27 December 2010

Book Banter -- Swordspoint

Title: Swordspoint
Author: Ellen Kushner
Length: 269 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Richard St Vier is the legendary swordsman in Riverside. When he kills two men at a fashionable garden party and the Duke leaves for the country, the whole of Riverside and the Hill slides into a tumultuous political upheaval as nobles plot against noble. Their primary weapons are Richard and his lover, Alec, and it will take all of their combined cunning to stay alive.

Banter Points: I read this book in high school, totally forgot about it, then stumbled on to just browsing the stacks one afternoon and thought this seems like a book I'd enjoy. Once I started reading, I instantly remember Richard St Vier and the terrible, derivative swordsman-style fiction I tried to write that semester in creative writing. While I liked the book at 17, I really enjoyed it now --mumblemumble -- years later. There was lots I somehow missed then (like the whole relationship between Richard and Alec... cough... how naive was I?) and the intricacies of the political maneuverings.

"Swordspoint" feels sort of like steampunk, maybe "regencypunk?" -- that twisting of history. It's got all the manners of the best historical fiction and all the swashbuckling action of fantasy novels.

Bummer Points: This is the only novel featuring St Vier. There are a couple short stories about him and Alec. There are a couple short stories that I will have to track down. I think more novels in a series probably would have cheapened the first one, but that doesn't mean I don't still wish they existed.

Word Nerd Recommendation: "Swordspoint" is a quiet cult, classic among fantasy books. It's not flashy, it doesn't have an epic quest, just amazing characters and an even better plot.

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