Tiger is a man, born a slave, who is now the greatest of sword masters in the desert south. Del, a beautiful northern woman, has mastered the sword in her own snowy land. They meet by chance at an inn as Del begins her search for her brother, Jamail, who was captured by slavers. Del hires Tiger as a guide and they set off across the deadly Punja desert to find Jamail, whom they discover was last seen in the Southern city of Julah. As they travel they discover that, despite their differences, they are both sword dancers, experts at a ritualistic form of fighting that takes place within the confines of a circle. Over the course of their travels Del discovers that her lack of knowledge about the Suth may be deadly, while Tiger slowly comes to realize that,perhaps,a woman can be just as competent as a man. They both slowly realize that an attraction is growing between them.
As they cross the desert Tiger and Del find a pair of Sandtiger cubs, which Del decides to keep and raise, against Tiger's wishes. They survive a sandstorm and are taken by the Hanjii tribe, a barbaric group of desert dwellers. The two are forced to fight, a conflict that Del wins by using the womans' "trick" of hitting a man squarely between the legs. When she chooses to stay with Tiger, rather than with the chief of the Hanjii tribe, they are left in the desert with no mounts or water. Just before they die from exposure they are rescued by the Salset tribe, the same group who kept Tiger a slave as a child. During their stay, Del discovers that Tiger got his name for killing a Sandtiger that had been plaguing the camp and Tiger reveals that he knows Del's sword is filled with Nothern Sorcery. After a long recovery, they are given mounts and again head South towards Julah. After rescuing a caravan beset by raiders, Tiger and Del agree to go with the Princess that the wagons are carrying to her future husband in the city of Sasqaat. Tiger sleeps with the Princess, Elamain, and upon arriving in the city is drugged and taken as a prisoner by her prospective husband. Del rescues Tiger from the dungeon and they again set out on their quest.
In Rusali, their next stop on the way to Julah, the two meet Alric, a Northerner living in the South. Tiger discovers that Del is being hunted by her countrymen for killing the sword master who was her teacher in order to make her sword more powerful through Northern magic. A Southerner, Theron, tries to punish Del for her crime and is kidnapped by a magical creature called an Afreet who is looking to aquire a sword for his mysterious master. Tiger and Del finally reach Julah and Del poses as a slave that Tiger is looking to buy a mate for. At the palace of the slaver, Aladar, Tiger is captured and taken as a slave to work in a gold mine while Del is kept in the palace. Three months later, Tiger is brought back to show that his spirit has been broken and he and Del escape after killing Aladar and learning that Jamail is living with the desert tribe of the Vashni. Upon finding the Vashni, Del also discovers her brother, but finds that things are not at all what they seem. Upon leaving the Vashni, they encounter Theron once more and Tiger defeats him in one last sword dance. Together, Tiger and Del head North, determined to resolve the problems she has created for herself with her Northern tribe.
This report prepared by Marcy Clark