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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

Read for the Once Upon a Time V Reading Challenge.

Swordspoint is the story of Richard St. Vier, a swordsman in a nameless city once ruled by a King, but now ruled by a council of nobles. These nobles use swordsmen as proxies for their personal battles, and Richard is the best.

Richard lives in Riverside, the older part of the city, where nobles once live, but now no longer come. They live up on the Hill, and it’s a different world than the one he inhabits. His lover is Alec, a poor scholar, who sometimes seems more than that. Both are men are drawn into the politics of the Hill when Richard is courted by some of the most powerful men in the city to do deeds that are terrible indeed.

This story is a fairy tale at its best – though I found it in the fantasy section, there is no magic, simply a landscape of lords and peasants, navigating a most complicated code of honor.

I come to this series a bit backwards, having first read The Privilege of the Sword, which takes place at least twenty years after the events of this book. The Privilege of the Sword is a lighter story, for while it does deal with politics, they are not as terrible and urgent as the politics of Swordspoint. I feel as though I should like one better than the other, but they’re such different books, I can’t choose one over the other. This is a most interesting world to visit – I highly recommend it to anyone that wants a fairy tale story taken to its grown up, logical extreme.

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