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Tremontaine #1.1-1.13

Tremontaine: The Complete Season One

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Welcome to Tremontaine, the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside series that began with Swordspoint! A Duchess whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; her husband’s dangerous affair with a handsome scholar; a foreigner in a playground of swordplay and secrets; and a mathematical genius on the brink of revolution—when long-buried lies threaten to come to light, betrayal and treachery know no bounds with stakes this high. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling wit and political intrigue.

Tremontaine is an episodic serial presented by Serial Box Publishing. This collected omnibus edition gathers all 16 episodes from Season 1.

673 pages, ebook

First published January 27, 2016

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About the author

Ellen Kushner

144 books550 followers
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 “mannerpunk” (or “Fantasy of Manners”) school of urban fantasy. Swordspoint was followed by Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award), and two more novels in her “Riverside” series. In 2015, Thomas the Rhymer was published in the UK as part of the Gollancz “Fantasy Masterworks” line.

In addition, her short fiction appears regularly in numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into a wide variety of languages, including Japanese, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Latvian and Finnish.

Upon moving to Boston, she became a radio host for WGBH-FM. In 1996, she created Sound & Spirit, PRI’s award-winning national public radio series. With Ellen as host and writer, the program aired nationally until 2010; many of the original shows can now be heard archived online.

As a live stage performer, her solo spoken word works include Esther: the Feast of Masks, and The Golden Dreydl: a Klezmer ‘Nutcracker’ for Chanukah (with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra). In 2008, Vital Theatre commissioned her to script a full-scale theatrical version. The Klezmer Nutcracker played to sold-out audiences in New York City, with Kushner in the role of the magical Tante Miriam.

In 2012, Kushner entered the world of audiobooks, narrating and co-producing “illuminated” versions of all three of the “Riverside” novels with SueMedia Productions for Neil Gaiman Presents at Audible.com—and winning a 2013 Audie Award for Swordspoint.

Other recent projects include the urban fantasy anthology Welcome to Bordertown (co-edited with Holly Black), and The Witches of Lublin, a musical audio drama written with Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom (which one Gabriel, Gracie and Wilbur Awards in 2012). In 2015 she contributed to and oversaw the creation of the online Riverside series prequel Tremontaine for Serial Box with collaborators Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese and Patty Bryant.

A dauntless traveler, Ellen Kushner has been a guest of honor at conventions all over the world. She regularly teaches writing at the prestigious Clarion Workshop and the Hollins University Graduate Program in Children’s Literature.

Ellen Kushner is a co-founder and past president of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, an organization supporting work that falls between genre categories. She lives in New York City with author and educator Delia Sherman, a lot of books, airplane and theater ticket stubs, and no cats whatsoever.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
October 5, 2016
Riverside is back! Yay!!!

1. I honestly didn't realize this "serial novel" was a Riverside book when I picked it up, so was quite delighted to find that it is. I still have my doubts about the story being 'shared' by a number of different writers, but I'll see how that goes when I move along to the sequels. This first installment, however, is by Ellen Kushner herself, and even though it's really just an introduction, it's got the magic!
Here we meet the Duchess of Tremontaine, a savvy but less-than-compassionate woman seeking to restore the family fortunes (and, it seems, not succeeding).
Ixkaab Balam is a young woman from a Mayan-influenced culture, sent away by her chocolate-trading merchant family for unspecified transgressions. She has a secret ambition to become a renowned swordswoman, and is full of fantastic notions of honor and chivalry, ready to run off to Riverside and get into trouble at the drop of a brightly-colored scarf.
Finally, Micah is a farmer girl who's a socially awkward math genius. On an errand, she gets lost and falls in with a number of students who immediately appreciate her remarkable skill at card games.
How will these three stories connect? On to the sequels to find out!
If you are a fan of 'Swordspoint,' 'The Privilege of the Sword' and 'The Fall of the Kings,' do not miss this one!
2. The first scene, with Ixkaab and her family, felt a little bit too YA for me... but as this second installment progressed, it felt more stylistically in keeping with the first episode of the serial novel.

As one expects from a serial, it ends on a cliffhanger/teaser... On to the next episode!
I've only read one of Alaya Dawn Johnson's novels, but liked it very much - and she did a great job with this segment. I'll have to keep an eye out for more of her books.
3. The third episode in this serial novel.
Looks like they recruited a gay male author to do the (first?) gay male sex scene! It was pretty hot, actually, if somewhat vague (keeping it R-rated?)
Going down to three stars, though, because, as I was afraid would happen in this kind of multi-author venture, there is some inconsistency.
However, quibbles aside, I still enjoyed it! On to the next!
4. I'm very much enjoying this serial. I've heard good things about Malinda Lo's writing, but this episode is very much in keeping with the overarching style of this story, so I'm not sure how much insight it gives into her personal oeuvre.

5. This episode had a multi-flashback format that was inconsistent with the style of the previous episodes, and didn't really feel necessary. The content was good, though! The plots thicken...

6. This episode was brought to me (and you?) by a couple of authors I'm not familiar with - but I thought it was one of the best so far.

7. Mixed feelings about this episode... I'm never a big fan of dream sequences, and I also thought that the "recap and summary from an omniscient perspective" was unnecessary and too large a chunk of the chapter.
However, the ball of the title is an epic (and humorous) scene, which makes it all worthwhile.
8. In this episode, more plots and underhanded dealings are revealed, with a side of romance.
9. Somehow, this feels like one of the more low-key episodes in this serial, even though two key events happen here:
It went quickly, therefore moving quickly along to the next...
10. High drama in this episode! One of the best ones yet!
The segment starts with foreshadowing, telling us about a legendary poison which makes the victim behave in an irrational and paranoid manner... we can guess that someone will be using this herb, but who will it be?
In additional to the politicking and plotting, we get an action-packed showdown in the form of a sword duel, and a hefty dose of romance.
11. I said the last episode was "one of the best ones yet" - but this one is absolutely the best one yet!
Finally, the Duchess' deep, dark secret is revealed - and the plots thicken as the stakes in the games increase.
12. While the great secret of the Duchess of Tremontaine was revealed in the last episode, this segment features big chunks of flashback, where we learn all the bloody details of what exactly happened, seventeen years ago.
And in the 'present,' an attempt at blackmail, involving that very secret. But is the blackmailer really ready to go up against the master of spider-craft?
13. That's it! The end of the 'season.'
Overall, I really liked this. It ends with plenty of open opportunities to continue the story, but enough resolution to feel satisfying.

