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Swordspoint Audiobook
Swordspoint
Written by: 
Ellen Kushner
Narrated by: 
Ellen Kushner, Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, Simon Jones
Swordspoint Audiobook

Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners

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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

3.6 (972 )
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4.0 (869 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Amazon Customer bellevue, NE, United States 07-17-13
    Amazon Customer bellevue, NE, United States 07-17-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It's a chess game."

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy Pinson, TN, United States 07-10-13
    Cindy Pinson, TN, United States 07-10-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Warning for those who are uneasy with same sex sex"
    What disappointed you about Swordspoint?

    None of the reviews I read mentioned same sex sex scenes.


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

    Only if they have same sex sex scenes.


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

    Haven't listened much - chapter 7 or 8 so far and I've enjoyed the performance style.


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

    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...


    Any additional comments?

    I'd like a refund!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah West Lebanon, NH, United States 06-29-13
    Sarah West Lebanon, NH, United States 06-29-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "engaging and entertaining"

    A fun and engaging book. I listened to the whole thing in one go. (Not sure I'd compare it to Austen, though...)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra J Tetreault 05-28-13 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring!"
    What was most disappointing about Ellen Kushner’s story?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    Skip this one and move on to the next!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Georgia Plymouth, MA, United States 02-11-13
    Georgia Plymouth, MA, United States 02-11-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Not my cup of tea."

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie B. Matheson Charlottesville, VA United States 12-06-12
    Bonnie B. Matheson Charlottesville, VA United States 12-06-12 Member Since 2013

    BonnieB23

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
  •  
    C 12-04-12
    C 12-04-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Swordspoint In Technicolor"
    If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

    Dreamlike; complex; gorgeous.


    What did you like best about this story?

    So it's worth saying up front: there's nothing like Swordspoint. It's a perfect book. It does a lot of things at once. In the first place it's utterly unlike most fantasy in that it isn't obsessed with telling you in detail the backstory of every event and concept in its world. On the contrary, like fiction set in the world we know, it takes for granted a whole set of political and economic and geographic and cultural and historical commodities and builds a narrative inside that context, in the same way that novels generally don't bother explaining in detail the life of George Washington when mentioning the President of the United States, or the thoughts of Adam Smith when touching in passing on the division of labor.

    No, in contrast Swordspoint manages to call up a vivid, intoxicating world precisely by taking it for granted. The nameless city which provides the setting for almost the entire story contains several distinct cultures: notably one of elaborate and moneyed sophistication and one of raw, vital street exuberance. Both are ultimately cultures built on theater and violence, and Ellen works out the implications of those values in in their different contexts with narrative economy and luminous prose. Very shortly after the story begins you find yourself enraptured by this society, its subtlety and corruption, its tavern vitality. And it only gets better from there.

    Better than the setting, though, unlikely though that may seem, are the characters. Ellen creates a series of personalities who startle you with their intense reality; these are real people, with difficult and problematic psychologies, who choices frustrate as much as they surprise. That's as true of the leading couple as it is of the small supporting characters: even a passing background figure is a breathing reality and his presence in the story is justified by the astonishing reality of his selfhood as much as by his service to the plot. It's an amazing accomplishment.

    But beyond all these the story! It's just too good to be true, that you get all the above and as well as a story so rich and authentic. You have here a narrative of political intrigue, formal violence, intertwining plots, lavish parties, and really awesome swordplay. If you're reading this and you think you might like it I can lay you money that you'll love it. Give it a chance!


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Now separate from all the above is the incredible accomplishment of this production. Ellen herself is the perfect reader for the story, she's an experienced radio performer and a gifted vocal actor. Better, though, even than Ellen's own habitation of her characters, is the so-called "illuminated manuscript" of this glorious production. In the critical set-pieces -- where the characters on stage grow numerous and the scene grows vivid -- Ellen's narration gradually fades out to be replaced by a full-cast audio drama, accompanied by incidental music and sound effects. It mirrors the experience of Ellen reading you her masterpiece as you drowse in bed: sometimes you're listening to her telling you the story, and sometimes you're dreaming yourself into the story, complete with voice actors and the sound of waves against your lavish party barge. It's an incredible experience which kept me trapped in my car until I finished it. I find myself thanking the Internet several times a week for the miracle of this production: the fact that I get to keep it forever and listen to it whenever I want seems too good to be true.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Ellen, like Dorothy Dunnett, is the absolute master of extended set-pieces, and these are the grand moments of the book. You get, for example, an encounter between an experienced, ahem, lady of the evening of the people of her district discussing a recent swordfight, with the crowd arguing over who won and who died and who was responsible for the fight. You get a crowd of drawling aristocrats coasting over an ink-black winter river on a barge, covered in heavy furs and dining as fireworks detonate overhead. You get lovers torn apart by their own heavy pasts; you get political drama at the highest level of complexity and sophistication, ringing out in heavy phrases of ceremony in the halls of high justice. It's just impossible to say which of these is best; you'll see.


    Any additional comments?

    Once you hear Swordspoint you'll long for more. Happily there's plenty: Privilege of the Sword is already on Audible, and Fall of the Kings will be out soon. All produced and narrated by Ellen, all elaborated illuminated just like this. It's a beautiful world and you get to visit it whenever you like.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    chris 10-17-12
    chris 10-17-12

    whistle while you work, or listen to books

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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 04-22-12
    Rob 04-22-12 Member Since 2012

    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

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