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Swordspoint (The World of Riverside #1)

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,260 Ratings  ·  573 Reviews
The classic forerunner to The Fall of the Kings now with three bonus stories.

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 lov
Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Spectra (first published 1987)
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Jeff Davis i am not sure that it would qualify as fantasy at all without some of these things.The talisman and Black house by stephen king and peter straub come…morei am not sure that it would qualify as fantasy at all without some of these things.The talisman and Black house by stephen king and peter straub come to mind as very good,with minimal fantastic stuff.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Apr 11, 2012 Mike (the Paladin) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I read very little of this book. While it is well written (I say this in respect to those who like it greatly) it is not a book I care to get involved in. The world while well crafted is one that creeps toward debauchery and cynicism on an almost monumental scale. There are actually (so far as I can see) no "heroes" here, very little that is redeeming. It's claim to fame is a drama in a world of those who see themselves as sly sophisticates.

Please enjoy it if it's to your taste as fiction.. It
Ellen Kushner's first novel sets the standard for what a polite fantasy of manners and romance should be. Like Jane Austen, Ms. Kushner's language sparkles with wit and verve. She creates a world both familiar and yet not like anyplace we've ever been and inhabits it with characters who cease to be imaginary. Like Rafael Sabatini, the swordfight scenes keep one on the edge of their seat, though are elegantly restrained yet sharply honed.

Richard St. Vier is as dashing and gallant as Basil Rathbo
I picked this up for a couple of euro in one of my favourite second-hand bookshops because I'd heard it recommended numerous times on my flist. Cheesy fantasy novel cover aside (as a side note, exactly why must the covers of 99% of fantasy books be so fantastically appalling?), the descriptions I'd heard of it made it seem as if the book was tailor-made to appeal to me. A well-written, slashy, historical fantasy-of-manners - what's not to like?

Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. If the blurb by
Feb 18, 2012 Miss rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hahahahaha wow. Man I don't even know what to say about this. Okay basic run down: this book's got two primary narrators: Richard St. Vier and Michael Godwin. Everyone wants a piece of St. Vier because he's the most badass swordsman ever to exist and apparently stabbing people is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts in this world so long as you outsource the job. Michael Godwin is a doof with a talent for ruining his own life. Lucky for him he is rich good looking doof who catches the eye of o ...more
May 02, 2015 Lau rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Personas con insomnio. Es la primera vez que un libro me hace quedar dormida.
Shelves: le-falta
Nunca más le hago caso a una recomendación de George R.R. Martin.

Esta es la historia de Richard de Vier, una suerte de mercenario que trabaja de batirse a duelo con espadas en nombre de la persona que lo contrata. No tiene escrúpulos en matar a su contrincante si la situación lo amerita, y suele ser contratado por los nobles que viven en la Colina, la parte de la ciudad donde la ley aún existe... bastante.
El libro irá alternando la historia de Richard con las historias de varios nobles, en una c
[Name Redacted]
Tiresome. Tedious. Repetitive. Populated with interchangeable, unlikable cardboard cut-out characters. The dialogue is endlessly crammed with discussions of fashion and parties and clothes and status-seeking. The action sequences either occur off-stage or crawl by at a snail's pace, and despite its name there's next to no sword-fighting in the actual narrative.

I have no idea how this became considered a "new classic" nor even how it managed to become identified as "fantasy." It's more like an a
Feb 01, 2016 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous and memorable book. There's not a lot that I can add that hasn't been said. I read it about the time I was discovering LGBTQ characters in spec fiction, and I remember wishing that everything could be like this.
Apr 25, 2008 Sean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago when I was an impressionable Mormon closet case, and I remember being intrigued and disturbed at the time by Kushner's depiction of lust, bisexuality and homosexual relationships. When I reread it today I rediscovered its brilliance, intricacy and poignancy. The relationship between the swordsman St Vier and "his young gentleman, the University student" had a glittering, frenzied, self-destructive beauty I associate with Matt Damon's Mr. Ripley, while finding an eventu ...more
Aug 09, 2007 D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I do not like fantasy books at all--particularly those that deal with magic and monsters and the like. I was initially skeptical of how well I would like this book since it is in the fantasy genre, but very quickly I found that I could not put this book down. I have recently re-read it and found it to still be high on my list of favorite books.

