a dedicated dilettante
Swordspoint is a particularly good example of the challenges of book selling in a world of genre focus and the challenges of making your work known. Swordspoint has been called a "melodrama of manners", a fantasy, a high romance and a fairy tale for grown ups. To me, it seems like an alternate world history novel about the political and sexual intrigues of court. Obviously that's not a genre. One distinguishing feature of the novel, and possibly the fantasy element, is that nearly all of the men are bisexual; none of the women are depicted this way
Her descriptions, characters, pacing (for a book on court intrigues) and world creation are spot on. It is a testament to her writing that I became invested in what happened to Richard. Her descriptions present the world of Riverside in such a way that I feel as though I've furtively traveled through the streets or wandered up the Hill. It's also described in such a way, that I wouldn't like to visit, let alone live there. The characters who peopled her story were often complex and clever. Ironically, the two people who seemed to have the best character were killers: Richard St Vier and Vincent Applethorpe (a former swordsman who ran a fencing school).
It is a well built world I don't care for peopled with complex characters that I mostly don't like and has as its main focus clever politicking and sexual intrigue amongst the lords of the city which I don't prefer as a focus. If you like this stuff (and the bisexual element doesn't bother you), then you'll like Ms. Kushner's book.
I had an opportunity to listen to much of the audiobook (I went between the Kindle and Audible versions using Whispersync for Voice). Overall, it nicely done. It was not quite a full audio play but it was a multi-cast reading with sound effects. While Ms. Kushner has solid narration skills developed doing radio with WGBH (Boston), the tone in her voice is not my favorite. She does a nice job of narration; this is simply personal preference.
I made a vow this year to try to write "positive" negative reviews, as in, I didn't like this, but you might like it if...but in some cases I feel I've gotten a bait and switch based on the description of a book and my temper flairs.
I wouldn't be quite so hard on this book if it weren't for the fact that it won an audie award and was championed by Neil Gaiman. This book was described as Jane Austin-esque fantasy with a "supporting cast" and "soundscapes."
Firstly, I get zero Jane Austin from this. It is primarily an action adventure book. Yes, there are scenes of people having dinner or tea and chatting, but also scenes of swordplay ending in death and fairly graphic sex scenes, which are not REALLY something you'd find in Pride and Prejudice.
The supporting cast pops in from time to time and this is quite jarring. Imagine, you've been listening to the main narrator doing all the voices for half an hour, then randomly, another actor pops in for a few lines. Huh?
The sound effects are completely random. Why they chose to highlight certain sounds is beyond me. So...no sound effects for a whole scene, then a loud sound of a piece of paper being crumpled. Or, sudden clicking tea cups when that isn't even a plot point, they are just drinking tea.
The occasional music was fine.
Finally, if you are sensitive to adverbs, which I didn't think I was, you will lose your mind. "He said, archly, darkly, quickly, slyly, overtly, snidely..." I'm okay with adverbs but at some point they signal that the author fears the reader will not understand the state of mind of the person speaking. And, really, I didn't.
I did not like this book. It was slow, tedious and boring. The plot seemed to meander. The characters were depressing with few redeeming qualities.
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When I started listening to this book, I was excited to realize that this was an Audible Neil Gaiman Presents selection -- the first that I've listened to. In his opening introduction, he states that "It's as if Jane Austen wrote fantasy... an imaginary world where the characters are real people..." He had me at Jane Austen, of course, and if Jane Austen were a tad spicier, a fair amount darker, and had dealt with same-sex romance, that would be about right. I had a little trouble following all of the intrigue in audio form, even with the theatrical multi-voice narration. I do tend to have trouble with those sort of entwining storylines in general, though. I thought this was a very well-written book, and interesting in it's uniqueness. It felt like a mix of Fantasy and Regency Romance, but with a darker Historical Fiction sort of underbelly that made it seem a lot more real-world than those genres usually do.
Some may not be able to find the actual plot line in this story, It took me 2 listens to realize just what the heck was going on. It finally dawned on me that the story is a chess game, and like a chess game it's the lower pieces that get the most play. I also paid attention to which scenes were dramatized, as it says in the forward "key scenes" that apparently was a hint. I rather liked it even if some of the sound effects were more distracting, I really LOVED that the background talking is actual talking, with lines, instead of people mumbling under their breath.
If you find watching a chess game riveting, this story may be for you.
If you like understated gay romance between 2 amoral men, this story may be for you.
If you like subterfuge and puzzles and a plot line that takes actual work to understand, this story may be for you.
It was for me.
None of the reviews I read mentioned same sex sex scenes.
Only if they have same sex sex scenes.
Haven't listened much - chapter 7 or 8 so far and I've enjoyed the performance style.
I wouldn't say any need to be cut for those who aren't bothered by same sex sex. It just unsettles me and I wish there was a warning so I could move on...
I'd like a refund!
A fun and engaging book. I listened to the whole thing in one go. (Not sure I'd compare it to Austen, though...)
I listened to the second book in the series first and am so glad I did. It was wonderful! If I had listened to this one first however, I would have never listened to the second. This one lacked the character development and adventure of the second. It really dragged and the political structure was confusing.
Skip this one and move on to the next!
I tought this was a rather bizarre book. Maybe I am terribly dense, but through most of the book I was left wondering what was the point, and where is the story headed. I found it difficult to relate to the characters and the story line. The narration was fine, and the performance background was a great idea, but the book did not help matters.
A true plot, characters whom one would care about, and less contrived writing.
No, because I am not sure to which genre this book actually belongs. It is supposed to be a fantasy, yet it seems the author goes to great lengths to make it read as if it were not fantastic.
No, not really. It just seemed to be one of the most self conscious, tatted up, over embellished books I have ever read.
Don't bother unless you are young and inexperienced and know little of history.