Publisher: Sexton’s Cottage
Release Date: July 31, 2019
Received From: Signal Boost PR
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.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: dislike to lovers, fake dating
TAGS: adult, historical, historical fantasy, romance, disabled characters, Asian characters
WARNINGS: mental illness (PTSD), racism, violence, death
With this novel, Demas builds an enticing, enjoyable world that, while a historical fantasy, is reminiscent of ancient societies, such as Ancient Greece and Rome. She creates an atmospheric place that is vividly described, from the landscape to the culture and mythology to the characters.
Additionally, the characters were intriguing and interesting to read about. The dislike to love aspect of the story was done well, and the “reluctant partners” aspect was a fun addition to the story once Damiskos and Varazda are thrown together and forced to trust each other in order to protect themselves. Also, the “pretend lovers” part of the story was an unexpected but pleasing bonus as that’s one of my favorite tropes!
I won’t speak on the disability and racial representations as I am neither Asian nor do I share the particular disabilities depicted in the book, so I will be interested to see ownvoices reviews for those.
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.