I think my biggest quibble with the story over all is

Anyway, I definitely plan on continuing the story and finding out what's in store for the troubled house of Tremontaine...

Many thanks to Serial Box and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. And thank you to Ellen Kushner for creating the world of Riverside.
As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,034 reviews2,605 followers
April 27, 2017
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/04/27/...

Driven by the excellent experience I had with Bookburners earlier this year, I vowed to myself I would check out more serials from Serial Box. Pleasantly surprised by how well the structure of the serial novel worked for me, I wanted more—and thus my attention immediately fell upon Tremontaine Season One, the collection of all thirteen episodes released from Saga Press.

But while Bookburners came out of the gate running, throwing readers headfirst into the action right from the start, Tremontaine turned out to be a more measured affair, taking a handful of episodes to establish the setting and characters before easing into the meat of the story. Another way to look at it might be: if Bookburners is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then the pacing and themes of Tremontaine would probably make it more appealing to fans of the action, romances, and politics of period dramas.

To provide a bit of context, Tremontaine is actually considered a prequel to Ellen Kushner’s highly acclaimed Riverside series, which I confess I have not read—though I know that the first book Swordpoint and the subsequent novels set in the same universe have been praised for its diversity and LGBT-friendly characters and world. Tremontaine continues in this tradition. In episode one, we are introduced to a vibrant setting, its atmosphere seemingly reminiscent of 17th or 18th century Europe. There appears to be two sides to this city, one characterized by luxuriously dressed nobles indulging themselves with decadent balls, masquerades, and of course, copious amounts of chocolate. The other side is a darker, seedier underworld where all manner of rogues and scoundrels gather to do their drinking, whoring, and gambling.

Among the nobles, one of the most prominent figures is Diane the Duchess of Tremontaine, a beautiful woman with a calculating eye and a sharp mind seeking to restore the glory of her House. While her husband is the one who technically holds ducal authority, in truth it is Diane who has all the power. Next we meet Ixkaab Balam, a young foreign woman who hails from an influential merchant family, newly arrived by boat to make her name in this strange land. Other members of the key cast also include Micah, an autistic farm girl whose uncanny talent for mathematics eventually leads her to a university where she meets Rafe, a passionate scholar who has dreams of one day opening his own school.

With all these disparate plotlines in play, things simmer for a while before exploding. I would say that, as much as I enjoyed the first handful of episodes, I did not consider myself thoroughly hooked until much later in the novel. Tremontaine is a serial that takes a slow burn approach, steadily building its foundations so that when the long anticipated action and passions do come, they are much more impactful. This does mean that it takes a good deal of patience to get to the exciting parts, but sticking it out will pay off in the end.

However, reading Tremontaine also made me feel skeptical of the multi-author serial format for the first time. I think having several authors on the same project works perfectly fine as long as their styles are alike enough to complement each other, as was the case with Bookburners where each episode written by their respective authors flowed easily from one to the next. In contrast, the transitions between episodes did not go as smoothly in Tremontaine. This was my first experience with all the authors, a lineup that includes Ellen Kushner, Malinda Lo, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, Patty Bryant, and Paul Witcover. They’re all very good writers, each with their own talents and individual flair. The problem with having so many different styles, however, is that the changes between episodes are very noticeable and distracting. Furthermore, episodes in Tremontaine do not follow the “mini-story” structure (the way many episodes in Bookburners did), with many of them having no rising action or resolution, and that together with the awkward transitions between authors made picking up at the beginning of each episode a little more difficult.

The characters were also not as strong as I would have liked. Among the main characters, my favorite was hands down Diane. She’s ambitious, cunning, and merciless, not to mention she’s sitting on a deep, dark secret that paints her in a very bad light. Still, I can’t help it; I seem to be drawn to these sly, scheming Machiavellian types—especially when they’re women. Compared to Diane though, no one else could really hold a candle to her. Kaab was interesting but I felt many of her sections felt like filler, especially when they could have gone to develop other characters like Micah, whom I loved but whose role felt underused. In particular I also felt a deep annoyance for Rafe, whose self-absorption and blind spots were done just a tad too much for me.

Still, I enjoyed my time with the first season of Tremontaine. Admittedly, it had a slow start, and if I had only a few episodes on hand to begin with, I might have given up early. Fortunately, this is where having a complete season really helps; I was able to keep going and reach a point where the story built up enough momentum to deliver on all its promises of swashbuckling action, passionate love affairs, political conflict and scandalous drama—plus enough descriptions of rich delicious chocolate to make your mouth water! Based on a world that is known for its vibrant diversity and queer-friendly themes, this prequel serial continues the trend in offering something new and different from the status quo. If you’re into “vanity fair” types of stories featuring adventure, romance, and intrigue, then I urge you to give Tremontaine a closer look.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
October 16, 2016
So many interesting experiments going on in publishing today. One of the most successful to my eyes is the adaptation of Ellen Kushner’s Riverside stories and novels to serial publication via Serial Box—and a group authorial experience.

I thought Season One a coupe de foudre on a number of levels. I wondered how a group effort would work, especially in attempting to emulate Ellen Kushner’s supple, witty style. And I wondered if the season would repeat storylines I already knew.

I should not have worried. The writers working together in this project provided a seamless experience that expands and deepens the Riverside universe. It is clear they work as a team with Kushner overseeing both plotting and prose.

