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Sword Dance

(Sword Dance #1)

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  457 ratings  ·  97 reviews
Five years ago, Damiskos’s brilliant military career was cut short, leaving him with a permanent disability and scars that are not all physical. Adrift and still grieving, he tries to find meaning in an unsatisfying job.

Work takes him to the remote seaside villa of an old friend, where, among an odd assortment of guests, he meets the eunuch sword-dancer Varazda. Enigmati
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Kindle Edition, 265 pages
Published July 31st 2019 by Sexton's Cottage
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Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  457 ratings  ·  97 reviews


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K.J. Charles
Absolutely delightful romance set in AJ Demas' alt-Mediterranean Classical world, with a house party, a retired soldier, a hot eunuch sword dancer/spy, and a conspiracy afoot. The slow burn romance goes along with a twisty plot, lots of likeable characters, a very well-realised setting, and a hilarious mickey-take of Greek philosophers. There's depth to it, in the discussions of power, gender, sex, loss, and much more, but it's never weighted down by that and the writing bubbles with life. A ple ...more
WhatAStrangeDuck
This is a heck of a thoughtful, multilayered book about things like gender inequality, gender identity, sex, privilege and nationalism. In that sense it's a very modern book for all that it's set in a fictional ancient world.

It's also (for those of you I see shrinking back from this) a really fun book to read. Because - at the end of the day, I really care about all those rather lofty themes very, very much - but what I need from books that I love are characters that I fall in love with.

And I di
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Skye Kilaen
If this Mediterranean-inspired alt-historical romance didn’t have a suspense sub-plot, the two main characters would have spend the whole book gazing into each others’ eyes with delight at having met... and I would have been here for that too!! I loved them so much. But it was probably better that sub-plot was there, because (a) structure and (b) it was really tense, realistic, and satisfying.

Both of the MCs are such soft sweethearts in personality - though they kick ass when needed - and I don’
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Leaf of Absence
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lovely! Great characters, though philosophers do get a hilariously bad rap.
Looking forward to the next one.
Rachel
1/25/20 Currently on sale for 99c via Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VPDNCRG/... ...more
Stephanie
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, and if you're a fan of Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric novellas or T. Kingfisher's fantasy novels, I'm pretty sure you'll love this, too!
Joyfully Jay
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sue
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.75 stars


I loved Sword Dance. It’s not a perfect novel, but the characters are endearing and so well constructed that I didn’t care about a few imperfections. Damiskos and Varazda are something of an odd couple and for the first half of the book, they tend to spar with one another more often than not. The romance comes later and works because of exactly who these characters are and the absolute acceptance they have for one another. Varazda was gelded as a slave and, as a
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Kathleen
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, historical
4.5 stars

Brilliant. Lovely. There are dozens of well-deserved glowing reviews so I’m not repeat all that has been said. There were some very minor weak point but all in all it will be a truly memorable story. Highly recommended.
Aldi
(Here there be spoilers.) 2.5 stars rounded (barely) up. While I enjoyed some aspects of this, I also have a lot of notes. To begin with, between the faux-ancient-Greek setting, the soldierly protagonist named Damianos Damiskos, and the eunuch dancer love interest, it felt very much like someone had thrown Captive Prince and The Persian Boy in a blender, put it on high, then fluffed it all up with an improbable amount of whipped cream so it would never get as epic or emotional or impactful as th ...more
Bev
Another charming little read from the pen of Alice Degan. Loved the mickey-taking at the expense of the ancient Greek philosophers, and book 2 of the trilogy eagerly awaited in 2020. 4.25 stars.
Ay
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very pleased to discover this new author.

ETA: the two books by Demas remind me of Gillian Bradshaw’s books.
Katerina
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very well written. Romantics will love it.
Kaje Harper
A slow-developing fantasy romance set in an alternate-history quasi-Greek/Roman era. The characters were very engaging, particularly Damiskos, an older, world-weary ex-soldier dealing with the loss of a promising career. He has personal strengths that don't only apply on the battlefield, but at first this new assignment doesn't look like it will require them. Then violence and mysteries begin to change the shape of what seemed like a pointless assignment.

As Damiskos tries to figure out what is g
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Nina ( picturetalk321 )
A great discovery and a delightful read with some chortle-out-loud (at 30%!! omg) and grin-pasted-on-face moments. The world is an interesting one: an alternative universe AU antiquity, with Pheme / Athens?, Zash / Persia, and an archipelago of islands / Hellas. The pairing is delicious: the gruff scarred warrior with his lame leg / the lithe athletic dancer with his long black hair and nose stud. There is careful attention to linguistic detail and a nice country house focus that adhered to the ...more
LD  Durham
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible book. I am so glad I took a chance on it, because I was just introduced to a new favorite author.

A quasi-historical set in the in the countryside of an Ancient Roman or Greek style world, this story introduces us to a semi-retired soldier who is now more of a bean counter due to a tragic occurrence.

