Review: The Sword Dancer

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Sword DancerThe Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin
Series: Tang Dynasty #4
Published by Harlequin on May 21, 2013
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Author

The Thief Who Stole His Heart

Sword dancer Li Feng is used to living life on the edge of the law—a woman alone in the dangerous world of the Tang Dynasty has only her whirlwind reflexes to trust. She will discover the truth about her past, even if that means outwitting the most feared thief-catcher of them all...

Relentless, handsome and determined, Han sees life—and love—as black and white. Until he finally captures the spirited, courageous Li Feng, who makes him question everything he thought he knew about right and wrong. Soon he's faced with an impossible choice: betray the elusive sword dancer he is learning to love, or trust his long-disregarded heart and follow her to dangerous, tempting rebellion...

First Sentence: “A lone reed flute sang the opening melody.”

It’s no secret that I’m a wee bit obsessed with Asian culture. If a book is set in Asia, whether modern or historical, I’m probably going to be intrigued. Also, I must admit a fondness for romance plots in an Asian setting, due both to my teenage love for the novel Shogun and my adoration of manga/manhwa. With my first read by Jeannie Lin, I get to travel to historical China in a read full of romance and adventure.

Jeannie Lin’s The Sword Dancer surprised me in a great way. The relationship herein depicted deviates from the standard fictional romance formula in ways that make me so, so very happy. Though the arc of Han and Li Feng’s relationship is rather predictable (which isn’t really a bad thing, since romantic reads aren’t really ones you go to for twists), the relationship dynamics are non-standard and fistbump-worthy.

Neither Li Feng nor Han is incredibly gorgeous. They’re not unattractive, and they certainly find one another quite appealing, but they’re not the stereotypical blemish-free, wanted-by-everyone characters found so often in fiction. At first, Han finds Li Feng a bit plain, but her beauty, as his does, comes from the person inside the body: “Her face was one that Han might never have noticed if he hadn’t seen her dance. Like the rest of her, its beauty was in movement” (35). Now, obviously, that is about her physically, but beauty in movement is such a perfect descriptor for Li Feng, who never stops going. At that point he hardly knows her, but I think it encapsulates why he likes her so much and why she’s so compelling to him, because of what she does and not how she looks.

Lin resists more stereotypes with the character of Li Feng. She’s strong, fast, and clever. Wanted as a thief, Han, a thief-catcher, apprehends her early on, but she escapes from prison. Though Han is physically stronger than she is, she often bests him, because of her quick wits, speed, and flexibility. As he comes to care for her, Han retains this understanding of and respect for Li Feng’s skills. He doesn’t try to change her or make her act like a proper lady, and he trusts her to keep herself safe without him looming over her for protection.

Plus, Li Feng is no blushing virgin to be taken by the manly man, thank goodness. In fact, Li Feng is the aggressor in the physical portion of their relationship, with Han unsure if he’s emotionally prepared for sex. On the other hand, Han pursues an emotional connection, and Li Feng’s not so sure about that. The traditional gender roles got turned on their head, which always makes me joyous. All women don’t want commitment; some men are not always emotionally prepared for sex. Seeing this reflected in fiction gives me a happy.

Li Feng and Han do also have a pretty convincing connection, what with the mutual respect and all. Their personalities and interests are similar, and they do seem like a good match. Still, I do prefer romances that take longer to grow. Most of The Sword Dancer takes place within the span of two weeks or so. I just prefer a slower burn myself.

Of course, the book also isn’t all romance. In fact, I’d say that Lin’s heart lies in the action scenes which pepper the book. There are sex scenes if that’s what you’re looking for, but they’re outnumbered by scenes of daring acrobatic leaps and sword fights and so forth. There’s also a murder mystery and government corruption and Li Feng’s forgotten past to untangle.

If you enjoy romances in a unique, lush setting and full of exciting action scenes, Jeannie Lin’s The Sword Dancer will likely tickle your fancy. I enjoyed myself and will be adding some more of Lin’s books to my to-read list.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I proved to be a very poor scholar,’ he concluded, cutting his explanation short.
‘How so?’
‘Well, once for my daily lessons, I wrote a single line that read, “I do not want to be a high-ranking official.”‘”

11 responses to “Review: The Sword Dancer”

  1. Amy says:

    I don’t know if I would have picked this up on my own, but after reading your review it has me a bit interested. I will have to check with my library and see if they have it or can get it. Who am I kidding, I have like no time for library books lol!! Great review, this really does sound great!

    • Christina says:

      Awesome! I’m the same way as you. Oooh, a thing I can get from the library! I totally have time for this. Only, no, not really. Anytime I go to pick up a hold (usually so I can catch up in a series for a review book), I look around and want everything and it’s the saddest that I can’t have it all.

  2. I’m glad you liked this one! I was a little hesitant when I first saw this but it sounds pretty awesome. Though a little odd to have some steamy scenes in a book with an Asian setting, being someone who lives and was brought up in Asia, it certainly is odd to see romance between Asians because it’s just not our culture to publicise romance. It’s something very private and intimate that only the two involved should be privy to. I’m glad though that the characters were not stereotyped and were written quite convincingly. Thanks for the fantastic review Christina!

    • Christina says:

      Oh, that’s an interesting observation. If it helps, the sexy scenes were in private. Actually, there was a moment where they both find out they’ve survived a dangerous thing and they don’t hug or anything because that would be inappropriate in public. I’m glad she included that, as it added authenticity for me.

  3. the romance sounds good, and the asia setting make it the icing on the cake

  4. Bonnie R says:

    I’m definitely intrigued! I like the occasional historical romance but I tend to unintentionally stay away from Harlequins. I don’t mind the occasional sexy time scene but I do need to have a story behind it. Will have to keep my eye out for this one, great review!!

  5. I too find myself drawn to this culture and world, more so for historical and I love that this breaks so many of the stereotypical trends we see regarding romance. This sounds action packed, how was the world itself or time period did the author give you a strong sense of surrounds and culture?

  6. Lilian says:

    This being the second Jennie Lin review I’ve read in the past five minutes makes me feel like the universe wants to tell me something. Something like continue reading that Jennie Lin book I dropped a while back (I think it was called My Fair Concubine) because…well, I don’t know, Watchmen got in the way.

  7. Bookworm1858 says:

    I’ve read some of Lin’s writing and enjoyed it; thus I’m excited to check out her latest!

  8. This sounds really good. I need to read more books set in Asian cultures. I love it! But always forget to read these books.

  9. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I just finished it and like you I was pleasantly surprised how characters were not stereotypical. Although I expected less chasing and roof-jumping and more life facts, I can not say it was not fun.
    Great review!

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