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Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners | [Ellen Kushner]

Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners

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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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award, Audio Drama, 2013

Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.

A few words from Neil on Swordspoint: "It's as if Jane Austen wrote fantasy... an imaginary world where the characters are real people: a Vanity Fair of aristocrats, rogues, orphans, and heroes; a book where the best swordsman in the land can make far more money dueling at private parties than he can as a knight-errant. Ellen Kushner casts her sharp eye over them all, but with great affection and lavish detaiI.... couldn't think of a better performer for Swordspoint than Ellen, and her reading is polished, intimate, and – since Riverside is of her creation – wholly authentic.

"What really makes this production of Swordspoint unique, though, is the supporting cast in this special "illuminated production". Several key scenes are fully dramatized, and throughout the entire book's soundscapes you will hear the cadences of the marketplace, the music of the drawing rooms, and of course the ring of steel drawn from the scabbard. Ellen actually wrote new dialogue for the crowd scenes, so the actors aren't just mumbling "rhubarb rhubarb" to simulate speech.... You'll be able to hear performances from acclaimed and award-winning actors, including Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, and the remarkable Simon Jones."

In this exciting new "illuminated production", the author herself reads her own work, supported by a full cast. Author Ellen Kushner is also a popular performer and National Public Radio host (Sound & Spirit). For years, fans have been asking her to record her own audiobook of Swordspoint. To mark the 25th anniversary of the book's publication, Ellen teamed up with Sue Zizza of SueMedia Productions, known for her signature touches of soundscapes and sound effects, multi-voiced dramatizations, and all the techniques of "illuminated production". Together they have made Swordspoint a brand-new audio experience, in which the full supporting cast dramatizes and illuminates key scenes from Ellen's compelling narration.

On the streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. And in this city, the swordsman 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. Because every man lives at sword's point, if you can only find his weakness. And even the greatest swordsman in Riverside has one thing he cares for deeply.

Hailed by critics as "a bravura performance, a delight from start to finish" (Locus), "intelligent, humorous and dramatic" (Publishers Weekly) and "witty, beguiling and ingenious" (Interzone) , Kushner's "Melodrama of Manners" has become a classic, a favorite not only of Neil Gaiman but a host of distinguished colleagues, including George R. R. Martin ("unforgettable!"), Orson Scott Card ("powerful") and Gene Wolfe ("as if Noel Coward had written a vehicle for Errol Flynn!").

The artwork used for the audiobook edition of Swordspoint is based on the artwork and design by Thomas Canty for the original first US edition of the book.

To hear more from Neil Gaiman on Swordspoint, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.

Learn more about Neil Gaiman Presents and Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).

©1987 Ellen Kushner (P)2011 SueMedia Productions

What the Critics Say

"A glorious thing, the book we might have had if Noel Coward had written a vehicle for Errol Flynn. It’s wicked and visual and witty, and it pulls you in like the doorman of a Bourbon Street bar." (Gene Wolfe)

"Swordspoint begins with a single drop of blood on a field of new-fallen snow, an image that burned itself forever into my mind the first time I encountered it. I can close my eyes and see it still. It’s a terrific opening, an unforgettable opening... and the book just gets better from there." (George R. R. Martin)

“Ellen Kushner delivers her utterly unique blend of modern fantasy and nineteenth-century novel of manners with absolute conviction, affectionate humor, and perfect phrasing. “Neil Gaiman Presents” has provided original music, lively soundscapes, and the voices of some of the audio world’s most distinguished performers. Hearing Katherine Kellgren, Dion Graham, and others sharpen the cutting, insightful dialogue is pure pleasure.” (Audiofile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (774 )
5 star
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3.4 (694 )
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3.9 (693 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    The Ineffable Pangolin The Empire State 01-29-13
    The Ineffable Pangolin The Empire State 01-29-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
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    7
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    "99% Kushner, 1% "cast", 100% adolescent fantasy"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Neil Gaiman seemed inordinately proud of the supposedly full-voiced production. Why, then is this 99% Ellen Kushner reading it? MAYBE 1% is performed by the actors (who aren't terribly good) they advertised, and sometimes even those scenes shift abruptly into Ellen Kushner reading it again, Kushner voicing the same characters they had previously had voiced by actors & actresses; after the mid-way point, even that 1% ceases and it becomes all-Kushner-all-the-time. This was a sham, a case of false advertising, a waste of my time and money. Either have a single person read the whole thing, like most other audiobooks, or have a full cast performing the whole thing. You can't get away with this sort of piss-poor production if you plan to advertise it as something else.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Ellen Kushner again?

    No.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

    I would have cast either a full cast or just Kushner. Make up your minds, folks.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    No. It read like a female version of what women accuse men of writing when we write lesbians -- an adolescent fantasy. It's all fashion and parties and squabbling over status, with action sequences that usually occur off-stage or crawl along at a snail's pace, set in a world in which every man is only one meaningful glance away from hopping into bed with another man. It read like the sort of terrible Harry Potter slash-fics my female friends wrote in high school and college - a girl's fantasy of what men get up to when women aren't around.


