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Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
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Swordspoint (1987)

by Ellen Kushner

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Riverside (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,116724,458 (3.96)120
  1. 20
    Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Another story revolving around two men in a relationship that takes place largely in a single city.
  2. 10
    The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (bookwormelf)
    bookwormelf: low on magic, high on characters and world-building
  3. 21
    Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling (Sorceress_rin)
  4. 10
    The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: Gutter-Duke swordpoint politics, meet assassin ninja-priests.
  5. 00
    Havemercy by Jaida Jones (FFortuna)
    FFortuna: Very similar, and both fantastic.
  6. 11
    Maledicte by Lane Robins (FicusFan)
    FicusFan: Very Similar 'Period' Fantasy Feel, a Black Comedy of Manners
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» See also 120 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
4 and a half stars. first in the Riverside trilogy that introduces the Duchy of Tremontaine, gifted with a terrific nuanced villain, beautiful writing, fabulous characters, and much to say, this fantasy of manners is a classic, and repays a reread every few years. ( )
  macha | Jan 21, 2018 |
Fascinating book. I wouldn't want any of the characters as friends, but they are fascinating to read about. Initially it all seems to be about the men, but it does not do to overlook the women in this novel.
Manners are everything in this culture and they can be used as a trap. ( )
  JudithProctor | Oct 28, 2017 |
A melodrama of manners in a non-magical fantasy land of nobles and a social underbelly, in which swordsmen are hired to fight nobles' battles for them -- to the death.

This was... not my favorite. It was okay. It didn't speak to me, though I can see that it would appeal to others with different tastes. I found the nobles interchangeable, with their intricate plottings and motivations hard to follow (this is my dislike of highly political fantasy speaking), and I found our heroes -- a swordsman-for-hire and his crazy-lover-with-a-Secret -- disturbing more than compelling (this is my dislike of grittiness in fiction speaking). A bit of a disappointment after Tremontaine, which had more motivated characters that I was comfortable with despite their moral grayness. ( )
  pammab | Aug 26, 2017 |

This book is not entirely sober. It has beauty, elegance and wit, but also a tendency to meander, random mumbling, slight incoherence, confusion, insights that aren't that insightful and a lot of people lacking relationship skills. ( )
  StigE | Aug 25, 2017 |
This is a "fantasy" story in which nothing fantastic occurs. There is no magic, nothing supernatural, and nothing that would be out of place in an alternate Europe, except that the city in which the story is told exists nowhere, and the specific details of its workings are invented whole cloth by the author. Since the story is placed in a world that is essentially boring old Europe kind of but maybe not, the crutches on which so much fantasy leans are not available here. There's no grand trip, or loving explanation of just how it all works, or spells to mcguffin the main characters out of a particularly knotty plot point. Swordspoint has to rely entirely on the strength of its characters and the interplay of their various ambitions to hold the reader's attention, and how much you like reading about those characters will likely determine how fond you are of the book. I loved them, so for me Swordspoint was a complete success. Fantastical or no, it turns out to be a fantastic read.

The premise of the plot is this: The city is run by a group of aristocrats, who employ swordsmen to assassinate, challenge, or impress. There are some rules of honor but generally murder is an accepted risk in this society for the upper class. Good swordsmen therefore are in extremely high demand, and our main character, St. Vier, is one of the best. He's a simple man, who is picky about jobs and doesn't really care about the politics behind his employment, and that eventually threatens to put him into a lot of trouble, as he ends up in the middle of a mess in which about 5 different actors are all maneuvering around each other to come out on top. The supporting cast is lively and at times unpredictable, and their attempts to manipulate each other are a lot of fun to follow. Even though the story is centered around swordsmanship, action is not its focus, and although the fights that are there are good ones, most of book is told in scenes of conversations. I wouldn't exactly call this an adventure.

Of all the many relationships in the book, the relationship between St. Vier and his lover, Alec is definitely the best. It breaks a few fantasy conventions, particularly gay fantasy conventions, by being established from the very beginning, and being a central element but not the focus of the plot. I can't tell you how many gay fantasy books I've read where in the first book the two love interests barely even register attraction for each other, so I appreciate a story that cuts through the will-they-won't-they crap and gets on with the story after the hookup. And what makes me even happier is that this book is self contained and doesn't leave loose ends for a series of increasingly duller sequels.

So Swordspoint gets a thumbs up from me for being a well written and paced, character driven, self-contained story of the sort that I haven't read a million times before. ( )
1 vote bokai | Feb 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kushner, EllenAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Canty, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fass, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graham, DionNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kushner, EllenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reyes, Manuel de losTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Springett, MartinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sullivan, NickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Man desires that which is Good.
-Plato
"We all have flaws," he said, "and mine is being wicked."
-James Thurber, The Thirteen Clocks
In the end...everything will be found to be true of everybody.
-Lawrence Durrell, Balthazar
Dedication
For the Other One
First words
Snow was falling on Riverside, great white feather-puffs that veiled the cracks in the façades of its ruined houses; slowly softening the harsh contours of jagged roof and fallen beam.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553585495, Mass Market Paperback)

The classic forerunner to The Fall of the Kings now with three bonus stories.

Hailed by critics as “a bravura performance” (Locus) and “witty, sharp-eyed, [and] full of interesting people” (Newsday), this classic melodrama of manners, filled with remarkable plot twists and unexpected humor, takes fantasy to an unprecedented level of elegant writing and scintillating wit. Award-winning author Ellen Kushner has created a world of unforgettable characters whose political ambitions, passionate love affairs, and age-old rivalries collide with deadly results.

Swordspoint

On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless--until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:09 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In this collection which includes a novel and three short stories, the great swordsman Richard St. Vier is forced to become involved in a plot to gain control of a nameless city where elegance and decadence coexist.

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