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The Fall of the Kings (The World of Riverside #3)

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  1,798 Ratings  ·  138 Reviews
This stunning follow-up to Ellen Kushner's cult-classic novel, "Swordspoint," is set in the same world of labyrinthine intrigue, where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule. Against a rich tapestry of artists and aristocrats, students, strumpets, and spies, a gentleman and a scholar will find themselves playing out an ancient drama destined to explode their society's smu ...more
Paperback, 510 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Bantam (first published 2002)
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Mar 25, 2011 Ka rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, romance
In summary: why wasn't this book as good as its forebears? A Wizard did it.

Oh, man, I was so disappointed by this book. I wanted to like it, but in the end I just didn't, mainly because I felt a bit like the author betrayed me. We return to the world of Riverside around 40 years after "The Privilege of the Sword" (my favorite of the lot, as it was the least angsty and most fun). So all the characters I liked are either old or dead. But I soldiered on and initially it seemed like a good time was
Murray Writtle
May 04, 2008 Murray Writtle rated it did not like it
I'm puzzled by this book. I like Kushner's other work so much and this one has some of the same flowing language and nice touches of the atmosphere of her other books, but the plot is soooooo drearily slow and the protagonist so undeserving because of his apathy in the central part of the book that I just could not enjoy it. Plus the confused and strongly hinted at presence of magic seems so totally unnecessary in the world of Riverside.
E. Kimble
Mar 10, 2013 E. Kimble rated it it was ok
This was a frustrating one! I love little more than academia in a fantasy setting, and a climactic sequence begun by a scholarly debate is sooo up my street--but what dreadful pacing it turned out to have. This book takes a pleasant road but a slow one towards its destination, and when you finally reach the book's pivotal moment it's so rushed that it's robbed of all its power. The relationship between the two leads gets so much focus, only to have its purpose shoved from "character development" ...more
Apr 26, 2008 Sean rated it really liked it
Despite the claims of the jacket blurb, The Fall of the Kings is not "set in the same world of labyrinthine intrigue [as [book:Swordspoint]], where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule"--for one thing, swords hardly figure at all in The Fall of the Kings, and sharp wits end up not counting for much. Swordspoint was a "melodrama of manners"; The Fall of the Kings is an exploration of the meaning of history, culture, tradition, relationships, academia and metaphysics. Swordspoint was ultimately ...more
Nov 12, 2008 Kendrawesome rated it it was ok
After finishing Swordspoint, I was immediately on the lookout for more novels by Kushner. I figured that The Fall of the Kings, while not using the same characters as the previous novel, would still be a fun read.

Well, I'm surmising that as a book written by two authors the novel's fault lies primarily with Delia Sherman for the drop in quality. Or Kushner lost whatever way with words she had in the past more-than-ten year span from Swordspoint. At any rate, I have compiled a list of the obnoxi
It isn't every day I decide to make a visit to the Thesaurus, but in honor of my feelings for The Fall of The Kings, today I have. Come with me, as we discover the various synonyms for the word "trash", which is the adjective that best describes this book:

Garbage. Junk. Rubbish. Dross. Filth. Scum.

Take your pick, any of them will do perfectly. Now, I'll try and sum up as best I can why is it that this tragic disaster of a book is so horrendous, when the book before it was so good.

First of all, o
Kate O'Hanlon
Feb 11, 2012 Kate O'Hanlon rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Lots of reviews seem not to have liked the ending. But I thought it was a good place to leave things.

More proper review when I'm less desperately hungover.

*Awake and Alive Edits 26.03.2012*

I think part of why people find the ending unsatisfying, (and I think it is unsatisfying, I just likes it that way, literary masochism, whey) is that Riverside is a very fully realized setting, and Kushner and Sherman want to leave it so. Things don't end tidily, some people wander off to do other things. It's
Feb 10, 2016 Joanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bpl
More like 2.5 stars. The first two books don't really fit neatly into my idea of fantasy. But this one dives right in to old rituals. Frankly, I found it often confusing, with relatives coming out of the woodwork and far too many student characters. I think a person who wants to know what the fuss is about with Swordspoint could read just that one and then The Privilege of the Sword and leave this one be.
Sherwood Smith
Dec 15, 2009 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fantasy
Reread this, and I am even more convinced that this is part one of a larger novel. It is engaging, witty and vivid and sensory and rich, with hints of magic; it also has an enormous cast. Toward the end, rather than pulling them all together, the cast members seem to be dropped or scattered, coming to an abrupt end. The central figure, the shadowy Lord Arlen, has yet to reveal motivation or intention, and his pole star, the beautiful Theron Campion, is out for the nonce.