At a house party he attends in order to secure a steady source of fish-sauce for the army, he stumbles into a tense political intrigue involving three countries, philosophy stu
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Dumbledore11214
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
sigaloenta
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
An m/m romance novel for the reader of Mary Renault and Megan Whalen Turner who could wish that those authors portrayed homosexual relationships in more explicit terms (and in the case of the latter, portrayed them at all) and interrogated a bit more the dichotomy of Glorious Western Freedom vs. Decadent Eastern Despotism.

The setting is the alt-4th century BCE Mediterranean (although with some elements of the Roman world -- from legionaries to fish sauce factories -- mixed into what is winkingly
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Veronika Iris
From start to finish - this was an utter joy to read. I so rarely (if ever) give 5 stars to any book, but this book just made me happy. And how many books do that nowadays? Not many.

Set in an alternative Mediterranean Classical World, the world building was phantastic, the plot was exciting and fast paced and the romance. Oh my god. Whom am I kidding? I'm here for the romance.

Damiskos and Varazda were wonderful characters, both with strengths and weaknesses and with their personal trauma and t
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Akkisuitok
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, 2020-books
What a perfect and lovely book. I came here for queer romance and sword fights, and I got more than I asked for in crisp, beautiful prose, a neatly contained plot, and a very interesting world that examined themes of gender, feminism and slavery in faux-mediterrean setting. I was reminded of the Queen's Thief novels, and I mean that as the highest compliment. The romance itself here is a rather conventional setting (strangers forced to work together discover their mutual attraction to one anothe ...more
Terri Jones
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was quite enjoyable: an alternate history setting, good characters, and an intriguing set of problems to solve. There's engaging handicapped rep and fem male rep, as well as great women characters and just terrible (great!) bad guys. It is a m/m romance, but it's so much more than that, too. Recommended!
Funzee Shu


*** 4.5/6 Stars ***

“Coming to know you has been the best thing to happen to me in years. (But) when I’m around you I feel … as if you cast your light on me. As if I’m a little bit better— a better man, a better person— because of you.” – Damiskos.

“I have room in my life for you, Dami. Of course I do. You’d be a part of my life I never expected to have…” – Varazda.



The story is about a used to be such a brilliant military officer that must ended his career due to the injury. During his to vis
...more
Wolfie
Dec 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book but I wound up struggling to finish it.

Demas does an *excellent* job creating the historical setting and that's really the only part of the book I liked.

The plot with the students started promising but felt very cliche and stale to me.

The biggest problem for me were the main characters. I feel like a lot of potential was wasted.

Damiskos is *incredibly* bland and his tendency to speak in trailing off sentences and hesitant stutters grated on me quickly.

Varazda w
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Benjamin
Feb 19, 2020 marked it as to-read
"sex acts named after fruit"...Yeah, well...
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
This didn’t work for me as well as Something Human, the other Demas book that I’ve read. While I loved the central pairing of retired army commander Demiskos and eunuch sword dancer Varazda, and wolfed down the scenes of them together, I found the plot underwhelming and drawn out. I will absolutely read the sequel though, for the lovely sensual queer feels.
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
Damiskos and Varazda were awesome and well-written heroes. Love the alternate history setting.
Stonemagpie
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: m-m, fantasy
Although it's beautifully written, I didn't like Sword Dance quite as much as the other two books by A.J. Demas. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's a little slower to get going, or Varazda is a bit more prickly than the previous romantic interests.

But I still enjoyed it a great deal, particularly the last third, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
Cleo
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 stars because I really liked the way Varadza (the eunuch) was written. An interesting m/m romance set in a fictional world loosely based on ancient Mediterranean cultures.
Simon
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very happy to know there will be more with these two. Lovely, interesting. I love her writing style and am always happy to sink into the world she's created in these novels.

A little depressing to think about the impact of ideological disagreements, especially right now...
Antonella
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5

A great pseudo-Greek/Roman historical setting, but luckily not a real one, because historical m/m books set in that period often sounds wrong to me (for ex. when people with Latin names call each other with the short version of the name, like they would do nowadays). I liked the slow building of the relationship, the fact that Damiskos and Varazda are respectful with each other, the exploration of gender in the person of Varazda, also the espionage plot is well done.
Little niggles: sometimes
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Becca
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was actually a pretty good book and the way it left off was kind of a cliffhanger, which I hate, but it definitely left me wanting to see what happens next. The main problem I had with the book was at times it was…..slow. So sometimes it was hard to keep my attention. However, once you start getting into it, it's a tale of espionage, betrayals, murder, and idiots who are trying to start war to make the 'world' more pure and perfect.
Damiskos went to his old friend's Villa, on a job for his
...more
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A.J. Demas writes about love and imaginary politics in a fictional ancient world. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and cute daughter.

A.J. also publishes fantasy and historical fiction with a metaphysical twist as Alice Degan.

Other books in the series

Sword Dance (2 books)
  • Untitled (Sword Dance, #2)

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