Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Swordspoint is the sort of fantasy that isn't really "fantasy" at all (no wizards, no dragons), but more of an "alternate history" where a realistic story is set in a world that might have been. It is set in "The City," a sort-of London located in an England slightly different from the one in the history we know. The two major changes are these: First, the monarchy has been abolished and replaced with an elected body. Second, society is more sexually open and tolerant, and there is no stigma attached to being gay or bisexual.
Our hero, or should I say our anti-hero, is Richard St Vier, swordsman for hire. He makes his living by fighting duels for nobles who aren't skilled enough to fight their own. He lives in Riverside, the lower-class ghetto, with his lover Alec, an educated and sarcastic young man who at times betrays hints of noble birth. Richard gets embroiled in the plot... Read More
Ellen KushnerEllen Kushner is the host of NPR’s Sound & Spirit. Visit her website.
The World of Riverside — (1987-2006) The Riverside novels all take place in the same unnamed city. Publisher: 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.
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners by Ellen Kushner
Set in a fictional Georgian-era-type society, Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners is a “fantasy of manners” or “mannerpunk” novel. In contrast to epic fantasy, where the characters are fighting with swords and the fate of the universe is often at stake, mannerpunk novels are usually set in a hierarchical class-based society where the characters battle with words and wit. There may or may not be magic or sorcery involved and, in many ways, this subgenre of fantasy literature is more like historical fiction that takes place in an imaginary universe. The focus is on societal structures and social commentary. Characters may not be changing THE world, but they’re changing THEIR world. If you like Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse, mannerpunk may be just your thing.
In Swordspoint... Read More
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
“Whatever the duke means to do with her, it can’t be anything decent.”
The Privilege of the Sword is Ellen Kushner’s sequel to her novel Swordspoint which was about the doings of the high and low societies in her fictional town of Riverside. The main characters of that novel were the nobleman Alec Tremontaine, a student, and his lover, the famous swordsman Richard St. Vier. You don’t need to read Swordspoint before reading The Privilege of the Sword, but it will probably be more enjoyable if you do because you’ll have some background on most of the characters.
Now Alec is known as the Mad Duke Tremontaine. He spends some of his time in his mansion outside the city, but he really prefers to reside in his house in Riverside where the common people live. The Mad Duke is known for being rapacious and decadent. Yet when he... Read More
The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors by Terri Windling
I love adult fairy tales, but it seems that all too often, writers pump up the sex and violence to render the tales "adult," rather than more deeply exploring the human emotional dramas in the stories. Maybe that's why I love the anthology The Armless Maiden: And Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors which was edited by Terri Windling. The tales and poems here do include sex and violence, yes, but at their heart is the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
So many of the classic fairy tales include situations that we would now call abuse. Hansel and Gretel were abandoned, Donkeyskin suffered incest, and the original Sleeping Beauty was raped rather than kissed. In most of these stories, the protagonist endures great pain, then rises above the suffering and triumphs over his or her tormentors. In the old versions, the pr... Read More
Thomas the Rhymer — (1990) Publisher: A minstrel lives by his words, his tunes, and sometimes by his lies. But when the bold and gifted young Thomas the Rhymer awakens the desire of the powerful Queen of Elfland, he finds that words are not enough to keep him from his fate. As the Queen sweeps him far from the people he has known and loved into her realm of magic, opulence — and captivity — he learns at last what it is to be truly human. When he returns to his home with the Queen’s parting gift, his great task will be to seek out the girl he loved and wronged, and offer her at last the tongue that cannot lie.
The Golden Dreydl — (2007) Ages 8 and up. Publisher: Sara finds Chanukah celebrations boring. When her Tante Miriam arrives and gives her a Golden Dreydl, everything changes. The dreydl, an enchanted princess in disguise, takes Sara on a journey to a magical world. When the princess is taken by the Demon King, who possesses the power of the Tree of Life, it is Sara who must use her wit to save the princess and return her to her parents — King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. A delightful holiday tale that weaves together threads of Jewish folklore and tradition with fantasy and humor.