    Any additional comments?

    I regret buying the sequel at the same time I bought this book. I anticipated loving this, since everyone seems to, and instead I find myself despising it.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Novel Girl 01-25-13
    Novel Girl 01-25-13 Member Since 2011

    I like Fantasy novels :)

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unique, slightly magical, great listen"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Swordspoint to be better than the print version?

    Yes, the cast is great and it adds another dimension to the story


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Swordspoint?

    Richard's voice, the relationships of the characters


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    the sense of the scenes and time period


    Any additional comments?

    If you enjoy this genre, this is a must listen. I even bought the paperback to keep in my physical library

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lindsay Jeffers 12-22-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Detailed Swashbuckler"
    What did you love best about Swordspoint?

    The well-described locations and complex relationships among the many characters gave this story a solidity that I appreciated.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Gorham, ME, United States 11-07-12
    Jennifer Gorham, ME, United States 11-07-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Spellbinding"

    Murder, swordsmen, intrigue and a complex maelstrom of human emotions move through this novel like a river. Masterfully executed and riveting from beginning to end.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emily Auburndale, MA, United States 01-12-12
    Emily Auburndale, MA, United States 01-12-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Amazing performance!"
    If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

    Sexy swashbuckling politicoes


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Richard and Alec are kind of terrible but I love them in spite of themselves. Although hmm, the Duchess might beat them.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Well, I've heard Ellen read in person before, so sort of? She's a fantastic reader, and loves her characters and her settings so much. This was a great performance, and the sound effects and other actors for the dramatized scenes really added such richness to the recording.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Oh, those mad, bad boys.


    Any additional comments?

    I read this book a few years ago, and just loved it then. Having such a fantastic audio version made me wriggly with joy. The last line of dialog is so simple and, out of context, utterly mundane, and the fact that it made me weep into my steering wheel is a testament to Kushner's ability to make a reader care so much about the characters that all of the context can fit into such a short line.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Minneapolis, MN, United States 12-27-11
    Chris Minneapolis, MN, United States 12-27-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful production of a terrific book"

    Swordspoint is one of my all-time favorite books--one I re-read every few years. I find it exceptionally compelling as a story, and I love the complexity of the plot and the intricate maneuvering of the characters. Ellen Kushner is a superb writer, and I have read all her work, including the other tales of Riverside. Swordsman Richard St. Vier and his lover Alec are two amazing fictional characters and I love being a part of their world. The audio version of the book is terrific: Kushner and her supporting cast make the ten plus hours fly by. Congratulations to everyone involved in the production, and thanks to Neil Gaiman for selecting it.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sho Sunaga 12-17-11
    Sho Sunaga 12-17-11

    Love Star Trek

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great experience"

    I have read this book in Japanese more than 20years ago and this was the first time "reading" it in English and let me tell you...Wow

    The audiobook version of this book was given as a gift to me and it was such a jewel. It is actually read by the author with the casts including music and sound effects. I was not only able to experience the original English version, but also could enjoy the nuances and the richness of the dialogues as well, through the wonderful narration by the author.

    The experience of listening to this production was like watching (listening) to a classical Shakespeare-like periodic play. If you are a fan of this book, don't miss the experience!

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chantelle Hamilton, ON, Canada 03-14-12
    Chantelle Hamilton, ON, Canada 03-14-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "LOVED this book"
    If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

    Society requires sublimation


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Alec and St. Vere - on their own they might be flat character types but together they are magic.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    Narrator/Author does a wonderful job of conveying the different voices of her characters and their shifting emotions and vulnerabilities. The audio cast is excellent but you hardly even miss the actors when the narrator is speaking their lines.


    Any additional comments?

    A fantasy with its feet firmly planted on the ground. And it is good, rich, ground. If you love the English Renaissance, and English renaissance drama in particular, this is the book for you.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Roseville, MN, United States 11-30-11
    Sandra Roseville, MN, United States 11-30-11 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS BOOK!"

    I have read the original book several times and never dreamed I would get lucky enough to have the author herself read her work, with selected dramatization in parts. It's wonderful, it's fantastic, it's...well...it's Richard and Alec, the quintessential couple. And once again they are coming alive in my life, but this time via my ears instead of my eyes. I couldn't be much happier.

    16 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric San bernardino, CA, United States 12-08-11
    Eric San bernardino, CA, United States 12-08-11 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Story - sound effects distracting"

    I remember loving this book when I first read it and it was just as good the second time around. Brilliantly complex take on the swashbuckling story. The only negative is probably personal, I didn't care for the sound effects, some were just off, and others pulled me out of the story.
    Overall it was an excellent listen and if you like sound effects it will be splendid.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
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