Sword-Bearer by Jennifer Roberson: Vivid and Magical

A return to the vivid fantasy world of the highly popular Sword-Dancer saga, featuring iconic characters Tiger and Del.

Sword-Bearer marks a return to the vivid world of Jennifer Roberson’s highly popular Sword-Dancer saga, featuring iconic characters Tiger—the South’s most famous and gifted sword-dancer—and Del, a Northern-born woman and expert sword-singer.  

Tiger and Del have settled into semi-retirement to raise their daughter, establishing a school for those who wish to become sword-dancers, part of a highly ritualized rite in which specially trained sword-fighters are hired to settle feuds among rich and powerful desert princes. Death-dances are few and far between; the goal is simply to win within the confines of “the circle.”

But Tiger is an outcast, a man who attained the highest level of achievement at the training school he attended faster than anyone before him, only to voluntarily break all oaths in order to save Del. By doing so, he made himself a target of men formerly his colleagues, now sworn enemies. He is constantly challenged to death-dances where rules, and oaths, no longer apply.

Now, with the world around them falling victim to a malignant Northern-born magic, Tiger gathers Del and his adult son, Neesha, to end the magic threatening the world—and discovers, along the journey, yet another element of magecraft within himself. Yet even as Tiger learns more about his gifts, Del comes face to face with the daughter she left behind so many years before.

In Book 8 of the Tiger and Del series, Jennifer Roberson weaves an intriguing novel that is vivid and magical. The characters immediately grab the reader and bring you back into this rich world. The story maintains the distinctive voice that I’ve always loved, with Tiger’s point of view. Despite being the focus, we still get plenty of Del, her thoughts and her character resonate, even through the viewpoint of Tiger. In fact, she might be more vivid and distinctive through his eyes because of how much the character has grown over the years and books. There is never any doubt of the impact Tiger and Del have on each other. Or the love between their two characters. The characters, including Neesha and minor characters, are full of depth and absolutely engaging.

The magic is well written as are the sword dances. But it is the story infused with emotion and love that kept me engaged in the novel. While it is not a complex story, there is plenty of action and also surprising twists that I wasn’t expecting. This novel is as brilliant and perhaps even better written than the first novel of Tiger and Del. It still resonates with the feminist ideas that pulled me to the story in the first place, with the unique voice that keeps me coming back for more.

My one disappointment was that one subplot is left open. I can understand why, it leaves room for another novel in the world but it left me feeling the ending felt off balance and like there should have been more written. However, the main plot point, the magic that Tiger is struggling with, is resolved. 

If you love stories of wonder and adventure, you can look to no finer an author than Jennifer Roberson. This 8th novel in the series is vivid and magical. The characters are just as fun and engaging as decades earlier. The growth of their personalities continues to challenge ideas of female power and strength while also providing a male character that is neither a stereotype or toxic. Tiger and Del continue to be two of my favorite characters. And I think readers will love this next chapter of their story.

Rating: 5 out of 5 dust devils.

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