In season one, we had as anchoring character the complex, fascinating, and quite dangerous duchess Diane—closer to middle age, though still young and passionate, and with a past that we get to explore.

We met Rafe, the mercurial student whose desire to change the University (and prove what he is sure is truth about planetary movement) is matched with his other desires. He brags that he’s never repeated an encounter—until he meets a fascinating older man, and everything in his life changes.

We met Micah, the brilliant mathematician plucked by Rafe and his friends from the vegetable sellers, and Kaab, another mercurial character who is a deadly knife assassin as well as a spice trader for her secretive, sophisticated family. She begins to learn the sword from yet another fascinating character, the mysterious Applegate . . .

And of course there are the Tremontaines. Yep, plural: for those who know the storyline, we got to meet the duke at last.

And so the Tremontaine team gave us laughter and heartbreak, tension, release, mad passion and cold calculation as fortunes are made and broken.
Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
1,003 reviews119 followers
November 2, 2016
I read the season without having read the original novels by Kushner, and knowing very little about them beyond the fact that they are a staple where queer sff is concerned.

The truth is, I started reading Tremontaine season 1 a long while ago. I got through the first three episodes on my own before becoming frustrated with the format, particularly when some sections appeared to become repetitive (giving us the same information to clue in a reader who read the last part a month ago would be okay, but I felt like some of the overlap was due to different authors of the episodes re-treading the ground just to be sure). Then I decided it was just too expensive for me to go on buying the episodes and resolved to wait to see if some discount would become available after the season concludes.

Months passed and I didn't forget about Tremontaine, but its flaws seemed to stand out in my memory more than its strengths. Still, when I saw the whole season on offer on NetGalley, I clicked on it immediately and got down to reading.

The world of Tremontaine is immersive and interesting. A faux-European city engaged in trade with faux-Southern American empire, populated by scholars, traders, immigrants, the working poor, criminal element and aristocrats (usually more than one of the above applies to any given character). The characters are purposefully diverse in a way that mostly works (I'm still not sure some elements of Micah's characterisation weren't a bit too on the nose by-the-numbers), the world vibrant, the storylines - well, here is where I'm less convinced. I really enjoyed the second half of the season (and particularly the last 3-4 installments). Frankly, it is only at that point that I felt like the novel came together and the pacing improved a lot (in that there was enough relevance to what I was reading to keep me wanting to find out what happens next). Still, it's binge-reading that benefits the book and makes it possible to appreciate the way the format can be made to work for it; instead of chapters, we get episodes which get different directorial / authorial flair, sometimes with a really good result (like when flashbacks flesh out the world in episode 12, or like when we get more insight into the life of a particular character, or simply different stylistic devices are used, as in episode 10). I liked Joel Derfner's chapters the most, and, unfortunately Malinda Lo's first chapter - the least. And so, if the authorial variety allows for some advantages, there are also moments when it works less well, like when Malinda Lo's more descriptive (and at times kind of unbearable for me, but YMMV) style gave me some definite pause with how annoying it made Rafe and the Duke sound. I wrote about all of that when reviewing individual episodes.

And now on with the spoilery part of the review.

The final complain would be addressed at the way the season ends - very little feels resolved and while I appreciate the value of making the readers want more, I wish there was some more finality to the season finale. Still, I am inclined to check out the next episodes, so objective achieved, I suppose. I just hope there'll be more plotting and less swordplay, but that's probably my problem, not the book's.

I read episodes 4-13 courtesy of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Joseph.
682 reviews87 followers
October 28, 2021
This time around, we're going back for a prequel set about a generation prior to the events of Swordspoint (I believe Alec has just been born, although it's only mentioned in passing and doesn't really come into play in the current events).

We have a large cast this time around, including (but not limited to) Diane, wife of the Duke of Tremontaine (by the time of Swordspoint she'll be Duchess in her own right); Will, the aforementioned Duke; Rafe Fenton, a student at the University with some radical ideas; Kaab, one of the Traders of Kinwiinik (the vaguely Mesoamerican seafarers who bring chocolate to the City; they're the only ones who currently understand stellar navigation and spherical geometry); Micah, a young mathematical prodigy; Tess the Hand, best forger in Riverside; Vincent Applethorpe, possibly the best swordsman in Riverside at this time; and probably others that I'm forgetting.

And over the course of this fairly lengthy book, they'll cross paths, separate, intrigue, sleep with each other, fall in love, betray and double cross each other, and face all manner of peril, sometimes at the hands of each other, in an altogether engaging story.

This book is listed as The Complete Season 1, and I think that's a very accurate description -- it was originally published in serialized format as 13 separate installments, written by an assortment of authors (presumably under Ellen Kushner's close supervision), and it flows like nothing so much as a 13-episode season of an HBO or Netflix TV series (this is not a complaint), where each episode may foreground a different combination of characters, while still carrying the overall arc of the season forward.
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews231 followers
June 26, 2016
Tremontaine is the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and also a story published through Serial Box, a service that provides serialized “episodes” of written stories somewhat in the manner of TV shows, with different authors writing each episode. The edition I’m reviewing gathers together all thirteen episodes of Season One into a single volume.

Duchess Diane Tremontaine teeters on the edge of financial and social ruin when a ship she’d heavily invested in goes down at sea. At the university, Rafe believes that the common convictions on natural philosophy are entirely wrong, but he lacks the facilities with mathematics to prove his point. Micah, a brilliant young country girl, may just be able to formulate the mathematical proof he needs. And Ixkaab Balam, a newly arrived daughter of a prosperous merchant family, seeks adventure in Riverside and a way to redeem herself in her family’s eyes.

