Sword Dance (Sword Dance #1) by A.J. Demas


Sword Dance
(Sword Dance #1)
by A.J. Demas
Cover Art: Aud Koch
Cover Design: Lennan Adams

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.


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Sword Dance by A.J. Demas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sword Dance is a beautiful, well-written and thoughtful start to a new trilogy by AJ Demas.

Sword Dance is an introspective novel covering a whole world of themes, from politics to philosophy, religion to nationalism, sexual and gender identities, and so much more, with the characters each having unique and thoughtful approaches to at times tough topics. The book is centered around an ever-growing mystery, with lots of moving parts and carefully inter-woven plots that just built anticipation all the way throughout the book. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat kind of read, but rather a gentle, enthralling build from the beginning to the end.

I adore Demas’ writing – they string words together in such a subtle way that creates a whole, immersive world that jumps right off of the page. As soon as I started this novel, I didn’t want to put it down. The setting, characters and plot are all so well planned, designed and written that everything flows from the first word to the last. Demas’ worldbuilding is singular in that it is enough like our history, but different and creative enough to create something unique and purely fictional. The closeness to actual history roots it enough in real life to make it believable while still giving me as a reader the things I enjoy about science fiction – an immersive, new reality to escape to for the couple of hours I’m buried in the pages.

The romance between Damiskos and Varazda is sweet and slow burning, but not in a pull-your-hair-out kind of way. We don’t get Varazda’s point of view in this book, but I loved reading about him through Damiskos’ eyes; it’s clear how much they come to care for each other, and just how much Damiskos adores Varazda. I really look forward to continuing this series and seeing how the characters might develop.

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy phenomenal writing, creative worldbuilding, and unique themes.

An advance copy of this book was received for review on OMGReads.

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A.J. Demas is an ex-academic who once studied and taught medieval literature. Now she looks after her two-year-old daughter and writes romances set in an imaginary world that is sort of like the ancient Mediterranean with the serial numbers filed off. She also publishes fantasy and historical fiction with a metaphysical twist as Alice Degan. She lives in Toronto.

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