Friday, January 24, 2014

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (Riverside Book 3)

Mulluane | 9:00 PM | 5 Comments so far

This stunning follow-up to Ellen Kushner’s cult-classic novel, Swordspoint, is set in the same world of labyrinthine intrigue, where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule. Against a rich tapestry of artists and aristocrats, students, strumpets, and spies, a gentleman and a scholar will find themselves playing out an ancient drama destined to explode their society’s smug view of itself–and reveal that sometimes the best price of uncovering history is being forced to repeat it….

The Fall of the Kings

Generations ago the last king fell, taking with him the final truths about a race of wizards who ruled at his side. But the blood of the kings runs deep in the land and its people, waiting for the coming together of two unusual men, Theron Campion, a young nobleman of royal lineage, is heir to an ancient house and a modern scandal. Tormented by his twin duties to his family and his own bright spirit, he seeks solace in the University. There he meets Basil St. Cloud, a brilliant and charismatic teacher ruled by a passion for knowledge–and a passion for the ancient kings. Of course, everyone now knows that the wizards were charlatans and the kings their dupes and puppets. Only Basil is not convinced–nor is he convinced that the city has seen its last king…

*Blurb source* RandomHouse
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Book Cover of The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Della Sherman  (Riverside Book 3)

| Author: Ellen Kushner
| Author: Delia Sherman
| Genre: Fantasy of Manners
| Content: Dueling, M/M Romance
| ISBN-10: 0553585940
| ISBN-13: 9780553585940
| Publisher: Bantam Reissue edition (September 30, 2003)
| Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
| Cover Artist: Thomas Canty
| Source: Personal copy
| Read an Excerpt
| Rating: 3/5 Stars
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The Fall of the Kings (Riverside, #3)

♥ Mini Review ♥
Gone are the talented swordsman that I so enjoyed in Swordspoint. Oh they are still around but as ceremonial props only. Instead we are propelled 60 years into the future. This is an age of scholars. In place of sharp swords, this tale is populated with sharp tongues, sharp minds and sharp wits.

Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane

♦ What I Liked: Once again I enjoyed the uniqueness of this tale. Unlike book one, magic plays a big role in this adventure, though mainly as a subject of debate with tantalizing hints as to its validity.

The story centers around Theron Campion and his University mentor/lover. Theron has many of the qualities of his father, Alec. He is an enigma when it comes to personality. Sometimes blindly passionate, sometimes easily led, insecure but with the arrogance that comes from a being member of the upper class, he often wavers between loyalties. His lover however, the handsome professor Basil St. Cloud, is more single minded in his pursuits. Whether is the search for historical truth or romancing his soulmate, Dr. St. Cloud throws all of his attention into his current task to the exclusion of all else.

I also liked the political aspect. It is a true fact that history is rewritten by the victors and this tale brings that lesson home in a big way. Truth is not always welcome, especially when it challenges current opinion. Basil St. Cloud has an uphill battle as he attempts to prove that not only did magic exist in the past, but there is a vital need for it to come into play again.

And it is much more than politics, romance or even magic. There are layers upon layers of story as complicated and unbalanced as the society itself. Loyalties change frequently as the players in this melodrama try to choose a side. Betrayal, deceit, broken hearts and secrets test each player on this theatrical stage. Bonds are formed and bonds are broken. Lies are told and truths are spoken. And all the while ancient mystical forces are behind the scene leading the dance.

Sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, but rarely boring, this story has alot to say.

♦ What I didn't like: Because this tale takes place many years past the events that took place in book one, I often felt a bit lost. There were too many interesting characters, a number of them very strong women, whose story I wanted to know more about. I would have been in worse shape if the short stories included in Swordspoint hadn't provided a bit of a lead in, but even with that, the lead in was incomplete. Interesting enough, I did get a good amount of fascinating detail on the history of Riverside. Unfortunately I did not get much background on the current players in this drama.

I also wish I had known a bit more about the lore regarding the "Great Hunt." I vaguely remember it being associated with druids. (I think) The basic premise having to do with Kings being bound by blood to the land in a series of rituals which included a hunt for a horned stag. Now here is my problem. I could have looked it up but that would have meant pulling out of the book to research well... the book. Again I felt like I was missing information that would have greatly enhanced the story. As it was, I muddled along as best I could.

♦ Conclusion: I can't say in all honesty that I loved this book. Liked it, yes, loved it, no. I kept wishing it was about Jessica, Theron's pirate sister, or Sophia, Theron's physician mother, the first woman ever to hold a chair in the University or even his strong-willed aunt Katherine, the Duchess of Tremontaine, who was an excellent swordswoman and a fierce matriarch.

Now, from what I read in the Afterword of Swordpoint, Ellen Kushner actually started writing the third book, which is set only 15 years after Swordspoint, before writing and publishing The Fall of Kings with Delia Sherman. It appears that Priviledge of the Sword is indeed written about Katherine. I have a feeling, gleaned from the parts she played in this drama, I am going to love her story. What I am questioning now is if I should have read them out of order. I'll have to let you know.

♦ Additional Reviews ♦

Series Summary ~ Book 1 ~ Book 2

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Librarything 3.62/5

Amazon: 3.6/5
(36 customer Reviews)

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Fantasy Book Review of The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (Riverside Book 3) - Reviewed by Mulluane - on February 7 2014 - Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Mulluane is a 56-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

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  1. I remember slightly more about the Great Hunt beyond the Druid connection, but I don't know much fo the kinds of things you mentioned. I'd have to look it up, too. {Sympathetic Smile}

    I'm curious which reading order you'd recommend. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. Yeah, I love history, especially religions, myths and mythology but I'm finding alot of holes in my memory lately. I'm pretty sure I knew at one time but memory is like muscles. If you don't use it, it gets weak. "Modern" fantasy doesn't touch on these subjects much these days.

      I'll let you know on the order. I spent way too much of this novel scratching my head when events from the previous 60 years were mentioned and going "Wait! When did they do that and why! It was distracting.

      Kinda felt like walking into a conversation where everybody knows what is being discussed but you.

  2. I notice that problem, too, when I've been away from a subject for a while. I'm sure I used to know some things, but that doesn't mean I remember them when I want the information now. {Smile}

    Thanks. That does sound like an awkward situation for a reader. It makes me wonder about the best reading order, too. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. It does appear that I did read them out of order. After a brief discussion with Ellen Kushner on Twitter I discovered that while Kings was indeed published before Priviledge of the Sword, it is in actuality the third book. To quote "Yes, very confusing: Pub Dates & World Chronology differ!"

      She thoughtfully provided me with 2 links where she explains the reading order. I'll post them in both my third review and in the summary. Meanwhile I'll change this title to reflect the correct order and later I'll change the post dates to align them numerically.

      I may have to delete this review, repost it and do a link redirect to correct the permalink itself but that isn't hard to do :>)

    2. That was very nice of the author to straighten things out for you. I'm glad you got that sorted, tho it would have been nicer to get it sorted before you read the books. {Sympathetic Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin


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