Like the rest of the Riverside books, Tremontaine is a fantasy of manners with a focus on political intrigue and queer characters. Unlike the other two Riverside stories I’ve read, Tremontaine has a larger perspective that looks outside of the city. The nobles love to drink chocolate, but the drink isn’t native to their city – it comes from Kaab’s homeland and is her family’s most important export. Chocolate and trade are thus wound throughout the series to the point that it was constantly making me crave chocolate of my own.

I had mixed success with the serial formatting. For the most part I wasn’t thrown off by the change of authors, but there were some style changes that were really jarring. Episode Seven in particular felt almost painful, and I ended up skimming large parts of it to get through. I wonder how I would have felt about it if I’d been reading each section as it was released.

My stand out favorite character was Diane, who’s Machiavellian manipulations put her on par with Lord Vetinari of Discworld. Woe to the many who underestimate this society lady. While no one else quite matches the delight I feel for Diane, I liked all of the other characters as well. If I had to pick a second favorite, it would probably be Micah, an autistic girl with a love of turnips and mathematics who always seems at a comfortable distance from everyone else’s drama and angst.

If you’ve never read any of the previous Riverside books, I think Tremontaine is actually where I’d recommend starting, since it has the advantage of being chronologically first. I would highly suggest it for anyone interested in books with LGB characters or fantasy of manners in general.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Susan.
354 reviews20 followers
July 11, 2016
I'm kinda disappointed because The Privilege of the Sword is one of my favourite novels ever, because it hit so many fantastic emotional and narrative notes for me, and then Swordspoint won me over with a strange charm. This had neither? It was slow and kind of blander (which is a shame because I know how immersive the setting can be in TPOTS) and didn't have nearly as great an emotional, melodramatic crescendo of a climax. The writing by every author involved was fine, but the plot let me down.

The new cast was nice. liked Kaab the most because she was the most 'Riverside universe' character we got and her storyline gave us APPLETHORPE and SO MUCH GAY. Honestly it was just so refreshing to have a story that was so unapologetically queer.
Rafe was faintly amusing. I liked the disconnect between his POV and how other characters saw him. His romance with Will was nice, even tho it made me feel terrible for everyone involved (Will and Diane are just clearly very incompatible).
I also didn’t pick up that Micah was autistic until I read it somewhere else online LMAO… and didn’t really see 'autism' as opposed to 'naïve country girl' until maybe chapter 8-9, and her fit in the finale was the only overt sign. But I liked her, she brought something different to a fantasy story, that was also really refreshing. I wish we got more scholarly characters into maths and the sciences in fantasy!

Now. Diane. I actually enjoyed her character in Swordspoint, and I read this purely because I thought this would be some solid fucking fun social intrigue with her at the centre.
But why was Diane… a villain?? I don't understand. I don't even see how this was the quite same character. She didn't strike me as the same woman who named Alec her heir because it amused her. This woman seems like she'd rather die than let a wastrel, eccentric ex-student slumming in Riverside take over Tremontaine. (also um this is supposed to be 15 years before Swordspoint but apparently Alec was only just born? no fucking way was he 15 in that novel. really?? I assumed 19 at the absolute youngest)
The woman in Swordspoint seemed like someone genuinely subversive and wise. Not some fucking horrible,
I don't know. I adored Alec and Katharine - both deeply flawed yet so very likable. Their grandmother promised to be just as excellent and didn't quite live up to that for me.

I wanted to rec this to people to read before Swordspoint because lesbians but really. I guess I'll wait and see how season 2 pans out? Maybe we'll get resolution for Will, and then see how Diane actually develops into the woman we see later, but... I don't think I care.

(omg I hate having this as the only review - more like my rambling opinion - for the omnibus, ellen kushner better not come for me on ha twitter)
Profile Image for Tanya.
882 reviews14 followers
October 4, 2017
It was a fairy tale, they said—a Riverside fairy tale. The fair maiden Tess needed a protector, and so the foreign princess had fought every pretender until she found the one Riverside swordsman who was honest and true. [loc 3991]

Serialised fiction, like the renaissance of the novella, is one of those publishing trends that's increased in popularity with the rise of the e-reader. Personally I prefer my fiction in complete chunks, so -- after sampling the first 'episode' of this SerialBox series -- I held off until the complete 'first season' was available in a single volume. True, I missed out on cliffhangers and suspense: but I was rewarded by a long day's delightful reading.

Tremontaine is set in the world of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint , The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of the Kings -- all of which I now want to reread, but none of which is required reading for Tremontaine. In Tremontaine, Kushner's let other authors into her world to play, and the results are surprisingly seamless and unsurprisingly delightful.

I pitched this to a friend, before reading, as 'little or 0 heteronormativity' which is, it turns out, quite accurate. (There is some: but this is a society which is apparently free of homophobia, and there are a number of same-sex relationships, and at least one character I'd class as asexual.)

The plots revolve around William, Duke of Tremontaine; Rafe, a student at the university who's convinced the world is round and enlists Micah, a vegetable-selling mathematical prodigy, to help him prove it; Ixkaab, a trader-princess trying to live down an unfortunate misstep; Tess, an artist and forger; and their assorted families, friends, foes. But at the heart of it all is Diane, Duchess of Tremontaine, who sits at the centre of the web and spins. Here is a woman who is determined that Tremontaine will thrive: that aim underlies everything she does, and she does it all very capably. Though she is not the only clever, scheming individual herein.

Tremontaine is exquisitely mannerist, often very funny, utterly compelling. There are enough ongoing threads to make me eager for Season 2, and almost tempted to read Season 3 as each episode is published. A delight.
Profile Image for Ju Transcendancing.
451 reviews19 followers
September 11, 2016
An eARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This review reposted from my blog The Conversationalist.

What isn’t to love about sword wielding women, politics, hot chocolate, frocks, parties, manners and physics? The serial format of Tremontaine works very well, it’s clear that the background world and universe of Ellen Kushner’s is beloved by all the authors that are invited to play in the world for this story. I’d fallen off the appeal of epic fantasy for a while, but between this and An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows, I’m excited about this genre again!

