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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 (753 )
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3.9 (673 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Bonnie B. Matheson Charlottesville, VA United States 12-06-12
    Bonnie B. Matheson Charlottesville, VA United States 12-06-12 Member Since 2010

    BonnieB23

    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    "Historic fiction??? Just a really bad book."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A true plot, characters whom one would care about, and less contrived writing.


    Has Swordspoint turned you off from other books in this genre?

    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.


    What three words best describe the narrators’s voice?

    uncultured
    insincere
    boring


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

    No, not really. It just seemed to be one of the most self conscious, tatted up, over embellished books I have ever read.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't bother unless you are young and inexperienced and know little of history.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chris kelsey, CA, United States 10-17-12
    chris kelsey, CA, United States 10-17-12 Member Since 2012

    whistle while you work, or listen to books

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "a bore"
    Would you try another book from Ellen Kushner and/or the narrators?

    i liked the narrator, and her reading her story lent it a true bent to what the author pictured. unfortunately that was boring characters and a story line that was long and drawn out.


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

    ended it about twenty chapters earlier.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    disappointed in other peoples comments that made me have the idea it would be a good purchase. this book left much for wanting. i fell asleep with this on for about two hours and woke up none the worse for the plot line. if i did not have a desire to push through hard listens and a field job that requires long hours alone right now, i would have discarded this book hours ago. i finished it with a sigh of relief and the last four chapters drug on for hours it seemed.


    Any additional comments?

    she pushed the boundaries of sexuality, especially for the eighties, but pushed it right into a typical stereotype of gays, the flamboyant homosexual. i think she would have been better off writing about a lesbian couple where one was an unconventional swordsperson. this story was brutally boring and snobbish. i regret having listened to it, except for the comfort of knowing i pushed through a hard listen and came out unenlightened and disappointed in it. the only book on tape i have wished i had not bothered with, so far.

    skip this one, carry on. this is not the book you are looking for.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dustin Thornton, CO, United States 08-27-12
    Dustin Thornton, CO, United States 08-27-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Promising story peppered with lingering erotica"

    I was excited about the Neil Gaiman production, the talented vocal cast and the "fairy tale for adults." All of that was there, but I did not expect the constant sexual content. Everyone appears to be bisexual and the pace of the novel ceases as every move and glance is described in uncomfortable detail. I found myself skipping forward through half the scenes and finally gave up halfway through.

    Disappointing, and I wish a review had tipped me off. It will not be a problem for many, but if detailed sex scenes between men and women or men and men are not what you are looking for, skip this book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rob LONG BEACH, MS, United States 04-22-12
    Rob LONG BEACH, MS, United States 04-22-12 Member Since 2010

    Robert

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "There's Better"

    I listened to this book, my first dramatised audiobook, while I was taking a break from high fantasy. The story is definitely melodramatic! If you are looking at branching out from high fantasy like Tolkien, GRRM, Terry Brooks, or Jim Butcher - beware! This is not the book to come to. It reads like a stage act, which may have been the intent of the producers. I just could not enjoy the plot at all.

    If you are like me and do not care for gaudy levels of romance in your fantasy novels, look elsewhere, too.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick Brookings, OR, United States 03-17-12
    Patrick Brookings, OR, United States 03-17-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A waste of time"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who like stories without a clear storyline.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Ellen Kushner again?

    I she ever learns to write coherently


    What didn’t you like about the narrators’s performance?

    Cheesy narration, cheesy sound effects


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Swordspoint?

    All of the ridiculous fighting scenes with their prolonged sound effects accompanying the narration. Ellen Kushner needs to learn something about swordsmanship and the martial arts in general before she attempts to write coherently about these sequences. Combat sequences, especially if you are describing the actions of an individual with a high level of mastery in a form of combat should be decisive, not romanticized posing. I would recommend that Ellen Kushner would benefit from reading both The Art of War and The Book of Five Rings before attempting to write combat sequences.


    Any additional comments?

    From the just over half of this atrocious attempt at a fantasy novel that I was able to stomach I could not get a clear sense of where the storyline was going. The book seemed to be more of a vehicle for setting up disjointed romantic scenes between the various characters than providing a cohesive story.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer benson, AZ, United States 01-07-12
    Amazon Customer benson, AZ, United States 01-07-12 Member Since 2011

    Aging hippie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not Jane Austin"

    Jane Austin wrote romance. This novel is not a romance. There is sex and political intrique but no romance. The sound effects are clunky and distracting. I read the novel before listening to this reading. I thought maybe I had not appreciated the novel by not reading it closely but the reading leaves no doubt. The characters are not interesting enough to sustain the reader's interest. Fancy language does equal a good plot.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia Hanlon Aurora, Colorado 11-16-12
    Patricia Hanlon Aurora, Colorado 11-16-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wow, this was so boring"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Having some action, and less talk.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Grimoire series.


    Did the narrators do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

    All right. Background sounds were annoying. They were OK, but they had pretty much just boring trite conversations. Nobody stood out as a character, and you didn't wonder what happened next. You wondered if anything was going to be interesting.


    What character would you cut from Swordspoint?

    Can't even remember who was who.


    Any additional comments?

    What good is it to have such a complicated cast, if the story goes no where and is so boring?

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carmella1 EARLETON, FLORIDA, United States 07-10-12
    carmella1 EARLETON, FLORIDA, United States 07-10-12 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    0
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    "disappointed"
    If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

    almost all gay


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    count of monte cristo


    Which scene was your favorite?

    first fight scene


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no. i could only take so much


    Any additional comments?

    This book was not for me. Wish someone could have explained a little better before i bought it. But that does not mean its not for you.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Corey Brookyln, NY, United States 01-17-12
    Corey Brookyln, NY, United States 01-17-12 Member Since 2009

    Hi, I'm an alumi of NYU and I'm also huge into MMA. I love books I read a lot and review the stand outs. I'll give you guys the goods.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    163
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    "DUDE ITS KINDA GAY"
    What would have made Swordspoint better?

    Less man love more fighting


    What was most disappointing about Ellen Kushner???s story?

    the man love killed it for me .... Brokeback moutain style


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

    Yes it was done very nicely


    What character would you cut from Swordspoint?

    ........... I don't know where to start


    3 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K.D. Keenan Northern California 12-15-11
    K.D. Keenan Northern California 12-15-11 Member Since 2004

    1emp

    HELPFUL VOTES
    150
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    65
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    8
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    "Wanted To Love This Book--But Didn't"
    Any additional comments?

    Love fantasy, love Jane Austin, love Neil Gaiman, so I was sure I would love this book when Neil says

    1 of 9 people found this review helpful
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