Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners (Riverside) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jan 2003
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|Mass Market Paperback, 1 Jan 2003||
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On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless-until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye...
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So far, I quite enjoyed it. Though I did find the secondary and support characters far more interesting than the main protagonist, who I felt was somewhat one-dimensional and a little dull as a character, which was a little disappointing. But the other characters, even the bit parts, felt so much more interesting. And the over all plot and politics and intrigue did keep me turning the pages.
This book does read a lot like a first attempt, and although it has it's short falls and a little clumsy in places, it is still an enjoyable read and a rather interesting setting. I definitely felt it worth giving a chance and have enjoyed overall reading through to the end, and look forward to the other two in the series.
I didn’t like how he treated Richard, but it was a long time before I accepted that I shouldn’t like Richard either. He’s an excellent swordsman in part because he has no moral compass whatsoever. It’s a well-executed sleight of hand; Ellen Kushner had me firmly in her protagonist’s camp before I clocked just how arrogant, naive and vicious he actually is. And she’d done her job well: I still rooted for him, even though I couldn’t admire him.
Then there’s the Duchess. The Duchess of Tremontaine isn’t the Marquise de Merteuil, because she’s too busy being herself: elegant, manipulative, the spider at the heart of the city’s web, orchestrating politics and passions with a twitch of her silken threads. She’s almost entirely off-screen, but her influence is everywhere. She’s overpowering. I love her to pieces.
The other players: Michael Godwin, Lord Ferris, Lord Halliday, Lord Horn, are all arguably her pawns, but the novel largely plays out from their perspective. There was a moment when I found myself missing a female narrative point of view, but mostly I was relishing the measured prose and mannered insults too much. I enjoyed having no idea what the Duchess was up to (and indeed whether she was up to anything, or whether everyone just assumed she was).
Ultimately, this is a character-driven novel of politics and manipulation. It relishes holding facts behinds its back in such a way that you know they’re there, even when you don’t know what they are. It excels at making terrible people terribly engaging. It’s not a high-stakes action epic, so people seeking plot-driven excitement may find that frustrating, but that didn’t bother me at all. The narrative pay-off at the end is immense - the wheels that have been spinning from the start result in startling choices and unexpected outcomes. The emotional aftermath is heart-breaking, with an open invitation to return for more.
This is intricate, with subtexts that catch your attention and further the action. The emotions that drive the characters are never simple or single, and are very human.
Read it, even if this genre is not normally your cup of tea.
However, I did feel that this story was lacking a lot...it felt a bit like a rather long short story, which, although very good and entertaining, it seemed to lead up to something big, then fall short. It led up to a big court case that lasted for several chapters, but wasn't very interesting. There were so many characters for something that seemed quite short, so it was hard to keep track of who was who, who was where, and who was doing who.
I felt what this story really lacked was a fantastic sex scene. I'm usually against them in most books, but I have to say in this one, it really, really needed it! She kept hinting that one was coming, and then dodging over it at the last minute. This just didn't work for me.
I like books I feel that I can read over and over again, but this one I didn't feel that I wanted to read again.
So basically, this is a great one-off read, with great, loveable characters, but the storyline is crowded and a bit uninteresting. It could have been so much better. But I still recommend reading it!