Rating: 5 stars out of 5
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. Enigmatic and beautiful but distinctly prickly, Varazda is the antithesis of the straightforward and serious Damiskos. Yet as they keep getting in each other’s way at the villa, their mutual dislike is complicated by a spark of undeniable attraction.
Then the villa’s guests begin to reveal their true characters and motives—no one here is what they seem—and Damiskos finds himself at the centre of a bizarre web of espionage, theft, and assassination. Varazda may need Damiskos’s help, but not as much as Damiskos, finally awakening to a new sense of life and purpose, needs Varazda.
Sword Dance is the first book in the Sword Dance trilogy, an m/m romance set in an imaginary ancient world, with murderous philosophy students, sex acts named after fruit, and love blossoming in the midst of mayhem.
The first story in a planned trilogy, Sword Dance (Sword Dance #1) by A.J. Demas is an engrossing novel that just happens to encompass the beginnings of a relationship between a eunuch and a retired ex warrior, political intrigue and rebellion, religious intolerance, racial purity factions, and even same sex love condemnation and slavery differing perspectives. Not enough? Add in characters each dealing with their own issues of PTSD. And this is a fantasy novel.
And an incredible one at that.
The only thing missing here is a map and I sort of wish the author had supplied one of those so I could geographically place the various countries in my mind, otherwise the world building, which I suspect the author will continue into the next story, is superb. From the different cultures to the cities and towns discussed/or used as a setting, it all has the feel of an authentic, well thought out world. It feels familiar, although it’s a place we will never step foot in. And its peopled with nuanced characters as vivid and believable as the locations they inhabit.
It all starts with our weary, hurting traveler,Damiskos. His history will unfold along with the story, and as we find out, everyone here has multiple layers to their personage. Even down to the slaves that serve the Mistress and owner of the Mansion that he has traveled to, their hidden depths appear as the book progresses. But none so great as with the eunuch Varazda. His complexities are equal to those of Damiskos, perhaps surpass it. Their pasts full of anguish, their present full of surprises.
Even with that blurb there are many twists and turns here within this story that I just adored. It’s full of action and a relationship that’s introspective as well as passionate on its own terms. The author treats the element of Varazda being a eunuch with respect as well as within the culture of this world. That turns out to mean Varazda’s emotions and feelings about his physical state and much more. It’s a sensitive and beautiful portrayal of a person who’s undergone an horrific act of mutilation and survived.
What A.J. Demas does is create authentic, connectable people. Strong, flawed, wonderful characters, men and women, who pull you into their lives and this story and make you wish you had the next novel right in your hands when Sword Dance is over.
Because as it ends on the precipice of another journey. One I can’t wait to take with them both. If it’s half as splendid as this one, it will be a magnificent tale.
If you love fantasy stories, ones with high adventure and twists and turns you don’t expect? Pick up Sword Dance (Sword Dance #1) by A.J. Demas. I highly recommend it.
Cover art: Aud Koch, Cover design by Lennan Adams. Love this cover. It’s different yet I can clearly see both characters within the moving artwork. Gorgeous.
Book Details”Kindle Edition, 265 pages
Published July 31st 2019 by Sexton’s Cottage
Edition Language English
Series Sword Dance #1