Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)
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Swordspoint (The World of Riverside #1)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  4,358 ratings  ·  427 reviews
In the highly stratified world of Kushner's nameless old city, the aristocrats living in fine mansions on the Hill settle their differences by sending to the thieves' den of Riverside for swordsmen who will fight to the death for a point of someone else's honor.

Young Lord Michael Godwin is so taken by these romantic figures that he studies the art himself until challenged...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1987)
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Mike (the Paladin)
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...more
Siria
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...more
TheFountainPenDiva
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...more
Miss
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
Sean
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
[Name Redacted By Goodreads Because Irrelevant to Review]
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...more
Darcie
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...more
Sophie
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...more
Nikki
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,...more
Lightreads
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
Tracey, librarian on strike
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
Kat  Hooper
Originally posted at FanLit. http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...

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...more
Jamie
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...more
Dumbledore11214
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...more
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...more
c.o.lleen ± (... never stop fighting) ±
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...more
Phoenixfalls
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
Holly
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...more
Desinka
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...more
Bria Teragram
I picked up this book after someone mentioned that Holly Black and Ellen Kushner would be doing a Bordertown book. While I've never read any Bordertown books, I am quite a fan of Holly Black.

I can't say this book leaves me looking forward to seeing the Bordertown book.

The story starts off great. But the plot quickly disappears and you find yourself wandering from scene to scene. I got 116 pages into the hardback edition, which is just under halfway, when I realized I had gained quite a dislike...more
Elfscribe
Apr 24, 2009 Elfscribe rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: LOTR and other fantasy fans, slash fans
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fic
This is a smart, well-written, character-driven novel in a richly detailed world, filled with politics, intrigue, and class distinctions, very much in the Dangerous Liaisons mode. There are no wizards or magic rings here. Instead we have the glittering world of privileged noblemen and women playing their games of power and the underworld town across the river, full of whores and pickpockets. Treading back and forth between these worlds is the swordsman, Richard St. Vier, who the nobles hire to f...more
Blake Charlton
a very important book in my hairy (aka younger) years that i recently reread. first my only complaint, the plot of the story--as the frame narration declares--is arbitrary, seemingly determined to be so to confute the accusation that fantasy is only about good vs evil. this was (I think) revolutionary in the 80s, but read now in the era of GRRM and 'gritty fantasy' it seemed a bit overdone. however, for me, the novel is a delight because of its absolutely wonderful characterization and the highl...more
KenazNYC
Just finished the audiobook (more like a radio play) and fell in love with it all over again.
Olivia Fowler
I loved this book so much I wish I could marry it and have its babies. yes, it employs that sort of classical opening that focuses on the place and then zeros in on the character after his place in the world has been more or less established, which is a turn off to some, but once you get into it, the characters and the world are fully realized and surprising. The surprise takes the form of things both good and horrifying.

For example, the main romantic sub-plot is tricky, sticky and twisted, but...more
Robin
This is a very charismatic little novel. Not only is it impeccably well-written, but it captures the imagination with an unusual twist on the fantasy genre. I'm torn between a three- and four-star review because, while I found the novel charming and likeable, I don't get the sense that I will remember anything about it in a few months' time. It's light and airy and ephemeral like that. I'll keep reading more Kushner and see if I can refine my opinions into something more content-rich.
Rachel Brown
A professional duellist, his mysterious boyfriend, a young aristocrat studying the sword, and a woman wise in the ways of power are involved in complex intrigues in this not-quite-fantasy, not-quite-historical novel. Witty dialogue, crystalline prose, hetero- and homo-eroticism that's genuinely erotic, and fabulous swordfighting and sword training sequences. What more could you want?
kari
The first time I read this book I couldn't bring myself to care about it much - apparently it was a matter of my personal Zeitgeist and the fact that I was looking for different books back then. Now I reread it, and allowed myself to be a little bit infatuated. Kushner proves that it is possible to show a world rotting apart - the upper class cynical and debaucherous, the social lows struggling for survival - without puking tasteless gore, doom and gloom on the pages. The complex social panorama...more
Danie Ware
I've had three attempts at listening to this book, and it's beaten me every time - my attention wanders and I have no recollection of, and sadly no interest in, what has been happening.

Affected prose, affected dialogue, affected manners, affected (in places) sound effects and overacting, even affected swordplay - from what I've listened to, this is a book about the social politics of upper class ladies in drawing rooms, drinking tea from porcelain cups with their little pinkies stuck out at an...more
Arminzerella
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neil
This is a solid novel that probably got more attention for its (at the time) provocative move in making the primary protagonists homosexual, and a society where patriarchal domination is displayed by bi-sexual sexual aggression wrapped in pretense of nobility and honor. The strengths of the book are in the intricate social weavings of the rich and poor, noble and commoner, politically powerful and victim... all of which is wrapped in the flowery romanticism of swordplay, ritual dueling, and poli...more
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Vaginal Fantasy H...: * Official Discussion Thread for Swordspoint *SPOILERS* 77 451 Aug 06, 2013 03:21PM  
why are they together 3 77 Jun 03, 2012 02:34PM  
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11889
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
More about Ellen Kushner...
The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2) Thomas the Rhymer The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3) The Man with the Knives Outlaws of Sherwood Forest (Choose Your Own Adventure, #47)

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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.” 13 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.” 3 likes
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