Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Temple Dancer

The Temple Dancer

A Novel of India

Novels of India (Volume 1)

John Speed

St. Martin's Press




India, 1657.
When Maya, a graceful, young temple dancer with a mysterious past, is sold into slavery, she enters a world of intrigue, violence, and forbidden love. Bought by a Portuguese trader and sold as a concubine to the dissolute vizier of Bijapur, she embarks on a treacherous journey.
In a caravan led by the dangerous settlement man Da Gama, she travels by elephant on the hostile road to Bijapur, joined by Geraldo, a Portuguese adventurer, and Pathan, a handsome prince who carries a dark secret. Together with Lucinda, a beautiful, spoiled young Goan heiress, and the manipulative eunuch Slipper, they climb the windswept mountain road through the Western Ghats.
When their caravan is attacked by bandits, the travelers' lives are turned upside down. In the aftermath, Maya and Lucinda suddenly find themselves stranded in a strange, exotic world, a world filled with passion, romance, and deception, pure love and lurking evil, where nothing is as it seems and the two women are faced with great temptation as well as heart-wrenching decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
Greed, politics, commitment, courage, love, and intolerance mesh to form a vibrant Indian tapestry. With spectacular settings, unforgettable characters, fierce sensuality, and intense scholarship, this adventure-packed novel marks the debut of an exciting new storyteller.
The Temple Dancer is the first volume of John Speed's Indian trilogy, a three-book journey that will cover the final years of the Mogul Empire and the rise of the Marathis under the highwayman Shivaji. It will leave you breathlessly awaiting his next novel.


Chapter One

Portuguese Cantonment
Goa, India

Satisfied that her face looked perfect, Lucinda Teresa Emilia Dasana dipped a pheasant's tail feather into a crystal vial and touched a milky drop of belladonna to the corner...


Praise for The Temple Dancer

“The Temple Dancer sweeps the reader into an age of passion and danger, romance, chivalry, and high adventure---an age when a bandit could defy an emperor and a dancing girl change the course of history. Set against the rich backdrop of Moghul India, The Temple Dancer’s combination of history, intrigue, and forbidden love should appeal to anyone who loves M. M. Kaye’s The Far Pavilions and Shadow of the Moon. In fact, it should appeal to anyone who loves a story that will totally intrigue them.” —India Edghill, author of Queenmaker and Wisdom’s Daughter

The Temple Dancer is an ocean of a story, filled with adventure, passion, and heartbreak. It's compulsively readable and everything you want in a novel.” —Michael Swanwick, author of Bones of the Earth

The Temple Dancer is a lush, loopy, multicultural epic set in seventeenth-century India, like the cockeyed marriage of a Bollywood musical and an Errol Flynn/Olivia de Havilland movie, well-researched, playfully written, and highly entertaining.” —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters and Lives of the Circus Animals

The Temple Dancer is what reading is all about. This book upholds true literature, which is . . . the beauty of language. There is a wonderful world here full of enchantment and nourishment.” —Daniel Ladinsky, translator of The Gift and I Heard God Laughing

“What an adventure! Two women, utterly different in culture and outlook, travel across seventeenth century India on elephant back and discover, in the face of betrayal, that they have a great deal more in common than they ever suspected. Beautifully researched, this novel has it all: heroes adept with sword and pistol, bold and independent heroines, corrupt rulers, treacherous eunuchs, slippery merchants, and bloodthirsty banditti. The author stirs them all together with a handsome dose of conspiracy, mysticism, and sensuality to create a splendid entertainment in the grand style.” —Judith Merkle Riley, author of A Vision of Light, The Oracle Glass, The Master of All Desires, and The Water Devil

“A richly atmospheric debut.” —Kirkus Reviews

“…a fun and suspenseful trip through 17th century India…John Speed introduces a smorgasbord of interesting and colorful characters…an absorbing adventure and love story…fast-paced and suspenseful.” —

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

John Speed

John Speed began studying Indian history, art, and religion while still in high school. For more than thirty years, his explorations deepened as he became absorbed in tales of the fall of the Mogul Empire and of the rise of the rebel prince Shivaji. During his many visits to India, he has stood on crumbling battlements, crawled through lightless caves, bathed in sacred rivers, wandered through forgotten gardens, prayed at old mosques and ancient temples, joined in night-long kirtans and qwalis, cheered on ecstatic temple dancers, and laid his head at the feet of hundreds of saints both living and dead, Hindus and Muslims. Speed is a freelance political consultant and journalist who cofounded a successful on-line newspaper. He now lives with his dogs in a very small house overlooking Swami's Beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. The Temple Dancer is his first novel.

John Speed

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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