Release date: Out now
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…
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
Has: Ever since I read Jeannie Lin’s first book, BUTTERFLY SWORDS, I’ve been a huge fan of her historicals set during the Tang Dynasty. Not only has her settings and the premise has been engaging and different from the usual Regencies historicals, but her characters have been fun, sexy and delightful. But I have to say THE SWORD DANCER, is the best book yet she’s written – It was definitely one of the most appealing and entertaining romances I’ve read this year. I adored the cat and mouse chase between Li Feng who is a thief cum sword dancer who travels town to town in search of secrets of her hidden past and Hao Han, a thief catcher hot on her heels who is soon emotionally drawn to her.
Meka: I have to admit that I tend to be very hard on historicals. It isn’t that I’m overly critical of them in terms of accuracy, but I’ve noticed a trend that they are either full of information dumps, or there is focus only on a couple of characters and barely any details about the world around them. Then there is the fact that a lot of what I see is based on Regency England which I have a hate for and would like to shove off of a cliff. Jeannie Lin surprised and pleased me with two incredibly fun and engaging characters, a rich backdrop, and an adventure that to me, felt sweeping in its scope.
Has: I feel the same way about historicals lately as well. However Jeannie Lin has revitalized my love of the sub-genre with the rich and vivid setting and I didn’t feel overwhelmed with the info-dumping or being bogged down with details. Her narrative flowed beautifully and the setting as a backdrop really made the romance feel alive and refreshing. I also loved the swashbuckling elements which was truly colourful and distinct. It also helped to bring forward the pace of the book which never really really paused and I really liked the twist and turns in the plot, especially how it connected to Li Feng’s past.
But for me the real highlight was the romance between Li Feng and Han who really shined on the pages. I freaking loved the banter between them and the battle of wits. It was natural and engaging and I was kept on tenterhooks to see how their love story would pan out. it didn’t feel forced or angsty and the fun factor really kept me in engrossed into the story.
Meka: OH my gosh, I loved these characters so much. They seemed to just jump off of the page. Both of them were three-dimensional characters with all of the quirks that come with it. Han and Li Feng were so different in the way that they viewed life that I sometimes found myself agreeing with one of them, and then would switch my allegiance to the other because they, too, had valid points. I loved the slow burn between the two of them but I never felt like it was forced or too slow. I found their game of cat-and-mouse to be thoroughly entertaining and exciting, beginning in chapter one when she’s being chased.
Speaking of chases, so often you find that heroines in novels have amazing skills but they never seem to show them off. I loved that about Li Feng. She had these incredible abilities that she’d gained through years of training, and she used them to her fullest potential. Yet, there was a vulnerability about her that broke my heart and made me want her to have her happily-ever-after. I love that she wasn’t shy about what she wanted even if she was conflicted about it, and that she was such a deeply complex character. We got to see her as a formidable opponent, and as someone who wanted and yearned to find the connections to her past. I liked that she didn’t just let Han bulldoze her in to what he wanted, but she’d just do her own thing anyway and whether right or wrong, it was a decision that was totally to character.
Has: I so totally agree! I loved how resourceful she was and when she encountered the shocking twists from her past – Li Feng never made a silly mistake either or even really betrayed Han. I so love this type of romance because the conflict really brings out the emotions and the intensity really well if done right.
I also loved how Han was so steadfast and loyal to his duties but at the same time so torn over wanting to protect Li Feng. For me the scene when they say good bye and had to go their separate ways towards the end was full of angst and I loved the passage describing their feelings and divided loyalties.
‘When his lips found hers, all the fight within her drained away. She had lain naked in his arms, had known the thrust of his body deep inside her, yet this embrace in the gathering darkness was more complete than all of those acts of passion. His kiss was gentle, yet shockingly intimate out here with the great city around them. Such an act was a private thing meant for closed doors and drawn blinds. Yet when Han kissed her now, it was more than a precursor to lovemaking. It was language. His lips caressing softly to find her. She responded in kind, pressing close to him. It was longing and it was farewell.
A gong sounded in the marketplace and was echoed by another, then another. The nightly curfew. A foot patrol marched over the wooden planks above. They both grew still, holding on to each other through the rumbling.’
It was beyond beautiful and full of longing and I did sigh over this because I think Lin really captured that moment of lovers torn apart by fate.
Meka: Oh Han, can I just keep you? Roll you up and put you in my pocket forever and ever? I loved Han, do you hear me? Loved him. I love his commitment to his duty, his steadfast friendship,and how once he was committed to Li Feng, he was all in even if it challenged his beliefs. That scene that you are referring to brought tears to my eyes. I remember reading the book and telling my roommate, “oh my god, I don’t know how these people are going to have their happily-ever-after.” I should not have worried though. Without giving away any spoilers, I thought everything came together very well
The other thing that I would like to mention is Jeannie Lin’s attention to detail. I have never read a romance set in this particular time period. The words came off of the page and I could visualize what the buildings looked like, not simply by her description of the visuals, but also the texture. Food, music, the opulence of some citizens and the destitution of others was not difficult to imagine because the author brought me there with her words. Everyone mentioned in this book had a part to play, whether it was large or small, and I loved the way that even a small player had motivations and aspirations. It was a tightly woven and detailed plot that I adored.
Has: I also felt that THE SWORD DANCER was a tightly plotted and rich and vivid romance with a lush romance that was fun and sexy. It was also action packed and imaginative, I felt I was almost living within the characters because I was so immersed into the book. Han and Li Feng’s characters were a pure joy and I highly recommend their romance which was oh so enjoyable to experience because who cant resist a love story full of banter and sexual tension that literally sparkles around them.
I give The Sword Dancer an A.
Meka: The Sword Dancer was action-packed and had a slow burn and tightly woven plot that made me very concerned for our characters well-being. I had no idea of how everything would end up being resolved. Some of the characters made me laugh, while others made my heart hurt. Li Feng and Han were perfect for each other, Yin and Yang. They believed in each other even though when the stack was stacked firmly against them, and there was a sweetness to the entire thing. I loved the setting, the characters, the sweeping scope, the combat, all of it.
I give The Sword Dancer an A.