Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)” as Want to Read:
Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(The World of Riverside #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  8,974 ratings  ·  931 reviews
Get what a man cares for in your power, and you have him at swordspoint.

In a nameless city with the elegance of Regency London, the decadence of eighteenth-century Paris, and the hard edge of modern New York, an array of glittering characters weave intrigues that will capture them all in a net of love and death, wit and treachery.

In Riverside, a violent district of twisted
Hardcover, 269 pages
Published November 1st 1987 by Arbor House Publishing (first published February 1987)
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 Swordspoint, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Heidi It's mostly implied, there are a few kissing scenes but this isn't a romance book. There is much more political intrigue and dueling and implied affai…moreIt's mostly implied, there are a few kissing scenes but this isn't a romance book. There is much more political intrigue and dueling and implied affairs both m/m and m/f. (less)
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)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,974 ratings  ·  931 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)
Mike (the Paladin)
Apr 01, 2010 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
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
⚔️ My My What A Big Swashbuckling Fantasy Rip-Off We Have Here Buddy Read (MMWABSFROWHHBR™) with my fellow inmates at the Scarlet Citadel That Was But Is No Longer ⚔️

Okay, so I said pretty much everything I had to say about this delightful masterpiece in my fascinating pre-review down there ↓↓, but I'm afraid (for you, not for me) that some things must be expanded and analyzed and stuff, so here goes.

Let’s see, this book is supposed to be a Fantasy Classic. Everyone following me so far? Good. B
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2017-shelf
First, I should point out that the audiobook of this novel is a fantastic treat, including multiple voices including the author, herself, but also ambient sounds such as background conversations and even a cat! Music, too! But don't let that dissuade you, either, because it's all low-key enough to let us focus mainly on the tale at hand.

So what is this? Is it really fantasy?

Honestly, I don't think there's much fantasy at all, but if you like swords and high 18th century culture on a slight stero
Julio Genao
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julio by: Jas
my goodness, but this was fun.

by the time I started worrying that the twisty subterfuge would drain the story of momentum I looked up and realized I'd practically inhaled this badboy to the 70 percent mark.

and then some shit went down and my heart was pounding in my throat.

meanwhile, this edition has a trio of follow-up stories at the end, so 70 percent turned out to be 90 percent.


a lush, layered, ingeniously taut melange of gripping skullduggery, sword fights, bisexual escapades, and ev
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
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
Miss Susan
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
[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
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 1980s, fantasy
Well, this one is unique! This is something I can honestly say I’ve never seen before, at least inside the fantasy genre, though I’ve seen it quite a bit outside of it. This is a comedy of manners in the classic sense, and reads like Jane Austin and Oscar Wilde got together to write a fantasy novel. It’s funny, well executed and very witty (so much of the dialogue has double meanings or insults hidden behind kind words that I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions).

The plot alterna
Jan 25, 2016 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 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
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars.

This book was a whole lot of fun! Humor and swordplay and romance all rolled into one. I'm usually not a big fan of the Fantasy of Manners subgenre but this one was very close to absolute perfection.

I listened to the multi-cast audio with the "illuminated" bits, which were basically sound effects every now and then. If people were running you would hear footsteps, there was sound for sword play, the babble of voices in a crowded area, doors creaking open, and a few other things. It re
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The full Tome & Tankard Review and Custom Cocktail is available here.

This one is a bit special for me, as it turns out I’ve been a fan of Ellen Kushner for far longer than I realized. Thinking to myself “this name sounds awfully familiar” when Ellen tweeted me about Swordspoint, I looked her up only to find that I’ve been reading her Choose Your Own Adventure novels since I was about 8 years old – crikey! Turns out that those very CYOA novels were written in order to pay the rent when she was w
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to be happy about the fact you spent a day vomiting your guts up. But, when, a couple of days later, being too ill still to leave the house allows you to stay home and listen to the audiobook instead of going to see a show, it certainly makes you a little more grateful for sickness. That's how much I enjoyed this.

I can only describe this book as being a total delight. For someone who isn't a fan of Austen, a fantasy of manners is often hit-and-miss for me. This was all hits. The charac
I am an absurd fan of this book, although to be honest I'm not sure how I would feel about it if I first picked it up today as opposed to picking it up as one of my first m/m books ever.

You see, this book was first published in 1987. 1987! The amazingness of a m/m that has both a happy ending and mental illness representation is just mind blowing. It shook me then, and it shakes me now. I don't even know how to properly express it. There are books published today that don't pull this off.

And the
Nov 06, 2011 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
Allison Hurd
Argh, I'm sorry I can't have loved this more. I think partly it was a misunderstanding of what this book was and partly my own personal sensibilities. I can see, if I had read this before I understood that withstanding abuse is not love, that I might have found it the exciting, passionate and violent story it wanted to be. But I did not read it then, and it's not so cute now.

