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

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,560 Ratings  ·  117 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 January 1st 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,901)
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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.
Aug 22, 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
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
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
Nov 20, 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
Nov 15, 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
Kate O'Hanlon
Mar 26, 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
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
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
Mar 15, 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Grace Yeo
Aug 21, 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
Oct 01, 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
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
written by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, i also listened to this on full-cast audio. I did enjoy it but not as much as the first two in the series, Swordspoint, and The Privilege of the Sword. in a fantasy-Regency era England-scholarship is all-important--and rough-housing and sword-fighting take a bit of a back-seat to scholarly proof--or do they? this novel has a darker, more-mystical setting--where-in scholars challenge each other as to the old world kings versus the new 'enlightened' gove ...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
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.

Oct 03, 2014 Cecily rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I have to give this book three stars simply because it is one of the most beautifully written works of fantasy I've ever read. The command and use of the language is almost otherworldly. I had to stop sometimes just to read paragraphs or sentences over that were completely gorgeous in every way. And yet, the rest of it still flowed by effortlessly. This story takes place during a university school year in a fantasy city that seems to have a climate similar to New England. The authors brilliantly ...more
Jun 22, 2010 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.
Lis Carey
Oct 24, 2014 Lis Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf, audiobooks
This is a real treat, a wonderful performance of a very enjoyable book.

Set in the world of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, it's about forty or fifty years after Privilege. Katherine is Duchess Tremontaine, and Theron, Alec's posthumous son from his very late marriage to Sofia, now a physician and a Doctor of the University, is her heir presumptive.

He's also young, romantic, a poet, and an eternal student, flitting from one field of study to another, currently studying
Jul 01, 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.
Dec 23, 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.
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.
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.
Jan 10, 2013 Wyndslash rated it really liked it
The ending was less than ideal, but for it to end any other way would entail a far greater demand on imagination and perhaps a longer book.
Shari  Mulluane
Feb 26, 2014 Shari Mulluane rated it liked it
What I Liked: Once again I enjoyed the uniqueness of this tale. Unlike book one, magic plays a big role in this adventure, though mainly as a subject of debate with tantalizing hints as to its validity.

The story centers around Theron Campion and his University mentor/lover. Theron has many of the qualities of his father, Alec. He is an enigma when it comes to personality. Sometimes blindly passionate, sometimes easily led, insecure but with the arrogance that comes from a being member of the up
Abi Walton
4.5 stars really. I heard a lot of negative reviews about this novel so when I finished The Privilege of the Sword, I was a little apprehensive. However I loved this book because of the folklore and the mythology behind this novel, this made The Fall Of The Kings, last book of the Riverside series, my favourite. I have always loved the idea of the Oak King and his Holly King, which has been explored for many centuries.

I read this one last and I think this is why I enjoyed it so much as everythi
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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 (3 books)
  • 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.” 8 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?” 3 likes
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