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The Privilege of the Sword (The World of Riverside #2)

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  3,831 Ratings  ·  321 Reviews
Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power and prestige in the city’s labyrinth of streets and ballrooms, theatres and brothels, boudoirs and salons. Into this alluring and alarming world walks a bright young woman ready to take it on and make her fortune. A well-bred country girl, Katherine knows all the rules of conventional society. ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Spectra (first published 2006)
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Sherwood Smith
readers who have not encountered the previous books set in Kushner's Riverside could read this one first with no confusion or diminishment of pleasure. One doesn't need to know the characters' back (or forward) history; as Katherine encounters them, we do too, through her descriptions both trenchant and humane. (Though it must be said certain lines and situations inevitably will resonate more with readers familiar with the previous Riverside stories.)

Kushner begins with sixteen-year-old Katherin
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, mannerpunk
The book is set a dozen or so years after Swordspoint, one of my very favorite fantasy stories. Alec Campion, the Mad Duke of Tremontaine, summons his young niece to the city. He promises to alleviate her family’s financial situation if she’ll obey his one command—she must dress only in men’s clothing and learn to fight. There are many fantasy books about young, naïve girls who learn to swordfight and defy convention, and most of them are terrible (even the Alanna series has some serious faults) ...more
The one where Mad Duke Alec brings his 15-year-old niece, Katherine, to the city to make a swordsman of her.

Very fine when it comes to Katherine's personal life; less successful in other areas.

Katherine is adorable, and her reactions rang very true to me; I especially liked how it felt for her to put on men's clothes for the first time, and how she gradually gained enthusiasm for her fate. Her sexual awakening was done very well, too.

I enjoyed seeing the dark side of sex and marriage; I have a
About fifteen years after Swordspoint, young Katherine is sent from the country to her uncle the mad Duke, who has a nefarious but possibly brilliant plan to turn her into the first swordswoman.

Okay, so, it went something like this:

First 100 pages: Restless twitching, sighing, picking of fingernails. God, Ellen Kushner, are you seriously telling me you're letting me down in this universe twice?

Next 100 pages: Oh? Oh! Eeee! Well, why didn't you say so earlier? Oh, but you're still doing that thin

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my LOCUS FANTASY list.

As the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners list treated me so kindly, I figure I’ll trust those same good folk to pick me some stars in their sister-list, the Locus Fantasy Award winners.

While I was working my way through the list of Locus Sci-Fi
Feb 29, 2016 Jocelyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: so-cute, medieval, fantasy
Be honest: have you ever fantasized about your previously unknown, aristocratic, super-duper-wacky-cool uncle taking you, his niece, under his wing and teaching you swordplay? And using the subsequent skills to defend yourself and your friends from the villainous creeps of the world?

Your secret dream will come true for the four precious hours your face is stuck to the pages of this book.

Initially, I was enticed by the thrilling synopsis and the promise of a teenage girl's sword-slashing freedom
Like Swordspoint, which I also loved, this novel is an extremely entertaining read that manages to provoke far more thought than I would have expected from a book that's such pure fun. I think what I loved so much about The Privilege of the Sword is that it manages to grant the reader the very real narrative pleasure of the comedy of manners and the swashbuckling revenge tale while at the same time illuminating the gender and class politics at the very foundations of these genres. This knowing a ...more
Apr 26, 2008 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some things I liked very much about this book. The moment of the main character's first sexual awakening is both hilarious and yet also believable; there are moments of brilliant wit and biting sarcasm; there are scenes of such vicious depravity and cruelty that one's breath is taken away; and there are a few moments of tender love. One problem many sequels have—true sequels, in which previous characters appear in a new story—is that characters one has learned to love or hate, or who i ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Maija rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
I was into this book as much as Artemisia and Katherine were into The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death.

The ending was a bit abrupt, but not out of character. I would've wanted a more intricate ending and a few more chapters. But I'm completely willing to forgive this considering how fast my heart was beating during other parts of the story, and how lost in the story and world I was.
Aug 20, 2007 Darlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA, fantasy, gender, queer
The main character of The Privilege of the Sword (which my husband insisted on calling the Privilege of the Phallus) was a delight. Katherine was fascinating, multilayered, complex. I really liked her. She grew from an independent, loyal and sensitive girl into a fiercely independent, fiercely loyal, and dangerously armed sensitive woman. Yeah!