In particular I love epic fantasy that involves complex political intrigue and lots of diplomacy, talking around things, layers, and consequences too far reaching to see clearly. I also love characters that are engaging and interesting, sometimes I love the because I identify with them, and sometimes because I’d love to fall in love with them, and other times because they seem so wonderfully wicked – there are all these kinds of characters in Tremontaine and more.

I should point out that I haven’t actually read the other novels that this one is a prequel for, but given how much I enjoyed this book I will absolutely be looking forward to Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword! This is a short review, mainly because I loved it without reservation, the story, worldbuilding, characters, blending of authorial styles were all fantastic and delivered to me an exceptional reading experience. More fantasy like this, with diverse characters who are queer, not all white, who come from different backgrounds and storylines with ‘villains’ who are complex and interesting characters too – you can’t just think of their wickedness, instead it’s tempered with compassion for them, sympathy and understanding for how they’ve gotten into the narrative dilemma they’re in. I really can’t wait for Season 2.
Profile Image for Andie.
90 reviews2 followers
January 31, 2022
This sucked.

Which is really, REALLY disappointing because Swordspoint is an old favorite that I've been rereading ever since my college days. The premise is good, and I like the idea of the characters, but the overall execution is AWFUL. I don't know if it was the serialized format, or the shared world aspect, or maybe Ellen Kushner is a bad editor, but something went seriously wrong. The contributors are all seasoned authors, but you sure wouldn't know it by the way they write!! The romance between Rafe and William falls flat (okay, they're madly in love, fine, but WHY? What's the connection??). Kaab had real potential but she fails to learn or mature over the course of the series, which makes me wonder what the point of her arc is. I'm sorry, but Micah was just really unbearably annoying -- she somehow doesn't realize that she's been mistaken for a boy the entire time? No one's used a masculine pronoun around her?? Because it's not a deliberate choice on her part, that would have been interesting. We get a lot of her POV, but all that really happens is that she figures out some trigonometry.
The worst thing, though, was the plotting. Every contributor felt it necessary to explain and re-explain and repeat information from previous chapters, endlessly. We get minute descriptions of each character's thought process, why they're thinking that and what the implications will be on their future choices, in every. single. scene. It's incredibly boring and downright terrible writing. I like fanfic, and I've read single drafts tossed off by stressed out college students at 3 am that are more readable, better plotted, more coherent in characterization, and more respectful of the reader's intelligence than this series. (ALSO, some significant continuity errors with Swordpoint -- Diane's husband is William in Tremontaine, but in Swordspoint she calls him Charles??? Also Alec is just born in this prequel, which would make him far too young for the events of Swordspoint).
I know this is a long rant but I'm super disappointed, because this has a nicely diverse cast of characters, and it's just plain BAD.
Profile Image for Debbie is on Storygraph.
1,701 reviews121 followers
October 10, 2016
Due to life, it took me several weeks to finish this book. But like a good cup of hot chocolate, this was a book to be savored. It was twisty and full of political machinations, and I loved it. (Though side note: The plot was not nearly twisty enough, or subtle enough in its twists for me. But maybe that was the point? Since the book mimicked a season of a TV show, foreshadowing could be a little heavyhanded deliberately.)

I had not read the original Riverside books, though they are on my shelf. I will have to rectify that very soon because I am very intrigued by this world Kushner has created. And given how much I liked Tremontaine, I suspect I'll like the original books as well.

The good: It's complex, and gritty, and full of really compelling characters. The characters aren't black and white good and bad. They're as complex as the plot, fully realized, and realistic. They do selfish things in their own interest. They struggle with ethical quandaries and don't always do the right thing - and often, in this book, take a morally ambiguous path. Also, the diversity! I swoon at the diversity.The ended was satisfying, even though it was open ended. There will be more adventures and I look forward to reading them.

The bad: I think I gained about five pounds while reading this book, because I kept craving hot chocolate. And I have the good stuff from local family-owned and run chocolate shop, which means extra calories. My pants are a bit snugger than they were pre-Tremontaine.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Narrelle.
Author 53 books111 followers
July 1, 2016
I picked this up attracted by the idea of a swashbuckling LGBTQIA adventure written in a shared-world way by multiple authors.

The result is indeed a fabulous swashbuckler of a book, with terrific characters and excellent worldbuilding. The writers overlap timelines occasionally, offering difference perspectives for characters. The styles don't always meld quite smoothly and sometimes information is repeated, but on the whole the shared writing works very well.

The various and intertwined stories of Rafe the scholar, Micah the genius mathematician, Tess the forger from Riverside, Ixkaab the first daughter of a first daughter of a noble foreign house, William, the Duke of Tremontaine and his calculating wife, Diane, engage from the beginning and grow more and more compelling. SOme characters become more likable; some much less so. There are plots and schemes, love and betrayal, politics and social machinations in heaping handfuls.

My only real criticism is that the story ends on a cliffhanger. I generally strongly dislike cliffhangers, preferring stories that stand alone within the world that has been built. Having said that, I absolutely have to get the next book to find out what happens next to this cast of characters, and it's making me not a little cross to have to wait till 2017 to be satisfied.
Profile Image for Dee.
815 reviews45 followers
June 24, 2017
I enjoyed this; it was a fun revisiting of one of my favourite settings, that contains so many things that I enjoy. Plus some tasty bonuses, like foreign traders with their own views of the world, and a glance at the political complexities of intellectual development.

Once again, the episodic nature of the initial medium led to some oddities of pacing, both within episodes and across the whole arc, but it worked better for me in this long-term unfolding-of-story style of "show" (rather than the more monster-of-the-week style of Bookburners).

I'm slightly saddened that the only het main character is the villain, or at least as close to a villain as this delightfully complex narrative has. And even then, I don't think I'm so much upset about evil straights (because heaven knows it's a nice change from evil gays) but more that it's so prevalent in fandom of all kinds to hate on the girly straight girl breaking up our beloved gay boys. Which is poisonous and unpleasant, so it's a bit sad to see echoes of that in a canon piece.

