"He wants you to fight." Del had just discovered it. And very calm she was, too, considering the fight would be to the death.
"Looks like he might just get it, too. I mean--part of the deal we struck is to make sure you get to Julah, not into an old man's bed." I grinned. "Ever had two men fight over you before?"
"Yes," she said grimly, surprising me; but not surprising me at all, once I thought about it. "Tiger--tell him no."
"If I tell him I won't fight, it means I'm giving in to him," I pointed out. "It means I'm making a gift of you to him."
Del squared her shoulders and looked the shoka in the eye. Not a wise thing for a woman to do. And it got worse when she totally circumvented custom and spoke to him directly. "If the shoka wishes to fight over the Northern woman, he will have to fight the woman first."
Plainly put, the shoka was flabbergasted. So was I, to be honest. Not only had she ignored the rules of common Hanji courtesy, but she also challenged him personally.
His nose-ring quivered against his lip. Every sinew in his body stood up beneat his sun-darkened skin. "Warriors do not fight women."
"I'm not a woman," she said dryly. I'm a sword-dancer, as is the Sandtiger. And I will fight you to prove it."
"Del," I said.
"Be quiet." She'd given up on politeness altogether. "You're not stealing this fight from me."
"By all the gods of valhail," I hissed, "don't be such a fool!"
"Stop calling me a fool, you stupid sand-ape!"
The shoka grunted. "Perhaps it would be better if the woman fought the Sandtiger."
There are a number of things to be said about these two books, collected into one volume, but unfortunately most of them aren't good. There's no plot to speak of--there are events, wedged in between the interminable arguments between the two main characters--but they don't add up to any plot whatsoever. Events that might have been interesting tend to be resolved by some truly bizarre exercises of Deus ex Machina that rather leave you wondering what the point of all that activity was.
The characters groan under the weight of the stereotypes they're required to support, so much so that it's almost impossible to like any of them. That, and they're constantly psychologizing each other (and everyone else they meet), a fact that they actually admit! I'm sorry, but no character in a fantasy novel that includes magic swords and nomadic desert bandits should include the word psychological, ESPECIALLY when it's told from a first-person viewpoint. First person allows SOME editorial comments, but that's just ridiculous.
Del, the heroine, is frankly unlikeable: the fantasy self of every man-hating feminist to ever exist. She's a paragon of physical beauty and she makes a point of proving she's better than every man she meets. The chip on her shoulder is the size of the Empire State Building. It's not especially surprising, because she's a victim of every feminist's favorite disaster: rape, but it IS annoying.
That, and the second book ends in an unforgivable cliffhanger that actually made me NOT want to read any more in the series just from spite.