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The Privilege of the Sword

(The World of Riverside #2)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  4,971 ratings  ·  431 reviews
Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power in the city's ballroom, brothels and boudoirs. Into this alluring world walks Katherine, a well-bred country girl versed in the rules of conventional society. Her mistake is thinking that they apply. For Katherine's host and uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremontaine, is in charge here—a ...more
Paperback, 378 pages
Published July 25th 2006 by Spectra
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Ariel This is not a children's or YA book. Although it is a coming-of-age story, it is set in an adult world, and one of the major themes is how (YAish) rom…moreThis is not a children's or YA book. Although it is a coming-of-age story, it is set in an adult world, and one of the major themes is how (YAish) romanticized versions of love, sex, and marriage don't reflect reality. To be specific, this book contains a little bit of violence and drug use, (mostly) alluded-to orgies and child prostitution, some on-screen-although-fairly-tame sex, and one on-screen rape scene; a good portion of the book is devoted to the social implications of the latter. Even if it is appropriate for a younger audience, I don't think most younger readers would find the political and manners content interesting.(less)

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Sherwood Smith
readers who have not encountered the previous books set in Kushner's Riverside could read this one first with no confusion or diminishment of pleasure. One doesn't need to know the characters' back (or forward) history; as Katherine encounters them, we do too, through her descriptions both trenchant and humane. (Though it must be said certain lines and situations inevitably will resonate more with readers familiar with the previous Riverside stories.)

Kushner begins with sixteen-year-old Katherin
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mannerpunk, fantasy
The book is set a dozen or so years after Swordspoint, one of my very favorite fantasy stories. Alec Campion, the Mad Duke of Tremontaine, summons his young niece to the city. He promises to alleviate her family’s financial situation if she’ll obey his one command—she must dress only in men’s clothing and learn to fight. There are many fantasy books about young, naïve girls who learn to swordfight and defy convention, and most of them are terrible (even the Alanna series has some serious faults) ...more
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
About fifteen years after Swordspoint, young Katherine is sent from the country to her uncle the mad Duke, who has a nefarious but possibly brilliant plan to turn her into the first swordswoman.

Okay, so, it went something like this:

First 100 pages: Restless twitching, sighing, picking of fingernails. God, Ellen Kushner, are you seriously telling me you're letting me down in this universe twice?

Next 100 pages: Oh? Oh! Eeee! Well, why didn't you say so earlier? Oh, but you're still doing that thin
The one where Mad Duke Alec brings his 15-year-old niece, Katherine, to the city to make a swordsman of her.

Very fine when it comes to Katherine's personal life; less successful in other areas.

Katherine is adorable, and her reactions rang very true to me; I especially liked how it felt for her to put on men's clothes for the first time, and how she gradually gained enthusiasm for her fate. Her sexual awakening was done very well, too.

I enjoyed seeing the dark side of sex and marriage; I have a
Feb 01, 2008 added it
Like Swordspoint, which I also loved, this novel is an extremely entertaining read that manages to provoke far more thought than I would have expected from a book that's such pure fun. I think what I loved so much about The Privilege of the Sword is that it manages to grant the reader the very real narrative pleasure of the comedy of manners and the swashbuckling revenge tale while at the same time illuminating the gender and class politics at the very foundations of these genres. This knowing a ...more

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my LOCUS FANTASY list.

As the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners list treated me so kindly, I figure I’ll trust those same good folk to pick me some stars in their sister-list, the Locus Fantasy Award winners.

While I was working my way through the list of Locus Sci-
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is the second of the Riverside books that I've read, and I think I've figured out what is peculiar about them - they feel like fan fiction without a source text. Even Swordspoint, the first book, which sets up the world of Riverside and the couple, Alec and Richard, who are the clear emotional heart of that book (and in some ways of this as well, despite being in the background), seems like it is assuming our affection and investment as readers, sharing an inside joke. It works, because it' ...more
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
I was into this book as much as Artemisia and Katherine were into The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death.