Would love to see Part Tw
May 25, 2013 Dorothea rated it it was ok
Despite the two stars, and despite all the complaints I'm going to make below, I never seriously thought about not finishing The Fall of the Kings. Its best achievement: setting up its plot, making clear what kinds of things are at stake (to a degree; see below) and establishing that the current story has deep connections to the myth and history that the characters retell and uncover, without making any specific ending seem inevitable early on.

That was well done, really -- in other stories I've
Jan 02, 2009 Nikki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, queer
The Fall of the Kings is set in the same world as Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword. However, it's a very different kind of story. The really personal focus, the sense that this story matters most to the people involved in it, is gone, and now there's a more far-reaching plot about scholarship, politics, monarchy, magic and restoration. This time there's a co-author: Ellen Kushner's wife, Delia Sherman.

Having read Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, I didn't know exactly how I f
Nov 12, 2009 Frances rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, queer
I first learned of Kushner's work through her radio show "Sound and Spirit," on WBGH. Grounded in the songs and stories of cultures throughout the world, this show does an excellent job of exploring spiritual and religious traditions and themes that transcend divides of politics and dogma. This understanding of how ancient stories and archetypes echo through the ages blossoms forth in The Fall of The Kings. The Fall of the Kings is one of the Swordspoint books, which take place in an unspecified ...more
Apr 14, 2015 Jefferson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Imagine Gandalf and Aragorn as lovers, the wizard choosing, advising, and sexing the king, the pair exchanging bodily fluids to make the land fertile! In The Fall of the Kings (2002), Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman queer the typical fantasy genre relationship between kings and wizards. Is their novel a bracing revision, a political passion, an unsavory folly, or just a well-written steamy same-sex romance fantasy about history, authority, truth, duty, art, love, and family? Maybe all of that.

Jul 09, 2017 Lyns rated it really liked it
This previous books in this series must be read first. The amount of characters and complexity of plot required me to create a family tree for Alexander Theron Tielman Campion as well as an annotated list of characters. The Riverside world is an amazing creation and I will definitely read more stories set there.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Grace Yeo
Aug 15, 2012 Grace Yeo rated it it was ok
Shelves: year-2012
I read the Riverside books in proper order, so this is the book I read last: The Privilege of the Sword, however, I thought was superior. The plotting was tighter, and the characters seemed a lot more real than in The Fall of the Kings.

The Fall of the Kings provides a historical setting to the already-rich world we had encountered in Swordspoint. Specifically, it asks the question of whether the old kings were indeed tyrants, and why there exists an aristocratic class without a monarchy. The Fal
It's interesting thinking about my responses to books set in universities (mundane or mythical). They tend to irritate or bore me. Perhaps it's a result of having spent too much time knocking about in such institutions myself; although as a mediocre biology student and, later, a hard-working health sciences student very little of my time has been spent in pubs or lecturer's private parties crapping on about the real truth of X or Y. Sadly, The Fall of the Kings has this in plenty, and failed to ...more
Jun 06, 2008 Mary-Beth rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
I quite enjoyed this fantasy, about the re-awakening of magic in a world of skeptics, where magic is treasonous. The characters were quite good and the romance was pleasant enough.

I think the strength of the novel was in portraying the academic community and all of the back-biting and political manoeuvring that happened there. It was easy to love Basil St. Cloud in this atmosphere for having the morals and love of learning to try to rise above all of it.

The rabble-rousing student-life is beautif
Jenn Estepp
I suspected, when I first started this, that it might end up being my favorite in the series - mostly because of the academic setting, for which I am such a sucker. Alas. As the book went on (and on, and on, and on) that enthusiasm drained slowly away. It feels like a lot of pretty terrific set up and no pay off. And again with the characterizations (I've realized that that's really the thing that's going to make or break a novel for me): Theron is a flighty drip (whom everyone adores for no dis ...more
Jessie Tanner
Jun 23, 2015 Jessie Tanner rated it really liked it
I tried to read Swordspoint after seeing Kushner speak at the University of Tulsa years ago, and really couldn't get into it. This one was recommended to me by a friend and I read it despite not having read the first two Riverside books. It kept me entertained, and there was something captivating and weird about the magic, like the magic is something that happens to you instead of something you do. I liked that part.