But, to be quite honest, I absolutely adore the Duchess Tremontaine, in all her brutality and fragility. She was the shining star of this, for me, and I'm so delighted to have had this chance to get to know her better.
Profile Image for Katherine Kendig.
240 reviews14 followers
July 2, 2017
Considering the length of this and how many authors had a hand in it, it read pretty smoothly. But the characters were one-note for most of the 650+ pages: Micah likes math more than people! Kaab thinks the Locals are inferior! Rafe thinks he's right about everything! Diane is scheming! By and large, I didn't find them likable or interesting to begin with - and many of the episodes felt like they were killing time, reintroducing personality traits and dynamics with only small forward gains. It took a very long time for me to get invested in the plot and for the characters to develop dimensions (...and I don't think Micah ever did. I think that character was vastly underplayed). I think this was a collaborative accomplishment, but not necessarily a narrative one.
Profile Image for Laurie Boris.
Author 31 books160 followers
July 19, 2017
I fell into this story and this world so easily, and immediately started loving all the characters, especially Micah, the daughter of turnip farmers who loves math and dresses as a boy when she comes to the city with her cousin to sell their wares at the market, because nobody bothers her when she dresses as a boy. And what a unique proposition: a novel with a common universe of characters, each chapter written by a different author. There were slight differences in voice, and except for one scene that broke the fourth wall and threw me out of the story a little, the flow was well-maintained throughout. I’m curious to read the continuing series.
Profile Image for Tamara.
205 reviews1 follower
July 30, 2016
A faux-historical romp through the queered world of Tremontaine. Although a little pantomime-ish in places, it's generally an easy holiday read. At times the shift from author to author was slightly disruptive.
Profile Image for HornFan2 .
689 reviews35 followers
March 4, 2019
Thanks to netgalley.com, the authors and serial box for the advance ARC copy for my honest review.

'Tremontaine: Season One', was a recommendation from a co-worker of mine, figured why not give it a try, it's my first read of a Riverside book and even if it's not a typical genre that I read. That it was a serial installment book, with various authors did make it attractive to read and also may discover new authors to read.

With that said, I did like Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese, and Patty Bryant writing a lot and will check out their other books. Then you have Joel Derfner, who wrote a couple of horrible offerings, that flow atrociously, his writing style is painfully boring and is the deadweight in this one.

Both Ixkaab and Micah, where my two favorite characters, then Vincent Applethorne, Tess 'the Hand', the Balam family, Rafe , the Duke and Duchess, all make it a decent read and you have several minor characters that pop in and out of the storyline, that also add to the over story.

I do think when Applethorpe is teaching IxKaab sword fighting, you have so much chemistry between them, a shame that no relationship develops, felt the same way about Micah and you don't really have the same chemistry isn't their with Tess.

With Micah character she gets stretched into many characteristics, it's all over the place with her character and just never seems to get defined as the other main ones. For example; at times she's a girl, other times a boy, described in a way to have Autism, other times Aspergers and it's like Riverside doesn't know her true gender.

Yet several times, in multiple installments in the pub, she secretes chemistry that defines her as a gay female whenever IxKaab is around and it's an element that would have made the story so much better. Of course the authors would have had to age her, make her a 14 year old mathematical genius butch girl.

With Rafe, you have a pompous arrogant person, who only cares about certain things that he values and typical with these types of people. They are artificial with somethings in their life, his relationship with William, what he cares about the most, his school, he has no clue how to start it and ends up working for his dad to make money

The highlight for me in Season One, was how evil and treacherous they make Duchess Diana out to be, yet she gets easily played by someone that she underestimates being IxKaab and doesn't realize it.

The best installment was written by Malinda Lo, with 'A Tale of Two Ladies'. Due to all the hinting regarding the Duchess's past, you lacked the details and was expecting a predictable read. Yet the author shows her brilliants, by grabbing your undivided attention, your right their when IxKaab uses her knowledge and probably should have been the ending verse 'Departures'.

Leave the readers excited for Season 2, too discover how the deal with IxKaab and Duchess will unfold.

Definitely, a worthy read, have some new authors to explore from reading Season 1 and some catching up to do on the other Riverside books.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,465 reviews105 followers
October 18, 2020
Swordspoint is and always will be one of my favourite books of all time, right along with its sequels. Any return to the world of Riverside was therefore bound to make its way onto my TBR. When this novella series first came out, I picked up the first few parts immediately upon release, but eventually decided I'd rather wait for the omnibus edition and read them all at once - never mind that it's taken me a few years longer than expected to finally get around to it. Introducing a bunch of fascinating new characters along with a few familiar faces, this series is set about 15 years before Swordspoint and involves a whole new set of romances, complex intrigues and conspiracies for all those characters to navigate. There's much to love, though it didn't blow me away to quite such extent as I'd hoped. Reading all the installments back to back, the differences between all the many authors' voices were a little jarring and the whole thing began to feel a little like a case of "too many cooks". I'm also not totally thrilled with the decision to cast Diane as the clear villain of the piece... but we'll see how that turns out. Definitely going to continue the series and see where all this leads, though.
Profile Image for A.
363 reviews13 followers
July 10, 2017
This was a really interesting project to read. I enjoyed it a lot, although there were episodes that I struggled to get into because of the author's specific style. All in all, it was a really solid work. If you enjoyed the other books set in this world, I think you'd very much enjoy this serial.
200 reviews
July 19, 2017
It was fun to return to Riverside, but the fact that each chapter was written by a different author made the experience uneven.
Profile Image for Elaine White.
Author 41 books236 followers
March 27, 2018
* NOTE: It wouldn't let me copy my entire review (8 pages) so let me just say that I fell in love with Rafe and Will, I want to read more about Joshua and Micah, and I hope Diane burns in the deepest pit of hell. *