The ending was a bit abrupt, but not out of character. I would've wanted a more intricate ending and a few more chapters. But I'm completely willing to forgive this considering how fast my heart was beating during other parts of the story, and how lost in the story and world I was.
I feel bad for this book because I chose to read it at a time where I wanted something else completely tonally different, so I'm not actually sure what to rate it. Full review and rating later.

(six months later)

I DECLARE REVIEW AMNESTY. Giving it a rating though!

[3.5 stars, rounded up]
Scott Marlowe (Out of this World Reviews)


*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

The short of Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword: I liked it. Though I have to say I'm split. But, first, a brief summary:

Lady Katherine Talbert goes to live with her Uncle, the Mad Duke, who has it in for Katherine's mother (the Duke's sister) and vows to leave her alone should she commit her daughter to living with him for six months. In that time, the Mad Duke completely changes her perspective on life and
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's a soup of swashbuckling and gender politics and sexuality and coming-of-age-complicated-feelings and Jane Austin jostle-for-a-husband and some truly damaged individuals and a prequel whose presence looms over everything and a willingness to strip the Regency romance of its lace and manners and get down to the raw realpolitik of money and perceived honor and power disparity. Each one of these things is extremely interesting, and even more interesting when the story pairs any one item against ...more
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
There are some things I liked very much about this book. The moment of the main character's first sexual awakening is both hilarious and yet also believable; there are moments of brilliant wit and biting sarcasm; there are scenes of such vicious depravity and cruelty that one's breath is taken away; and there are a few moments of tender love. One problem many sequels have—true sequels, in which previous characters appear in a new story—is that characters one has learned to love or hate, or who i ...more
A.R. Hellbender
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.
This book had a lot of things I loved about it. Everyone of significance was bisexual, it had some great conflicts, and the f/f romance was the best I've ever read, even if the 2 don't actually hook up during the story.
However, I felt a complete lack of world building, and the plot didn't really start until halfway through. The ending was also very abrupt.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is full of great and noble truths of the heart. And swordfights.

Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the oddest sequels I've ever read - so much time has passed, and all the characters have changed so much, but their development in the intervening decades makes perfect sense - it's like we've tossed a ball high in the air, ran a few feet with eyes closed, and caught the ball again.

These characters are some of the most richly illustrated I've ever read - they sparkle with humanity and ignorance and dark secrets. one can't help but loving all of them, for their vanity and pain and
seb smith
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, lgbt
y'all... i love this book ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
I have to begin by emphasizing just how much I wanted to love this book.

I have a whole sordid story of how I was a fan of its predecessor, Swordspoint, so much so that I bought this book the day it was released. How excited I was to see this author write a girl's story, which I infinitely prefer. How I tried and failed to get through it for over a decade. How bewildered I was at the extremes of boredom and emotional over-investment the book sent me into, and how I put it aside each time thinkin
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I remember reading Swordspoint quite a few years ago and the feeling of awe mixed with the sense of lacking, of some insufficiency, of some potential not fully used. The same kind of feeling accompanied me when I finished The Privilege of the Sword. On the one hand there was so much I loved, on the other – it was so close to being great and I’m really not sure it was.

Let’s start with the positive things and there are plenty. First of all I loved the whole idea of the book. The book is set in a r
Rambles On
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint has the distinction of being among the most intelligent and stylish fantasy novels I’ve ever read. As it happens, I have to go back to a very basic definition of “fantasy” to make that statement, since Kushner’s universe shares no characteristics with traditional fantasy save that she made it up and it is most definitely not this world.

The Privilege of the Sword falls between the short stories “The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death” (which is the title of a novel and
Therese Arkenberg
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Alec Campion, the “Mad Duke” Tremontain, is jaded and disgusted with the behavior of his fellow nobility. Their facade of elegance and respectability is a sham, while they abuse their wealth, power, and privileges—including the privilege to sic trained swordsmen on anyone they disagree with. Alec decides to twist that latter privilege on its head by inviting his niece Kate from the countryside and training her to become his swordswoman/bodyguard.

