Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Sword Dancer (Tang Dynasty #4) by Jeannie Lin

The Sword Dancer is the third romance by Jeanne Lin that I have read.  While it was my least favorite of the three, it was still a fascinating look inside Chinese culture, as well as a well-written romance. 

Zheng Hao Han is a thief catcher during the Tang Dynasty.  This is not entirely an honorable profession.  He is seen more along the lines of a garbage man than a law enforcement officer.  Raised in a family with a government official for a father, law and order is important to Han and though he is unable to rise to the same rank as his father, Han desires to uphold the law.  He has just dealt with a famous outlaw named Two Dragon Lo and he is now after a sword dancer.  Li Feng, a graceful and beautiful dancer, is an outlaw who is seeking some justice of her own.  Her family has been taken from her, and she has no intention of allowing herself to be captured by Han or any of the other thief-catchers in her trail.
Li Feng is involved in the theft of some priceless jade, and Han is determined to bring her to justice.  Unfortunately for him, he is compelled by her strength, wit, and beauty. The majority of the conflict between Han and Li Feng is centered on her willingness to break the law and Han’s desire to keep the law.  He has difficulty overcoming his sense of honor, and his unwillingness to let criminals get away with their crimes keeps the tension between these two characters taut.  I was not sure at all how they were ever going to come to a meeting of the minds.  The tension between the two of them was constant and seemingly insurmountable.  It is a testament to Lin’s writing abilities that I believed that the two characters would never overcome their attitudes and get their happy ending.  Both Li Feng and Han are well-drawn characters that behave in ways that you would expect, and they do not gloss over their differences.
In their search for justice, other crimes are uncovered involving salt, theft, and murder.  I had a bit of trouble keeping the characters straight (I always do!) but the conflict was a plausible one, and uncovering the identity of the true bad guys was fun.  Not that it was a high mystery, but it was fun to figure out.  There was also quite a bit of description of action scenes—scaling walls, swordplay, and graceful leaps from roof to roof.  Lin did a good job describing this in such a way that I could actually visualize the action.
One of the other things that Lin does well is to create a slow simmer between her romantic couple.  There are no fast marriages or beddings in her books.  The characters are kept apart (sometimes painfully), and the romance only moves along when the characters are ready to do so.  This is quite refreshing to read, and it is one of the reasons like Lin’s books so much.
My only quibble with the book is the political story line.  I found that I did not care so much about it, and I only wanted to get back to the interaction between the characters. Supporting characters were fun, but they were not the focus.  I would like to read more about Li Feng’s brother.  Maybe in another book?  Hint hint!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

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