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.
©1987 Ellen Kushner (P)2011 SueMedia Productions
"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)
I started listening this book more than a year ago and grew bored of it after some hours, the book sounding like a list of uninteresting nobles and their relationships.
I picked it up again last week and couldn't stop listening. Suddenly the world in the book was very alive and interesting.
I would recommend this one for people with the patience to dive into the world and let Ellen Kushner take care of the rest.
I didn't finish listening to this. Just not my thing...bit of a soap opera. I've really liked Neil Gaiman stories and just kind of went with it on that recommendation. I found the book a bit more descriptive (I don't want to use the word crude as that's not quite right) than I'm interested in.
I actually listened to the second book first - if I had gotten this one first, I might not have gone on, so if you have doubts about this one, hang in there.
I would recommend the book with reservations. The narration is all over the map with the narrator sometimes speaking for a character and then a different actor speaking for the same person, so a little confusing. Voices weren't consistent and I think that made the story line a bit disjointed.
Narration & pace of the story were pretty good apart from the inconsistency of who speaks/narrates.
I love full cast audio books when they are done well. While this is not strictly a full cast - Ellen Kushner reads the majority with background and secondary characters filled in by the supporting cast - it has the same all encompassing quality of full cast productions. I was so drawn in by the narration that I was unable to do much of anything until I had finished the book.
The written prose of the book is also exquisite. The imagery is lush and sumptuous as a bubble bath, rich as dark chocolate. I think I am in danger of becoming addicted to Ellen Kushner's writing.
I have been a long time subscriber to Audible and travel for a living. As such I listen to audio books an average of four hours per day. When I research my purchases I take some time to read reviews, etc, and usually they are spot on (not so with this series). Within a few hours of listening I was bombed with scene after scene of homosexuality. No where in the reviews was this mentioned or I missed it. I can endure a bit of that if the rest of the work held up but that was not the case. The writing is what I would expect from a first year college student and seems forced with no real objective in mind. The plotting seems to be a second thought, as though we are supposed to be so enthralled with the descriptions of the sensual thoughts going through the minds of the players as to ignore anything else. There is nothing here of any value to save this work including the author's narration. She needs to leave this to the professionals. This is the first time I have been motivated to write a review. I have been so pleased with my book selections in the past that this one stands out as a big mistake!
As far as I can tell no one reviewing this book mentioned that the story is a sappy, homosexual romance.
I read it because Neil Gimond described it as "what Jane Austen would have written if she wrote fantasy". The comparison is a slander of Jane Austen's writing style.
Swordpoint doesn't have much action and frankly the "witty dialect" and plot consist of characters speaking somewhat in period for Jane Austen's books. This is not enough to entitle a book to the description of clever. The only shrewd part was two sentences on fireworks. I kept waiting for a surprising plot twist or something.
If someone had bothered actually saying what book was about I would not have wasted my time or a credit on such trash. Thank goodness for Audible's return policy.So fair warning.
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 did not like this book. It was slow, tedious and boring. The plot seemed to meander. The characters were depressing with few redeeming qualities.
Graphic Designer. Culinary Enthusiast. Mostly User Friendly.
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.
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