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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 (783 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Jacobus Johannesburg, South Africa 12-13-13
    Jacobus Johannesburg, South Africa 12-13-13 Member Since 2009

    When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A intricately woven out-of-the-box story"

    Ellen Kushner's ability to weave a net of intrigue is to be admired. In 'Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners' the listener is introduced to a mysterious university student that hits it off with a swordsman in the city slums called Riverside. You are quickly reminded in the story that it is not the Middle Ages, but a place where the chivalry of the Middle Ages are blended with modern issues and snobbish aristocracy creating an eerie world within which it plays off.

    Kushner is a master of misdirection, suspense and surprise. What I found difficult however was to identify with one of the characters, they felt so otherworldly that I completely felt left out. Maybe I am too conservative in my views, but I found that there was a huge gap between my values and those portrayed by the prominent figures in the book.

    The book seems to be a mix between an audio drama and a book. The scenes where voice artists played out the little intrigues were exquisite. It is candy for the ear. Yet I had to tune my ear in to Kushner's reading and identifying of a character that suddenly had her voice and not the male voice of once of the scenes. It made it difficult for me to follow - especially at the beginning - but I while I got more used to it towards the end, I cannot say that it didn't hinder. That said Kushner's own reading was superb.

    If you like intrigue, civil nastiness where tea parties are more important than city council meetings and the flare of sword fighting this book might be for you. It is woven together very intricately like a tapestry, so be careful not to get lost by missing a thread. (Listen to it... with manners.)

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin 10-06-13
    Robin 10-06-13
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    "Discovered I don't like "radio play" format"

    I am probably not doing this book justice as others have loved it. I was sure I would like it as I have read Ellen Kushner in print and enjoy this type of fantasy. I found the plot intriguing, but was put off by the radio play format. There are multiple actors as well as sound effects. I'm sure many people will enjoy this, but I found it artificial and distracting, as if it was getting between me and the story. Strange as it sounds, I found it harder to tell the characters apart with different voices than with one narrator, that is with different voices coming in and out, I couldn't remember which was who. Maybe just my quirks.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Cypress, TX, United States 08-14-13
    Laura Cypress, TX, United States 08-14-13
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    "Decent book, but a warning"

    Altogether, this was an acceptable book; I didn't get really interested in the plot until the first half was almost over. Other reviews have addressed the shortcomings and good parts of the book, so I won't repeat them. I do want to point out, because it isn't clear in the other reviews or the summary of the book, that there is a LOT of homosexuality. Nothing particularly explicit, but very intimate. If that is something you don't want to hear about repeatedly, then you should avoid this book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremiah United States 06-12-13
    Jeremiah United States 06-12-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Not a big fan"
    What disappointed you about Swordspoint?

    Pretty much the entire experience of this book was disappointing. I snagged it due to the awesome reviews. The story line was interesting, but tit never really sat well with me. I must admit I was not a huge fan of the whole gay main characters. I was more interested in the fancy sword play intrigue of why they needed swordsman to fight duels and the description of the duels themselves. I understand how the characters played into it, but for me it just caused me to lose interest. There was no avert sexual descriptions or truly erotic nature.

    On top of this it was a cross between a narration and a drama. Sometimes characters would have their own voices, and others the author would be narrating. I was never sure when it would appear or why it would appear. I actually think I would have enjoyed it more if the whole book was voice actors with sound effects. Much more. This whole back and forth and it randomly starting up just drew me away from the book. It took me a month to finish such a short book. I would put off listening to it for the radio more times than not and decided to muscle my way through it.

    It was definitely interesting to have the author read the book because the dialogue became how she intended it. The enunciation was what she had in her head when she was writing it. I definitely


    The intrigue was good. It was quite interesting to see the plays moved by characters for power. This was almost as huge a point as the duels if not even more so. I almost feel like it would be a good arc in its own right.