What did it for me was that this book was not about the things one usually thinks of upon hearing the word "fantasy." There was no magic or mythical crea
Jul 29, 2015 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book first many years ago
Seduced by Canty's gorgeous cover or
Reviews in Locus, honestly, I don't
Recall or think it matters at this point.
The point is: You should buy and read this book.
St Vier and Alec, star-crossed lovers, if
The stars were feeling just a bit perverse:
St Vier the swordsman, best in Riverside
And Alec, clad in ragged student's robes
(but is his past mysterious? of course)
Are caught in nobles' intrigues labyrinthine
(for swordsmen are to nobles but a tool,
used as honor di
Kat  Hooper
Oct 29, 2012 Kat Hooper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Originally posted at FanLit.

Set in a fictional Georgian-era-type society, Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners is a "fantasy of manners" or "mannerpunk" novel. In contrast to epic fantasy, where the characters are fighting with swords and the fate of the universe is often at stake, mannerpunk novels are usually set in a hierarchical class-based society where the characters battle with words and wit. There may or may not be magic or sorcery involved and, in
Nov 01, 2009 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, lgbt
Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint is a very light and easy to read fantasy novel. The book is set in an unnamed city, in a world rather different to ours. The main character, Richard, is a swordsman, who earns his living by killing nobles by contract. This is basically done as a way to get around blood being on a noble's hands. The other main character, Alec, is mysterious and very, very messed up. Despite the fact that the cover doesn't breathe a word of it, Richard and Alec are lovers.

On one level,
Dec 27, 2008 Lightreads rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, romance, lgbt
Politics, class, sword fighting, and an intense, subtle M/M romance. This book just made me happy. It's clever but not baroque, emotionally resonant, sweet and bitter and tense. I get the impression this was Kushner's first published novel, and there are a few missteps -- most notably a belief that the reader will be as interested in secondary characters as in the protagonists. But what protagonists they are -- subversive, unfitting, sympathetic. It's also complex and nuanced, and I suspect when ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 5-star
Swordspoint is something I’ve thought about rereading now and then, but never did – till I found its sequel, The Privilege of the Sword, at Books & Co., happily, and ordered the third book, written with Delia Sherman: The Fall of the Kings. This first book tells the tale of Richard St. Vier, who is a swordsman in a society where the nobles hire swordsmen to fight their duels for them, sometimes to the death. In fact, St. Vier is the pre-eminent swordsman, respected and not a little feared. H ...more
Feb 06, 2010 Sophie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lgbt, fantasy
Swordspoint is a fantasy novel set in an unnamed city that is roughly divided into two parts: the Hill, where the nobility live, and Riverside, home to the less fortunate inhabitants of the town. The city is governed by a council of nobles, and those nobles have a tendency to fight among themselves; however, they don't pick up swords themselves but hire swordsmen to fight their fights for them.

The main character of the book is such a swordsmen: Richard St Vier. He is extraordinarily talented: th
May 03, 2011 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is an unusual fantasy novel, a "melodrama of manners". It has a medieval setting on an invented world, with preening nobility who hire professional swordsmen to fight duels of honor on their behalf. There's no magic, but there's a lot of casual bisexuality. The focus of the book is an intriguing romance between a renowned swordsman and a caustic, suicidal young man who appears to be a nobleman gone slumming.

The writing was quite good, and I enjoyed the romance - every scene with Alec and St
Jan 28, 2008 Dumbledore11214 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I could give this book ten stars, I would have. It is a rare book that will make me care for the society that promotes values so different from my own. I could not believe that I actually sympathized with the society that makes murders for hire part of their everyday life. Um, they call them swordsmen, but to me, really potato - patato.

And I so enjoyed the writing, very very beatifully done.

I highly recommend this book to everybody who loves politics and intrigue. I must warn you though - two
Isabel Bitterblau

Prometía más de lo que es.
Jul 14, 2015 Lilyan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, swordplay
This was a very strange book, made even more so by the fact that half of the audiobook is totally narrated by the author while the other half has a cast reading the dialogue, very confusing.

I did not get into this story until about 80% in. I just did not like the world Kushner built Perhaps I am a bit of a prude, but the fact that all but one of the men were bisexual and that the whole society is built on killing everyone you simply don't like just bothered me.

I also wasn't a huge fan of Alec
Ignacio Senao f
En una época en la que los malos rollos se resuelven contratando espadachines, que no son asesinos a sueldo, pues lo que hace es retar a un duelo a quien se le ha pagado matar, y por su honor tiene que aceptar (pues el no aceptarlo es peor que la muerte) o contratar otro espadachín para que lo represente en el duelo. Y como es normal: hay un espadachín que todos quieren contratar al ser el mejor.

