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432 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published January 1, 2002
Because there's no place to review a series, I will use this space to do so. It's the last book, I figure if you're reading this, you've read the first 5, and I won't spoil anything. If you're reading this without having read the first 5, hopefully this convinces you!
For a relatively unknown fantasy author, Jennifer Roberson really has a beautiful series here. She writes first person from a male's perspective, which might leave one dubious (I certainly was) when you first begin reading, but even I had to admit how believably she portrayed not only Sandtiger, but all of her characters. None of her characters are ridiculous or improbable. They all have their flaws (Tiger is stubborn, obstinate, believes he is always right, and often times inflexible in thinking; Del is obsessive, ruthless, manipulative, and equally obstinate as Tiger), which is what makes us love them as people.
In all of my fantasy reading, Tiger and Del are by far my favorite fantasy pairing. Richard and Kahlan have an unrealistic relationship, Rand and Min/Avhienda/Elayne have an impossible 3-way marriage, Nynaeve and Lan have an awkward relationship, and he really doesn't have much personality (though, arguments could be made that his stoicism says a lot about it, but that's for another review). Tiger and Del, to me, truly represent precisely what relationships in the real world should be like (minus the whole magic/messiah/almost-murder parts). Tiger helps her "finish her song" with little provocation, forgives her for selling a year of his life (only after demanding she admit she was wrong), amongst other things. Del encourages him to find his roots, grounds his thinking, and even trains him to be a better man (yes, women do this). Disregarding the obviously impossible magic, everything about these two characters is utterly believable and lovable.
Though I absolutely love this series, it does have its issues. There are a number of continuity problems (or maybe I just misunderstood?) that are rather glaring after a 4th read (I've never read a series besides this one more than twice), like how Abbu was a 6th degree sword dancer when Tiger almost killed him and had already left his shodo at Alimat to earn a living, but was a 7th degree sword dancer when he's first introduced. Little instances like that can be ignored, however, if one is not too picky (I didn't notice that little bit until my 4th read), and the continuity of the general storyline is very good.
Ultimately, this book is a novel on character development, and Jennifer Roberson is among the best. The evolution undergone by both characters is impressive in scope and expertly written. Even as a first-person work, the reader can see the changes in each character as they happen, though she does occasionally simplify things for herself by saying "Once, I would have ______, but that was before I'd met Del. She'd changed me in many ways..." It's the easy way out, but I'm not complaining.
While in many ways this story is not a wonderfully written series, that is not why I read it, and have read it over and over. I read it for the story, the wonderfully realized characters, and their fascinating interaction. I cannot recommend this series highly enough.