Book – Tremontaine (Season One)
Star rating - ★★★★☆
No. of Pages – 462
Cover – quirky and clever!
POV – 3rd person, multi character, often omni-present
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Serial, Historical, Coming-of-Age, Queer
Content Warning – mild violence, sexual situations, adultery/cheating, prostitution
Orientations – MM, MF, FF


This is my second Serial Box production and I'll admit that I loved the beginning of the other series 'ReMade' but had trouble with the fact that so many various authors wrote parts that made up the whole. Some authors voices didn't work, for me, but that isn't a problem I had with this series. For once, though each author's voice is very talented, I could easily have read this from start to finish without knowing there was more than one author. They all tried to keep the same “voice” and atmosphere to their shorts that made it possible to read each one as a new chapter in a whole cohesive story. Characterisation, setting, mood, and the attention to detail never slipped.



This collection sucked me right into the world of Riverside and Tremontaine. I've not only added the paperbacks of all three seasons to my pay-day buy list, but I've also added the three paperbacks of the Riverside series. I just know that Kushner can't disappoint me, now.

The overall setting of the plot has strong hints of A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. All of which is to the good, because I love those books and that type of world. It adds enough historical possibilities to enough fantasy elements that I end up with the best of both worlds.

Every episode has a complete story arc all of its own, but which also pieces together with the other episodes to create a woven tapestry of an overall arc throughout the season. Each episode is just a small part of a bigger puzzle.

Each episode adds more and more mystery, asking and answering questions within each episode, that all boil down to one large plot that it intricately woven between a handful of characters:
Diane and William Tremonatine – Duke and Duchess – who are suffering financial difficulties that William is largely unaware of, because Diane has made some unwise gambles that didn't pay off, and is scrambling to fix the awful mess they're in.
Rafe – a talented, passionate scholar who falls head over heels for William, gets in the way of Diane's plots, and takes in the helpless, hapless, and innocently naive Micah.
Micah – a girl everyone assumes is a boy, due to her cousin's plan of dressing her so to keep her safe on the unfamiliar streets of the city. She's a farm girl with a head for numbers, exceedingly talented, and adorably innocent and unaware of the ramifications her numbers could have on an entire people.
Ixkaab – first daughter of the first daughter, fighter, member of the service, and irrascible hot-head. She's got a thing for Tess the Hand, a master female forger – huzzah for women's rights! – and skill with a blade and for spying. But, in trying to protect her family from one threat, she haplessly stumbles into ignoring another much more serious threat.
Applethorpe – a skilled swordsman, fascinated by Ixkaab's fighting ability, who has some secret past that took him his home of Riverside, taught him skill with the sword, and brought him back an even bigger mystery than before. He knows people, understands political undercurrents, and inadvertently drops himself right in the middle of a wasps nest of political intrigue and mayhem.

Through all these characters – all of whom provide a POV scene of their own, at some point, no matter how large or minor – have a bearing on the overall plot. Through their eyes (sometimes omni-present) we watch the mystery of the Tremontaine house unfold. And potentially disintegrate. And I absolutely love that it's Ellen Kushner who bookends the season, writing the first and last chapters. Although, I do have to admit that Episode 10, by Joel Derfner gave me a book hangover.

Yes, there were some editing issues, a few spaces before commas, inconsistent editing, a change of font issue, missing full stops, backwards quotation marks. Small things that would probably go largely unnoticed if I wasn't a naturally picky grammar/editing nazi. Which I hold my hands up to confess I am. Things that mean I can't give a 5 star, flawless, rating. Each episode contains editing issues and inconsistently use a single scene of present tense, that doesn't always make sense.

I have to mark what I have in front of me, and with those errors, and a few 4 star episodes amongst the rest of the 5 star episodes, I had to properly calculate the final rating.

That will not stop me from devouring Season 2 over the next week, nor buying all three seasons, and the entire Riverside trilogy, in paperback the minute I get paid.
Profile Image for Lee Ann.
777 reviews18 followers
July 5, 2017
I have such mixed feelings about this book! The concept is awesome: Multiple authors working together to create an episodic novel, with an "episode" released each week. And some of my favorite authors, Ellen Kushner (of course -- as this serial is a part of her Swordspoint series) and Malinda Lo, contributed to it.

Buuuuutttt.... a lot of the time, transitioning from one author's voice to the next is jarring. The characterization was surprisingly very consistent, but there were definitely some authors' voices that I liked better than others, and some I downright did not like.

I also felt that the story was veeeery slow to get off the ground. It wasn't until about halfway through that I started to care for the characters, or understood what the driving conflict was. That being said, when the plot picks up in the last 15% of the book or so, holy cow, does it pick up! I loved the antagonist, the Duchess of Tremontaine. Her backstory was an awesome, fascinating plot twist.

And on top of it all, this book gets seven bazillion stars for representation. EVERYONE IS GAY! Except the Duchess, really. Kaab loves Tess, Rafe loves the Duke and rooms with a handful of other gay students, it's highly implied that Ben was a gay prostitute... And the greatest part is, their homosexuality is not a huge deal. Coming out is not what this story is about. There is no homophobia; queerness is generally accepted in this world. FINALLY, there is some LGBT+ representation out there that doesn't pigeonhole LGBT+ characters into a certain narrative. These characters are more than their sexuality, they get plotlines that are usually reserved for heterosexual main characters, and yet their sexuality still plays a major role in their romantic subplots. The authors do not shy away from hiding their characters' sexuality by "queer baiting." It's wonderful.

And then there's Micah. Dear, little Micah, my favorite character in the whole book. She's a (gender fluid??) genius/savant mathematician. And I love the way Rafe and Kaab interact with her, being understanding about her struggles to socialize without being condescending. So not only is there LGBT+ representation, but there is representation of people with disabilities as well.