Some of the other characters were also intriguing -- the Duke in particular (sexy and dark, yum) -- but most of the others fell flat. Additionally, I fel
Aug 06, 2012 Bee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the oddest sequels I've ever read - so much time has passed, and all the characters have changed so much, but their development in the intervening decades makes perfect sense - it's like we've tossed a ball high in the air, ran a few feet with eyes closed, and caught the ball again.

These characters are some of the most richly illustrated I've ever read - they sparkle with humanity and ignorance and dark secrets. one can't help but loving all of them, for their vanity and pain and
Therese Arkenberg
Alec Campion, the “Mad Duke” Tremontain, is jaded and disgusted with the behavior of his fellow nobility. Their facade of elegance and respectability is a sham, while they abuse their wealth, power, and privileges—including the privilege to sic trained swordsmen on anyone they disagree with. Alec decides to twist that latter privilege on its head by inviting his niece Kate from the countryside and training her to become his swordswoman/bodyguard.

This is a sequel to the original Riverside novel,
Feb 22, 2011 Belcky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Belcky by: Don't remember, but if it was you, tell me so I can thank you!
Girl learns to be a swordswoman in a world full of swordsmen. Honestly, I expected a lot of corn n' cheese... and feminism. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of a girl in her young teens who cherishes romantic dreams of balls and catching a suitor with a gown and a glance--and what gal can't empathize with a princess fantasy? She is offered a chance to regain her family fortunes from her spiteful uncle if she comes to the city and trains to be
Jamie Collins
Sep 07, 2011 Jamie Collins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this strange little "fantasy of manners". This is a sequel of sorts to Kushner's novel Swordspoint, but I liked this one better.

It's about a country girl who comes to town to live with her mad, debauched uncle who insists that she dress like a man and learn swordsmanship. It sounds like bad YA fantasy, but Kushner pulls it off well, with great characters and a very amusing and often poignant story.

In the background, the complex and mesmerizing romance between Alec and
Feb 14, 2016 Hobbes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff

The Melodrama of Manners continues a generation after Swordspoint closes. Katherine Campion Talbert is delivered to her notorious uncle Alec Campion's Tremontaine estate with youthful romantic notions of coming-out into society at balls and finding the handsome suitor of her dreams. But the Mad Duke has other ideas. Katherine is to learn the sword so she begins to learn sword techniques... reluctantly. Little is she aware of the adventurous and independent course cut out for her.

Alec's character
Susanna Sturgis
Nov 03, 2015 Susanna Sturgis rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes stylish writing and interesting characters
Shelves: women, fiction, fantasy
Coming surprisingly late to this one, because I love Swordspoint and have read it several times. The women of Swordspoint were vivid but usually peripheral. Here the female characters, and the role of women in this unnamed city, are in the foreground. Alec, now the Duke Tremontaine, summons his young niece, Katherine, to the city: if she will don boy's clothes and train as a swordswoman, he will alleviate her family's financial distress. Among the gentry, gender expectations are clearly delineat ...more
Aug 07, 2015 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is full of great and noble truths of the heart. And swordfights.

The Privilege of the Sword offers a more complex ride (in some respects) to predecessor Swordspoint. Lady Katherine is young and naive, her noble family impoverished purely because her wicked uncle (the Mad Duke Tremontaine) has tied her mother's inheritance up in frivolous lawsuits. When he offers to drop them if Katherine is sent to his household for 6 months - with absolutely no contact with her family - she leaps at the chance to Do The Right Thing For Her Family.

Once on the Hill, Katherine
Alexandra Wolfe
The Privilege of the Sword has earned high praise from the likes of Joan D. Vinge (whose early work I really enjoyed), Suzy McKee Charnas, Patricia McKillip and a couple of other of my favourite fantasy and SF authors, all of which makes me wonder if any of these luminaries actually read the book? Or, if in fact, read the same book as I did? Because, dear reader, we seem to have a huge difference of opinion about this one.

Maybe it was expectation for my part. I was given this book as a birthday
Feb 23, 2014 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jess by: Neil Gaiman Presents
Overall an enjoyable coming of age book about gender roles, sex roles, society expectations, various other roles and boxes we get jammed into, and of course, swordplay.