However, this book fails the Bechdel test hard. There's a lot of gay love, and s
Mar 04, 2012 Stef rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I really liked this book at the beginning. Having read Swordspoint and falling in love with Alec and St. Vier I was expecting a lot from this follow-up. However I was extremely disappointed when the authors chose to take Theron Campion, a charming, accomplished, vulnerable, and generally likeable character (if shallow and selfish) and forcing him into gibbering madness as a plot point. His lover, St. Cloud, (lots of St's in this world apparently) also seems to become somewhat mad and disconnecte ...more
Apr 10, 2016 imyril rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-along
A very different beast to the other Riverside novels, this has plenty to recommend it (prose, characters, world building) but is much harder to read (and to like). My favourite characters are peripheral, and while I developed a sort of horrified empathy for Theron, it was difficult to maintain at times.

Overall, I think this suffers from being over-long - and for going exactly where you expect it to - like a slow motion car crash. That said, I also think this is a book that will improve on re-re
Mar 02, 2014 Darren rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't until I reached the end of this-a shore I would never have landed on, had my love for the other Riverside stories not set such wind in my sails-that I learned this was originally published as a novella, in Bending the Landscape: Fantasy. It was the one line I read which made perfect sense to me, having felt the whole of the book how much better the story would be had they just cut out all the pages and pages of non-events. The writing itself is florid and polished, the dialogue smooth, ...more
Mar 03, 2011 Kate rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
I absolutely adore everything Ellen Kushner has written (I lament that she has not written yet more!), and I intend to read Miss Sherman at some point as well. This book was quite different from Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, and while I'll take any oppourtunity to inhabit Riverside for a while, it felt like a slightly different world in some ways. Still one I like to inhabit, but with the touch of magic (if there really was magic) added an extra dimension that made my beloved River ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Beta rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2016
Ja, genau so. Wunderschön, die Geschichte, die Sprache, die Figuren und die uralte Mythologie, die das Ganze durchdringt, sich zuerst langsam aufbaut und dann wie eine Welle über alles hinweg fegt. Ein würdiger Nachfolger für "Swordspoint", anders aber mindestens so großartig. Das Ende war zu erwarten, aber es fühlt sich nicht nach dem Ende dieser Geschichte an. Theron, Basil, Katherine, Sophia und Jessica, ich vermisse euch jetzt schon. Tremontaine - ihr seid schon ein spannender Haufen.
Fünf St
Aug 12, 2008 Miriam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folkloricists
Shelves: fantasy
A dissolute young nobleman has unwise affairs and become entangled in ancient cultic ritual practices.

I am positive that Kushner was inspired to write this by The Golden Bough or From Ritual to Romance.
Dec 07, 2008 Millerbug rated it it was ok
I just didn't care for the book. It was debate after debate, very little adventure, very little magic. To much debate. The plot wasn't bad, and the ending was left wide open. I didn't much care for any of the characters, except maybe Justis Blake. And maybe Jessica. But the book to me was soooo dull.
Jun 10, 2007 Peter rated it liked it
Two of Terri Windling's click of talented fantasy authors team up to produce an extremely quirky, well-paced tale pitting tradition against academic rigor while a young man attempts to find himself. The love story in the novel is a big part of what makes this book a little odd, and not because both the lovers are male but more how it unfolds.
Michael Kucharski
May 29, 2008 Michael Kucharski rated it it was ok
Its ending was most annoying and disappointing - perhaps it would have been less so if the journey to it hadn't been so tedious. This is the second time (Or is it the third time this year?) that I have thumbs down a work by Ellen Kushner.
Jul 03, 2007 gk rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi-fan, fiction
An overblown and clumsy plot, some of the most unlikeable characters I've ever encountered in fiction, and a deus-ex-machina ending that would make Zeus envious. One of the most disappointing and thoughtlessly written books I've ever had the misfortune to read.
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Ellen Kushner weaves together multiple careers as a writer, radio host, teacher, performer and public speaker.

A graduate of Barnard College, she also attended Bryn Mawr College, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She began her career in publishing as a fiction editor in New York City, but left to write her first novel Swordspoint, which has become a cult classic, hailed as the progenitor of the “mann
More about Ellen Kushner...

Other Books in the Series

The World of Riverside (5 books)
  • Tremontaine: The Complete Season One (Tremontaine #1.1-1.13)
  • Tremontaine: The Complete Season Two (Tremontaine #2.1-2.13)
  • Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)
  • The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2)

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“Across the troubled maelstrom of time, people always need a beer.” 11 likes
“What was it about scholarship and learning, he wondered, that seemed to wither the hearts of University men, leaving them incapable of loving anything as imperfect and fallible as an actual human being?” 5 likes
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