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Swordspoint (Riverside) Mass Market Paperback – February 4, 2003

4 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the World of Riverside Series

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$7.99 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 14 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the highly stratified world of Kushner's nameless old city, the aristocrats living in fine mansions on the Hill settle their differences by sending to the thieves' den of Riverside for swordsmen who will fight to the death for a point of someone else's honor. Young Lord Michael Godwin is so taken by these romantic figures that he studies the art himselfuntil challenged by the best of them. Master of the Sword, Richard St. Vier is picky in his contracts and precise in his killing but he nevertheless becomes embroiled in the nobility's political, social and sexual intrigues. When his lover Alec is kidnapped by Lord Horn, St. Vier must take drastic action. Kushner's authorial voice may be somewhat smug and self-conscious but that suits her subject. Her novel is intelligent, humorous and dramatic, with a fine, malicious feeling for the operation of gossip in a closed society.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“[Kushner] draws you through the story with such lucid, powerful writing that you come to trust her completely--and she doesn’t let you down...Watch this woman--she’s going to be one of the great ones.”
--Orson Scott Card

"There is an element of high romance to Kushner’s work, but it is honed to a bleeding edge by a deep appreciation of what motivates men and women. These are fantasies for adults, with the pang of real love and loss in them, sometimes surprisingly violent, sometimes breathtakingly tender, and sometimes very passionate indeed." --Realms of Fantasy

Product Details

  • Series: Riverside (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553585495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553585490
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #672,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
_Swordspoint_, Ellen Kushner's "melodrama of manners" from 1987, features vividly drawn characters in a non-standard fantasy setting. Graceful swordplay replaces magic, dense Regency-era social customs replace feudal hierarchy, and political intrigue replaces the usual battle between good and evil. With the refreshing lack of apocalyptically dire stakes, Kushner's complex characters take center stage.

The fantasy setting is a nameless pre-technological city, with districts of elegant estates and gritty slums. Yet Kushner's approach makes this setting unique. She never halts the story or disrupts the atmosphere to explain the workings of the society. Government titles and institutions are noted only when appropriate to the characters' motivations. This isolation from the infrastructure of the society leaves the characters' perceived world -- the areas of the society that they inhabit -- as the dominant face of the setting.

Kushner wrings intense conflict from her constrained setting by cutting to the heart of her characters' motivations. Her portrayal of a Regency-style social scene feels perfect, in both the delicate high society and the gritty low. After a quick first chapter, the novel crawls through slow social scenes with secondary characters whose importance hasn't yet been shown. As such, their lengthy gossip doesn't have any context or meaning at this early stage. Once Richard begins receiving offers for duels, the plot picks up speed. The intrigue gradually ensnares all the previously introduced characters and rushes toward the conclusion. The ending features a clever twist, and all the characters' lives are irrevocably changed.

_Swordspoint_ is a delightfully compact novel, especially by modern fantasy standards.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's like Georgette Heyer meets Armistead Maupin meets "The Lion In Winter". I loved it.
Kushner takes every predictable Regency/Gothic/Modern Romance cliche and turns it on it's head. The stalwart hero is a master swordsman, a devoted lover...and a complete sociopath. The highborn love of his life is a green-eyed, sultry-voiced beauty...with severe emotional problems and a lot more testosterone than one generally expects in highborn beauties.
The beauty gets kidnapped and manhandled. The hero gets even and then gets lucky. The beauty takes a powder. The hero gets arrested. The beauty has a brief, but memorable, career in politics. The hero gets off and then bows out graciously. The beauty lures him back with fish and chips and...whatever.
I highly recommend this one, and I can't tell you how pleased I am that there's a sequel in the works.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a wonderful book. It's got beautiful prose, lovely imagery, comedy, drama, intrigue, action -- everything you could want in a historical fantasy novel.

The plot can be somewhat difficult to follow as it moves from the drawing-room intrigues of the rich to the bohemian taverns of the students, drinkers, swordsmen, and gamblers of Riverside, but it barely matters. There's more than enough to ogle along the way, even if you're never quite in a position to grasp the whole picture of who-betrayed-whom and for-what-reason.

Also, Swordspoint features one of the most well-done relationships I have ever read, gay or otherwise. Mostly, I think, it's because Alec Tremontaine is an absolute gem of a character. He's both beautiful and despicable, noble and dissolute, and he's so finely drawn that he just steals whatever scene he's in, even if he's lounging around in the background of it. In order to really get into this book, you have to fall in love with self-destructive, sarcastic, bitter, brilliant Alec the way Richard St. Vier does, you have to understand what it's like to love someone who's unpredictable and talented and simultaneously deeply flawed, and why such love, capricious and difficult as it is, might be worth risking everything for.

There are many, many authors who strive to create such flawed and beautiful characters, and in my opinion often fail miserably. It's hard to pull off such a thing convincingly, and Kushner does it admirably here. And it's not only the character of Alec that's convincing; it's also the way Alec and Richard play off one another, contrast with one another, Richard's constant optimism a constant foil to Alec's bitter sarcasm and mercurial temperament.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I first heard about Swordspoint through Amazon.com. I'm quite a regular at Amazon, not just buying things but just looking up stuff and finding more stuff to read. One of my favorite features is My Recommendations, which given how many things I've rated or reviewed, are actually pretty accurate.
So one day when Amazon realized I had a penchant for reading fantasy books with queer characters (gee, how would it guess?!), out popped a message on a page saying "Hey, you might like to read Swordspoint!" (Or something similar, think it was worded differently.) So I checked out the description, read the reviews and thought, "Huh, that does sound interesting!" and you know, ordered it. (Boy, Amazon makes it too easy!)
Swordspoint turned out not to be exactly what I had expected. Having just come off of reading Lynn Flewelling's delightful, outstanding Nightrunner series, I was I guess expecting something a little racier or filled with heart-pounding action or some magic or something really scary. Instead I found the book to be just what it says on the back cover, a "melodrama of manners."
There's a well-drawn relationship between a professional swordsman and a mysterious noble scholar who's abandoned his privilege for a death wish, and that was fun, but then there was another half to the story with nobles plotting and scheming, politics and politenesses and callings cards -- which to me was not so fun. I loved the bits with dashing Richard St Vier and drunken bitter Alec, but every time I'd really start to get into them, the chapter would end and I'd have to slog through a scene of some noblelady or nobleman's blathering or covering up some secret or plotting to knock off a rival. To me, patient and literate as I am, those bits just were boring and dry.
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3 Comments 120 of 140 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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