age. Some books endure well, even in genre fiction (Lord of the Rings, Earthsea, Foundations, etc). In contrast, this one has not. We've had so many strong female fantasy characters come out in the past 29 years--especially the last 10 or so--that Del just doesn't stand out. Neither she nor Tiger has many qualities that distinguish them from their successors.

That being said, I suspect that this book had a bit of an influence on Robert Jordan. I can see how Del and Tiger's banter about the sexes, plus a few other things made their way to the Wheel of Time, so that was fun to see. Still, here it just seemed silly (Tiger's inability to take Del seriously was just eye-rolling and seemed a bit forced), whereas in the Wheel of Time is often has at least a thematic soundness to it, even when it is aggravating.

My only other complaint about this book is that it plateaued. About 90 pages in it sort of stopped any sort of upward climb and just stayed where it was. Every challenge felt about the same (emotionally) as the last, so I never felt that the stakes were that much higher. I never felt more invested than I had in the previous scene. And that last duel was just unsatisfying. There was no great pay-off for me, and so I don't think I'll be looking at the sequels for a long time.

I think this was probably a really important installment for fantasy back in 1984, but it's been overrun in the past three decades.
Profile Image for Arminion.
233 reviews11 followers
January 19, 2014
I never heard of Jennifer Roberson before this book. All I knew about the series is that's a fantasy saga of 6 books, and since I love fantasy and long series, I decided to give it a try.
And hoolies, what a book. I was really impressed, both by the characters and the writing.
I noticed that authors often have problems writing a point of view from a character of the opposing sex, but Roberson manages it perfectly, since the story is told from the male protagonist, Tiger. I often had to check the name on the cover, thinking it's a man or if it's a pseudonym. As a man, I could definitely sympathize with Tiger.
Unlike other fantasy novels which often introduces a myriad of characters, both main and secondary, Sword Dancer focuses only on the main two, Tiger and Del which I greatly appreciated, as it gave them enough characterization and I didn't had to keep a glossary of the size of the phone book by myself just to remember various names.
The story is never boring. Even when it starts to drag, something happens to bring us back in action. I guess this is one of the minor faults of the book: there is too much action. Anything that they can face in the desert, they do; wild animals, raiders, sandstorms, thieves, demons... you name it.
As such, it's a very easy read, highly entertaining and I can't wait to read the next one.
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