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(The World of Riverside #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  9,174 ratings  ·  965 reviews
The classic forerunner to The Fall of the Kings now with three bonus stories.

Hailed by critics as "a bravura performance" (Locus) and "witty, sharp-eyed, [and] full of interesting people" (Newsday), this classic melodrama of manners, filled with remarkable plot twists and unexpected humor, takes fantasy to an unprecedented level of elegant writing and scintillating
Mass Market Paperback, 329 pages
Published February 2003 by Spectra (first published February 1987)
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Lane 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)

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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
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
✘✘ 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
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
Jun 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 18, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Shelves: fantasy, reviewed, 1980s
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
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. ...more
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Allison Hurd
May 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
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)
Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Kat  Hooper
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, queer
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
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jamie Collins
Oct 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is an unusual fantasy novel, a "melodrama of manners". It has a medieval setting on an invented world, with preening nobility who hire professional swordsmen to fight duels of honor on their behalf. There's no magic, but there's a lot of casual bisexuality. The focus of the book is an intriguing romance between a renowned swordsman and a caustic, suicidal young man who appears to be a nobleman gone slumming.

The writing was quite good, and I enjoyed the romance - every scene with Alec and St
Aug 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fencers and fantasy writers
Shelves: adventure, favorite
The only reason this was not a 5 for me was my dislike of the secondary main character and my inability to fathom his appeal for the protagonist. However, it is a great story told in amazing language, a must-read for anyone who likes mannered fantasy.

Note: my edition did not have the extra stories mentioned in the description, so if you want those make sure you get the reissue.
Feb 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, fantasy, lgbtq
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
This little book is not what I was expecting. I'm not sure *what* I was expecting, actually, but it took me a pretty long time to get into this. When I finally did, though, I was glad I pushed through.

Not quite sure how to describe this. It's set in an unnamed city in an unnamed country, where nobles live up on the Hill in the city, and poor people and criminals live in Riverside. Both places have complicated and very strict rules of conduct, social codes, and half of the book is the characters
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Ellen Kushner weaves together multiple careers as a writer, radio host, teacher, performer and public speaker.

A graduate of Barnard College, she also attended Bryn Mawr College, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She began her career in publishing as a fiction editor in New York City, but left to write her first novel Swordspoint, which has become a cult classic, hailed as the progenitor of the “mann

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)

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