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| Author: Ellen Kushner
| Genre: Fantasy of Manners
| Content: Dueling, M/M Romance
| ISBN-10: 0553585495
| ISBN-13: 9780553585490
| Publisher: Spectra (February 4, 2003)
| Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
| Cover Artist: Thomas Canty
| Source: Personal copy
| Read an Excerpt
| Rating: 4/5 Stars
This was my first experience with a Fantasy of Manners. Honestly I thought it was a review description, not an entire genre. I picked this book up solely because (A) it was listed as fantasy and (B) I love secondary worlds with swords. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was not a trace of anything magical, mythical, or mystical to be found in its pages.
And by the time I realized this, I could have cared less. It was the story itself that was magical.
Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane
♦ What I Liked: The short answer is alot. This tale literally drips with wit, elegance, lovely prose and dangerous romance. It abounds with political intrigue, matters of honor and doses of betrayal. The worldbuilding was sparse (single society) but unique and very believable. It was suitably dark at times, humorous at others and the writing was tight. There are no unneeded info dumps to distract you which helps in making it a lively fun read.
This story had more of a romance element than I normally like but it was a well established romance. It was also far from your cookie cutter sappy romance. This love affair had some very dark and scary moments; one of the partners was a borderline psychopath with suicidal tendencies. This gave the relationship an aura of reality that I found to be refreshing. It could be tender, violent, self serving, possessive and often involved some very careful handling. I've seen fight scenes that were not choreographed as well. Oh, and there were alot of fight scenes too. The duels read like a beautiful dance, only at the end, one person usually ended up dead.
♦ What I didn't like: Well, not much. And this came as a bit of a surprise to me. My usual fare is rift with magic and mayhem, complexity and adventure. This tale had plenty of depth but the flow was smoother, the issues more focused, making it, for me, a lighter read. Lighter reads have their place and I was in the mood for one, so I have little to complain about.
♦ A Note: This story does revolve around a M/M romance that was descriptive without being overly graphic. I personally enjoyed the dynamic it created between the two main characters. However, I know it does bother some, and I respect that, so this is your heads up.
I also want to note that my version of the book included several short stories. I do not plan to review those. I'm not a big fan of short stories and I suck at reviewing them, but they were an interesting addition.
♦ Conclusion: Wonderful change of pace. The prose was lovely and Kushner a master at painting pictures with words. The setting was a secondary world, alternate history with an interesting social hierarchy. It was actually fun to have an entire story revolve around the events of a single city for a change. Instead of massive battles against unspeakably evil monsters, this story gives you duels between individuals, political intrigue at every turn, and fascinating characters. I look forward to reading the next two books set in the worlds of Riverside.
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Kindle: Swordspoint (Riverside)
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Fantasy Book Review of Swordspoint: (Riverside Book 1) by Ellen Kushner - Reviewed by Mulluane - on February 24 2014 - Rating: of 5 Stars