    This is just one man's opinion and as such it is an opinion. I am sure if you talk to others they will appreciate it.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah 05-25-13
    Deborah 05-25-13
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    "Boring story, poorly read"

    Neil Gaiman's glowing review attracted me to this title. What a mistake. No wit, flat characters, and annoying voices. As a Jane Austen fan, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that this story has none of Austen's wit or depth of human understanding. I am baffled by the comparison. Really disappointing.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yvonne Southfield, mi, United States 09-05-12
    Yvonne Southfield, mi, United States 09-05-12 Member Since 2009
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    "A classic witty melodrama"

    First, the narrators did an EXCELLENT job. The various voices added texture, individualism, and character to the interesting people in the fantasy of old world elegance.

    Light Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night there are plot twist, lovers misunderstanding, old rivalries and new alliances, humor, loyalty and chivalry which makes this a enjoyable book to hear.

    In Riverside the biggest dived between if you are a noble or not is which side of the river you live. It is the time when you live and die by the sword and the rules which apply, to you living or dying, depend on if you are a noble or not.

    Richard St Vier is the pre-eminent swordsman who earns his living by fighting for the nobles. Alec is a former university student with a taste for danger and self-destruction and is St. Vier companion and lover.

    When the machinations of the nobles effect Richard and Alex cause Richard to change the rules of the sword and impacts the residents on both sides of Riverside.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    India Fitzgerald VA, USA 08-06-12
    India Fitzgerald VA, USA 08-06-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Stunning. Something different for fans of fantasy."
    If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

    Believable, captivating, and enchanting.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved the intricate details and descriptions set forth by the author. Not one thing is left out, and her cast of characters are all richly defined. You can -see- the world, instead of just imagining it.


    What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

    All of the narrators - Kushner, and guests, perfectly captured the nuances that make the characters human and believable. So many audiobooks glaze over those subtleties, which leaves a rather gaping hole. Not so with this work. Every one is done to excellence, hitting the nail on the proverbial head.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Both. Always both. It's an emotional journey from beginning to end.


    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terrell Houston, TX, United States 04-13-12
    Terrell Houston, TX, United States 04-13-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pointless"
    What did you like best about Swordspoint? What did you like least?

    The book had excellent production value. Nothing distracted me from listening to the story. The problem was that it was about characters that I never managed to develop an interest in.


    What could Ellen Kushner have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Make me at some point feel that the story was heading somewhere.


    Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

    I had no favorite.


    Did Swordspoint inspire you to do anything?

    Delete the book from my computer.


    Any additional comments?

    I found it highly ironic to have a book about swordplay that to me seemed completely pointless.

    7 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Pearson Idaho 01-06-12
    E. Pearson Idaho 01-06-12 Member Since 2008

    Occasional Thinker

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    "Huge Dissappointment"

    I can imagine how some people might rave about this book, but for me it was not at all what I'd expected. I thought I had read carefully the descriptions of this novel, and the emphatic praise given to Ellen Kushner as the creator of a book on culture and manners, but somehow, the reality of what genre this book fits into completely escaped me. I've seldom enjoyed fiction that is so entirely placed in fictional lands and societies that I can't imagine any reality or point to what I'm reading, and that's what Swordspoint is: so otherworldly that as a human being living in a human world (!) there is almost no toehold for me to clutch at. I didn't care about any of the characters: none was specific enough to latch onto as a friend or a character related in some way to myself, and I cared even less for the development of the plot. In all fairness, I should admit that I only got one-quarter of the way into the 3-installment recording before I gave up on it. I may come back to it and give it anotherr try, but for now I just needed to read fiction or nonfiction based on reality.

    The recording and narration were, as promised, very well done. That helped me keep going for as long as I did.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Noell San Juan Capistrano, CA, United States 01-16-12
    Noell San Juan Capistrano, CA, United States 01-16-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great story telling, the story not so much."

    Kushner is an excellent storyteller- that much I cannot deny. She paints a picture of Riverside and its band of cutthroats most wonderfully, contrasted with the Hill and its somewhat more sophisticated nobles. However, I did not expect the casualness of the sexuality of the characters. For example, Michael goes from making love to a female to Lord Horn, an old gentleman friend of his mother's. I did not expect this. One of the reasons I chose this book was because it was one of Neil Geiman's favorites and it had the voice talent of Katherine Kelgren. The dramatization is great, the author's narration superb, and the action scenes spectacular- but the characters themselves do not really move me nor do their various escapades.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
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