It drags in a few places, but some of that may be because I listened to this one.* I want to get to what happens next but it's going to take an hour to get there. Katherine can be too silly (as may be expected from a teen) but plenty of good moments to go with 4 stars. Gay main character who's open and while there are comments abo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2009 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rambles On
Jul 26, 2011 Rambles On rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint has the distinction of being among the most intelligent and stylish fantasy novels I’ve ever read. As it happens, I have to go back to a very basic definition of “fantasy” to make that statement, since Kushner’s universe shares no characteristics with traditional fantasy save that she made it up and it is most definitely not this world.

The Privilege of the Sword falls between the short stories “The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death” (which is the title of a novel and
Lis Carey
Feb 21, 2011 Lis Carey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf
Alec Campion, the Mad Duke, is some twenty years older than in Swordspoint, but he isn’t any less a trial to his family, friends, and enemies. Dividing his time between Tremontaine House and his Riverside house, the Duke Tremontaine hosts parties ranging from the risqué to the debauched, and lives a life of dissipation.

He also quietly makes political trouble for those intent schemes that would line their own pockets at the expense of the less powerful and the less well-connected. Aside from his
Cara M
Jul 04, 2011 Cara M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Honestly, up until the final two chapters, this book was the best book I had ever read, which made the crashing failure at the end the most depressing thing that happened to me in a long time. The fact is, this was a story about Katharine and Artemisia. This isn't just my opinion. They had a majority of the POV parts, and their stories were the interesting arcing plot lines. I absolutely loved the story-line where they were interacting with the trashy romantic novel and the play based on it. It ...more
Scott Marlowe
The short of Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword: I liked it. Though I have to say I'm split.

But, first, a brief summary:

Lady Katherine Talbert goes to live with her Uncle, the Mad Duke, who has it in for Katherine's mother (the Duke's sister) and vows to leave her alone should she commit her daughter to living with him for six months. In that time, the Mad Duke completely changes her perspective on life and her place in it, having her trained as a swords(wo)man. Once she has mastered the
May 27, 2012 Dorothea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story made me want to cheer. It's so much fun!

I was immediately hooked by the characterizations of the main character, Katherine, and her uncle, the Duke. Katherine is a very responsible, though imaginative, fifteen-year-old girl. One first meets her helping her mother with housekeeping and hoping that she'll be able to have beautiful dresses and go into society. Then there's the uncle - fearfully rich and powerful, susceptible to changing moods and to acting on impulse, behaving selfishly
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Like its predecessor, Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword is a fun, clever book that doesn’t quite deserve 4 stars.... but 3 would be selling it too short.

This is a 20-years-later sequel to Swordspoint; it has its own plot and protagonist and doesn’t demand that you read Swordspoint first, but it’ll make more sense if you do. Katherine, a 15-year-old from a minor noble family in the country, is summoned to the city by her uncle Alec, the Mad Duke, who’s determined to make a swordsman of her.
*Review of audiobook edition*

Ellen Kushner's "The Privilege of the Sword", an Austen-esque tale spiced with romance (and swordfights!) is a delight from start to finish.

Artemisia, a gently-reared young lady of the nobility, discovers to her shock that the process of Growing Up actually equates to "being marketed as a valuble commodity", and that she herself has no real say over the consummation of the deal. Katherine, fresh from the country, looks forward to a conventional coming-out, as befits
Lisa Jensen
Jan 07, 2012 Lisa Jensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Expecting a swashbuckler, I found this much more tasty, original and complex. The compelling voice of teenage Katherine, brought to the city by her uncle, Alec Campion, the notorious "Mad Duke" of Tremontaine, to train as a swordswoman, drew me in. What kept me delighted was Kushner's fanciful metropolis of decadent high life, colorful low-life, and intellectual Bohemia, rife with political and erotic intrigue. Disputes over everything from a maiden's honor to the quality of poetry are settled b ...more
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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: The Complete Season Two
  • Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)
  • The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)

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“He said, 'They're only whores,' as though their very availability rendered them worthless.” 10 likes
“although he was at core a rotten being, no one could fault him for style.” 4 likes
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