This is a sequel to the original Riverside novel,
Manda Scott
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I can’t think why I have taken so long to find Ellen Kushner - someone who can actually write; who creates characters with actual emotional intelligence and who understands how to fight. It’s perfect. If you haven’t read Swordspoint, you have to read it before this. But then don’t start late at night or you’ll get no sleep. There. You have been warned.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, library
Decided to read this after glancing at an 2008 Tor piece by Jo Walton and was intrigued enough to read it. Quite enjoyed it and now need to read the title prior to this.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-2018
This is a significant improvement on the previous book.

In contrast to the previous book, this is female-centric. It revolves around Katherine, whose uncle asks her to come to the city. In return, her uncle, the Mad Duke Tremontaine (Alec from the previous book) will drop a long-running lawsuit against her family. A parallel storyline involves Artemisia, who has just started her Season (of being introduced to noble society). Artemisia expects to get married, and (view spoiler)
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA, fantasy, gender, queer
The main character of The Privilege of the Sword (which my husband insisted on calling the Privilege of the Phallus) was a delight. Katherine was fascinating, multilayered, complex. I really liked her. She grew from an independent, loyal and sensitive girl into a fiercely independent, fiercely loyal, and dangerously armed sensitive woman. Yeah!

Some of the other characters were also intriguing -- the Duke in particular (sexy and dark, yum) -- but most of the others fell flat. Additionally, I fel
The mad Duke Tremontaine promises to relieve his family's debt if he may train his niece in swordplay. Perhaps recycling an antagonist from Swordspoint is lazy; certainly there's some trailing subplots here, and it takes time for the headhopping and politicking to coalesce into a narrative. But this won me by the halfway point, and won me entirely. It's a delight to come back to this world, with its affected tone and character cameos (featuring significant growth!), and it benefits from the intr ...more
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
My GOD what fun this book was. The writing did what it needed to do without getting fancy, the world wasn’t too fussy, but it gave me bisexual swashbuckling shenanigans and I had an absolutely fabulous time.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2019
Katherine is a far more engaging character than Alec and Richard were in Swordspoint, and I felt like the plot was much smoother in this book as well. Far more enjoyable overall.
Heather Jones
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
The Privilege of the Sword (TPOTS) is set in the same “Riverside” world as Kushner’s more popular Swordspoint, which it follows chronologically and which provides a great deal of character and plot background. In fact, I’d be willing to venture that much of the politics and social interactions of TPOTS might be rather confusing for those who haven’t read Swordspoint. This weakens the novel slightly because, although Katherine Talbert is structurally the central character of this novel, she is ov ...more
*Review of audiobook edition*

Ellen Kushner's "The Privilege of the Sword", an Austen-esque tale spiced with romance (and swordfights!) is a delight from start to finish.

Artemisia, a gently-reared young lady of the nobility, discovers to her shock that the process of Growing Up actually equates to "being marketed as a valuble commodity", and that she herself has no real say over the consummation of the deal. Katherine, fresh from the country, looks forward to a conventional coming-out, as befits
Susanna Sturgis
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes stylish writing and interesting characters
Shelves: fantasy, fiction, women
Coming surprisingly late to this one, because I love Swordspoint and have read it several times. The women of Swordspoint were vivid but usually peripheral. Here the female characters, and the role of women in this unnamed city, are in the foreground. Alec, now the Duke Tremontaine, summons his young niece, Katherine, to the city: if she will don boy's clothes and train as a swordswoman, he will alleviate her family's financial distress. Among the gentry, gender expectations are clearly delineat ...more
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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)
  • Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)
  • The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)
  • The World of Riverside (3 Book Series)

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