Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)” as Want to Read:
The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

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

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  1,264 ratings  ·  99 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Fall of the Kings, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Fall of the Kings

Luck in the Shadows by Lynn FlewellingMagic's Pawn by Mercedes LackeyStalking Darkness by Lynn FlewellingTraitor's Moon by Lynn FlewellingMagic's Price by Mercedes Lackey
Best Fantasy Books with Gay Main Characters
58th out of 488 books — 1,091 voters
Maurice by E.M. ForsterBrokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best Gay Fiction
170th out of 1,059 books — 1,294 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,310)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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.
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
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
This review pertains specifically to the audiobook edition of The Fall of the Kings.

It's no secret that I absolutely adore Ellen Kushner's "Riverside" series, and "The Fall of the Kings" is perhaps the deepest and richest of the three. Co-written with Delia Sherman, "The Fall of the Kings" depicts the fine lines between history and legend, science and magic, obsession and love.

Theron Campion, elegant young nobleman-about-town, has recovered from his unhappy love affair with a scandalous artist,
Kate O'Hanlon
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I would have given this book 5 out 5 stars if it wasn't for the ending, or lack there of. It was truly one of the most disappointing, flaccid endings I have read. I loved this book up until the moment when all the heart-thumping suspense amounted to nothing. It failed miserably. To me, it honestly seemed as though Ellen Kushner decided she didn't feel like writing anymore and so ended the story as quickly as possible in a way that basically said, "The dramatic events of this story, that have bui ...more
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
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
Jun 22, 2010 Miriam rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
♦ 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 u
Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman have created a very interesting and vivid world in this book. For the first half, I was entranced with the characters and conflicts and I enjoyed seeing the history of the unnamed city and its people fleshed out. But then it started to drag. The plot starts out making big claims about magic, history and fate, and then it fizzles out into a much smaller story about a spoiled boy and academic infighting. The madness and the blood are real, but the stakes are ultimat ...more
Lis Carey
Fifteen years ago, Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint delighted appreciative readers with complex, interesting characters, a richly textured setting, and a fantasy novel with no magic at all. The Fall of the Kings admits magic into the picture, but the characters are as interesting, and the setting at least as textured and lived-in.

It's sixty years later, and Alec Campion, now remembered as the Mad Duke, has been dead for twenty years. Before he died, though, he brought back from his travels a wife, So
The UHQ Nasanta

Narrated by Ellen Kushner and cast: (view spoiler)

Notes here because it won't fit my Notes section.

(view spoiler)
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 76 77 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Corambis (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #4)
  • Point of Hopes (Astreiant, #1)
  • Shadow Magic (Havemercy #2)
  • Traitor's Moon (Nightrunner, #3)
  • The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure (Wraeththu Histories, #1)
  • Hell and Earth (Promethean Age, #4)
  • Lord of the White Hell (Lord of the White Hell, #2)
  • The Fire's Stone
  • Kirith Kirin
  • The Golden Sword (Branion, #4)
American writer of fantasy novels, and the host of the radio program Sound & Spirit, distributed by Public Radio International.

She lives in New York City with her wife and sometime collaborator, Delia Sherman. Her first novel, Swordspoint (1987), and its sequel (co-authored by Sherman) The Fall of the Kings (2002), are mannerpunk novels set in a nameless imaginary capital city, and its raffish
More about Ellen Kushner...
Swordspoint (Riverside, #1) The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2) Thomas the Rhymer The Man with the Knives Outlaws of Sherwood Forest (Choose Your Own Adventure, #47)

Share This Book

“Across the troubled maelstrom of time, people always need a beer.” 6 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?” 2 likes
More quotes…