CONTENT WARNING: (no actual spoilers, just a list of topics) (view spoiler)
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really try to make an effort to read related titles in order, but I accidentally read The Fall of The Kings, which was billed as a sequel to Swordspoint, first. It was good enough that I went out of my way to get ahold of Swordspoint - and now I've read it!
However, I wouldn't really call one a "sequel" to the other. The books take place in the same city, 60 years apart, and don't include any of the same main characters. Both are fully stand-alone works.

The setting is a city which strikes me as
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
i started reading this because the description reminded me of Captive Prince and promised high fantasy lgbt diversity and at least in that point i have not been alltogether disappointed

the thing is, this book isn´t BAD or anything, and i did enjoy reading it, and i´m deffinitley going to read the sequels too, but did it really impress me? nope sadly not

but you still gotta give this book some credit, it was published in 1987, and it has more diversity than most books written these days?

Kat  Hooper
Aug 28, 2012 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
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, romance, fantasy, 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
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, fantasy
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,
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, queer
Back when I first read Swordspoint, I wasn’t totally won over. Something about the sting in the romance really didn’t work for me — I wanted Alec and Richard to be a lot easier to categorise, their love to have less sharp edges. But going into it for this reread knowing that’s the way it is, I actually enjoyed it all quite a lot: the back and forth of banter, the trading of barbs, the politicking and, yeah, the bond between Richard and Alec, and what it will drive them both to. Swordspoint does ...more
Feb 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, fantasy, fiction
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
I first read Swordspoint almost twenty years ago and fell for it hard. It was a revelation, with its high drama and intense romance (between two men!). I'm happy to say that the intervening time has been mostly kind to it.

The novel's subtitle is "A Melodrama of Manners" and aside from the more overtly melodramatic events like kidnapping and revenge, and duels to the death, there are battles of words with dramatic, high stakes; the moving of political chess pieces on the board; and a trial with a
Oct 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star, fantasy
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. He ca ...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
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-along
I've had so much fun reading this that I'm left not knowing how much I loved the book itself. I think it's 4 stars rather than 5, and I really don't mind that I'll have to read it again to double check (just not quite straight away).

Reasons to love Swordspoint: nuanced characters with great depth and personal foibles; a second world setting that could be any 18th century European city (arguably this is fantasy only because of the shelf it sits on); entertaining hi-jinks including shinnying down
Jun 16, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, fantasy
Fiction. This is another one of those books beloved of my friends list that I just found impossible to love.

It's supposed to be a retelling of a fairy tale, though I never did figure out which one. Or, to be honest, care. The writing's overwrought and the characters shallow.

In this world, the men all seem to be bisexual, but no one's having good sex. It's all implied and bizarrely metaphoric, like Hemingway slammed face-first into the Victorians and suddenly everything's splendid and mysterious,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Vaginal Fantasy B...: * Official Discussion Thread for Swordspoint *SPOILERS* 81 645 Mar 31, 2018 12:47PM  
why are they together 3 110 Jun 03, 2012 02:34PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Fire's Stone
  • Luck in the Shadows (Nightrunner, #1)
  • Mélusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #1)
  • The White Road (Nightrunner, #5)
  • Traitor's Moon (Nightrunner, #3)
  • Stalking Darkness (Nightrunner, #2)
  • Shadows Return (Nightrunner, #4)
  • The Virtu (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #2)
  • Corambis (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #4)
  • Glimpses: A Collection of Nightrunner Short Stories
  • Shards of Time (Nightrunner, #7)
  • The Hanged Man (The Tarot Sequence, #2)
  • The Mirador (Doctrine of Labyrinths, #3)
  • Sing the Four Quarters (Quarters #1)
  • Casket of Souls (Nightrunner, #6)
  • Magic's Pawn (The Last Herald-Mage #1)
  • The Assassin's Dragon (Fire and Valor #3)
  • Lord of the White Hell, Book 2 (Lord of the White Hell, #2)
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

The World of Riverside (6 books)
  • Tremontaine: The Complete Season One (Tremontaine #1.1-1.13)
  • Tremontaine: The Complete Season Two (Tremontaine #2.1-2.13)
  • The Privilege of the Sword (Riverside, #2)
  • The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)
  • The World of Riverside (3 Book Series)

Related Articles

Holly Black is one of the YA world's premier experts on faeries (she also has the pointy ears to prove it). Her enchanting books include The...
187 likes · 34 comments
“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.” 27 likes
“Richard knew he was fighting for his life, and he was terribly happy.” 12 likes
More quotes…