Este breve resumen es jugoso, pero no nos engañemos, solo el principio engancha con un par de peleas
I was drawn to this book by the "Neil Gaiman presents" label, and the idea of the "enhanced" audiobook, complete with performances - including by Katherine Kellgren - intrigued me. The story itself, a swashbuckling adventure that Gaiman describes as "if Jane Austen wrote fantasy", completely sold me. So this book had a lot going for it. It's a shame it didn't live up to that potential. First, the narration was terrible. The author's own American accent just sounded completely off for her clearly ...more
This was a hard book for me to read. It is undeniably brilliantly written, with characters that go down and down and a world that extends well belong the edge of the page. It is true, there is no magic as so many people insist on having in their fantasy worlds, but the world we get glimpses of is certainly not this one, so there is nowhere else to market it but the fantasy shelves. That depth and realism is extremely rare, and definitely to be commended: every single character whose viewpoint we ...more
Feb 09, 2008 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this after I read the book that follows it chronologically (not a sequel really), The Privilege of the Sword. I liked the heroine in that one better, but this one felt more focused and tight.

The writing is wonderful, really evocative of a place and time that is part Regency England, part fantasy. Allegedly young adult, but great for adults as well. Both books dealt with gay relationships matter-of-factly and without comment.

Not going to be a favorite I come back to, but highly recommende
Nov 06, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, queer, gender
I don't normally read sword fighting adventures, so when I first picked this up I said "If it's not gay by the end of the first chapter, I'm not going to continue." Lo and behold, by the end of chapter one our (male) hero returns to his room at an inn he shares with his boyfriend.[return][return]This book both bucks genre conventions and plays with them in interesting ways. The society beauties are male, and that gender flip plays out in different ways than it does with women. This book is engag ...more
Kate Sherwood
Listened to the audiobook - probably would have been better to read it. This was an 'enhanced' audiobook, which seems to mean that some scenes are presented with actors playing different characters, some scenes have sound effects, some have both, and some are just traditionally narrated. It was kind of jarring. I think I'd have preferred it in just straight-up, traditional audiobook style.

Getting past that? I was really intrigued by the relationship between St.Vire and Alec. They're both psychop
Jacob Proffitt
People keep talking this up as "a fantasy of manners", but for that to work, you have to have actual wit and snappy dialog and someone to root for. I only made it about half-way through but to that point, Swordspoint is devoid of anything or anyone likable and the conversations are, at best, desultory. The only byplay you get is laboriously highlighted by the narrative voice, all subtlety wiped out by neon-like description and color commentary/analysis.

And the characters are all mean, in a compl
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile
2 1/2... maybe even 3, on a good day

I don't really know what to say about the book. The characters were somewhat interesting from time to time, but thin. I didn't understand their motivations half the time, and I guess I'm just not clever enough to follow the intrigue.

Actually, why the duchess and Feris did things was clear - but why Alec behaved as he did, and why Richard put up with it, and why Kathy was so desperately afraid of him - these things didn't make much sense.

I think the worst part
Aug 18, 2013 Desinka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a vastly annoying start I grew to enjoy this weird and subdued books that claims to be fantasy but sounds like a version of the Three Musketeers with a Vanity Fair feel to it. It lacked the excitement and grandure of fantasy but was witty and pleasant. I loved the romance though I found one and a half characters to be likable;)))

The audio adaptation was a bit jarring. I think the author would have done a great job if she wasn't assisted by the overly enthusiastic cast of supporting actors
Carol Douglas
May 10, 2015 Carol Douglas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a Wildean tale set in a fantasy pre-machinery European-style world. The protagonists are quirky gay men (for some reason gay men seem to be considered more acceptable fantasy protagonists than lesbians), one of whom is a swordsman. Nobles are not supposed to learn swordplay, or much of anything else. They do not go to university, yet they are the rulers.
The book is full of ruthless political intrigue. Swordsmen are tools used for proxy fights and assassinations. They are not supposed t
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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)
  • The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2)
  • The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)

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“Let the fairy tale begin on a winter's morning, then, with one drop of blood newly-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as a single spot of claret on the lace cuff.” 20 likes
“The time of testing, and of playing, was over. This was the final duel for one of them. Now they were fighting for their lives--for the one life that would emerge from this elegant battle. . . . For the moment the two of them were evenly matched, arm against arm. Michael prayed that it would never stop, that there would always be this moment of utter mastery, beautiful and rare, and no conclusion ever be reached.” 7 likes
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