Overall I would give Tremontaine 3/5 stars. I think there is definitely a lot of room for it to grow, and potential for it to be something that I get hooked on. I think I'll get the second one as an audiobook when the full second season is released.
Profile Image for Katie.
366 reviews22 followers
July 6, 2016
Tremontaine comes from the folks at Serial Box, who are putting out novel-length works in weekly installments. It's set in the world of the Riverside novels by the incomparable Ellen Kushner - and while she wrote the first and last segments, the others are credited to other members of a writing team - like the writing staff of a TV drama. Thus, "The Complete Season One," which is admittedly not something you see much on Goodreads. (Also, adding each installment as a separate book has totally inflated my books-read goal for the year, whoops.)

Despite being excited about the series when it began, I didn't actually get around to reading it until after the conclusion had been released - so I wound up reading it straight through like any other novel. There were a number of places where the authors were clearly inserting reminders about who was who and what was going on that felt unnecessary and sometimes annoying - but I can easily imagine that if I were reading it week by week as intended, that would have been helpful.

It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once things got humming, I really enjoyed it, and it made me want to revisit Swordspoint and The Priviledge of the Sword. I particularly liked the way Kaab and her people broadened the Riverside world, bringing in another culture and knowledge of the wider world. Kaab and Tess and Micah and Rafe are all interesting, and I look forward to spending more time with them. Kaab and Rafe, perhaps the two characters we spend the most time with, are complex and flawed - both clever and resourceful, but each with significant blind spots.

I'm still mulling over the revelations about Diane, Duchess Tremontaine. She comes across as vicious, nearly villainous, but I tend to feel that if she seems more so here than in Swordspoint, it's because she finds herself in such a series of tight spots. Later in life, she has more resources at hand to keep out of similar tight spots. We always knew she was a Slytherin, but now we know more about the ways in which she's been willing to get her hands dirty to control what she wants.

I wonder if Alec ever finds out...
Profile Image for Ana.
370 reviews6 followers
October 29, 2016
Delicious. And not just because they talk so much about chocolate XD

One of my favorite things was how GAY everyone is ('gay' here being intended as an all-inclusive term for non-normative sexualities). This is exactly what I look for in my fantasy literature. It felt so good and so natural, worked into the story so smoothly that it seemed almost unremarkable until I actually stopped to think about it and realized there's pretty much only one straight couple.

The series also helped me realize how teaming up in tabletop roleplaying games is actually supposed to work. In some ways Tremontaine feels like a large, intricate, beautifully created board game - there are four major players whose backgrounds, temperaments, and life stories lead them to have different values and goals. They're constantly making choices in pursuit of those goals, and sometimes that puts them seriously at odds with one another even if none of them is deliberately setting out to do harm for its own sake. That's the delightful moral complexity of the story: who you perceive to be the villain depends on whose perspective you're viewing the situation from.

Diane of Tremontaine in particular is... phenomenal. Her beauty, ruthlessness, and will to survive had me falling head over heels for her even though she's probably the most traditionally 'evil' of the bunch. And I can't wait to see how the relationship between Kaab and Diane develops, especially because I find Kaab and her current girlfriend kind of lackluster. The forger is cute and all, but there's nothing really note-worthy about her. I'm hoping Kaab and Diane get involved, because it would involve all kinds of amazing tension. But failing that I'm excited to see them as rivals - it's already been established they admire and respect each other's abilities.
Profile Image for Mark.
389 reviews9 followers
August 1, 2017
This is a cooperatively written, serialized prequel to the "fantasy-of-manners" Swordspoint (which in turn is followed by the heavily recommended The Privilege of the Sword). I haven't read the background but it feels like it was handed around between authors with a rough outline of where they wanted to end up, and everyone seemed to be on the same page when it comes to the spirit of the work. It's mostly solid storytelling and really has the feel of a 19th century serialization. Occasionally this doesn't work--a few chapters felt like they'd be heavily abridged in most editions, as characters seemed stuck in bland dialogue and parties while waiting for the story to pick up.

It is a pretty good story when it is going full steam. The Riverside setting is a late medieval or early renaissance world, fantasy in the sense of being ahistorical instead of magic heavy. The depiction three different cultures--the local nobles, the Riverside lower class, and a group of foreign traders--is done skillfully and the interactions feel quite natural.

The main selling point Duchess Tremontaine, much young than her appearance in Swordspoint. She's a vain, evil, manipulative and a genius, much in the mold of Francis Underwood in House of Cards. She has a few rivals with the wit to stay in the game, most notable the Balam "trader" Kaab, a young foreign merchant trained in the subterfuge-and-spying part of the family business. A young genius mathematician, kind and vulnerable and somewhere "on the spectrum" while she's working on Copernican solutions to astronomy, is a brilliant addition to the cast too.
Profile Image for Theo.
84 reviews11 followers
September 21, 2020
I'm a cynical and judgemental person, and honestly I don't love Victorian period fiction as a phenomenon - much less the swashbuckling fantasy kind - so I did my best to resist caring about this story right up until the last few instalments. But honestly, whatever stylistic unevenness and easy plot cliches might have caught my attention in part 4, I was completely immune to by part 9, because for the most part, this book is genuinely delightful - ice cream for dinner, a BBC Jane Austen miniseries except made up entirely of romantic climaxes. I came to like most of the characters and care about all of them, and appreciated that the authors knew what I was there for and spent more time describing the flirting than the politics. I was halfway through Middlemarch before I downloaded this, and now it's going to have to stay on hold while I binge the rest of it, I guess. Sorry George.
Profile Image for Swuun.
260 reviews6 followers
August 9, 2017
This is my first Riverside book, and I'm loving the story and the collaborative writing. It's really fun to get a taste of lots of different writing styles with the same characters, and the season meshes better than most network TV. Plus it's got dashing swordswomen and manipulative noblewomen and lots of queer romance and a really fascinating world, so yeah - I'm completely sold!
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