Audie Award Finalist, Multi-Voiced Performance, 2013
Audie Award Finalist, 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), produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on The Fall of the Kings: "In the Riverside chronology of events, The Fall of the Kings takes place a generation after Swordspoint. If you are new to the world of Riverside, I hope the richness of this book will surprise and delight you, with multi-voiced scenes set like jewels in the gold of Ellen Kushner's narration…."
In this stunning follow-up to Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword and the Audie-award winning Swordspoint, co-author Delia Sherman (The Freedom Maze) joins Ellen to return to that world of labyrinthine intrigue, where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule. This time, they explore the city's University, where a troubled young nobleman and his scholar lover find themselves playing out an ancient drama destined to explode their society's smug view of itself.
In a city grown decadent, myth and magic begin to seep through the ancient stones. Generations ago the last king fell. But the blood of kings runs deep in the land - and the key may be Theron Campion of Tremontaine, a louche beauty of questionable morals seeking to escape his family heritage in the University lecture halls. When he and renegade scholar Basil St. Cloud come together, they discover that the price of uncovering ancient history may be to be forced to repeat it....
Sue Zizza of SueMedia Productions creates some truly stunning sound elements, including a full score of original music by composer Nathanael Tronerud commissioned for this series... with a full supporting cast who bring to life the rich tapestry of passionate University scholars, noblemen in brothels and Riverside lowlifes, in the sophisticated urban setting that Kushner's many fans have come to love.
To hear more from Neil Gaiman on The Fall of the Kings, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.
©2003 Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman (P)2013 SueMedia Productions
"The authors tap into fantasy's genuine source of drama, its ability to haunt, appall, transform. A powerful fantasy that rises above the crowd with a vivid setting, complex characters, and elegant prose." (Locus)
"[W]itty dialogue, prose as precise as a blow to the heart... magic with a true aura of numinous danger, thrilling fights, thrilling scholarly debates, old books, swashbuckling aunts, exquisite clothing, ancient rituals, hot chocolate, female pirates, erotic paintings.... [I]t leaves one with much to consider after the book is closed." (Rachel Manija Brown, Green Man Review)
"A virtual treat for all the senses! For those who like their fantasy soaked in intrigue, history and romance . . . one of the bawdiest and most intellectually stimulating novels of the year!" (Gavin Grant, BookPage)
I'm a big fan of SF/F/Horror, and all things in between and out.
Often fantasy fiction relies on escapism through the fantastic, so it’s refreshing when you come across a book like The Fall of the Kings that kind of skewers that the fantastic necessarily equates escape. The Fall of the Kings is very much a left turn from Swordspoint. Instead of centering around the violent, sexy swordsmen nobles contract to fight duels on their behalf, this book focuses on the politics of university and scholarship, trading swordplay for academic debates, with charismatic professors. Really, it’s the Dead Poet’s Society of Wizarding History, and it’s a fascinating study for fantasy fans.
The story is primarily about two men: Basil St. Cloud, a renegade scholar determined on discovering the hidden, taboo truths of the ancient kings (who were overthrown and executed by the nobles hundreds of years earlier) and their wizards. That’s right, wizards. It appears there just might be magic in Riverside, or there once was. And ever since the Fall of the Kings, even the discussion of magic has been outlawed (a detail that neatly explains why magic was so completely absent from Swordspoint). St. Cloud soon enters into a romantic relationship with aristocratic student Theron Campion – the son of the Mad Duke of Tremontaine – who bears resemblance to some of the ancient kings Basel has studied. Together their discoveries and passions concerning the secret truths of magic, the kings, and their wizards threaten to have consequences. To some degree, it puts me in mind of China Miéville’s The City & The City, and M. John Harrison’s In Viriconium (the last novel of the Viriconium cycle). It’s a novel that is very much playing against type, and questioning our typical expectations and desires of the fantastic. Will magic come back to the land? Is that really a good thing?
I’ve talked a lot about this being a sequel to Swordspoint, but I hadn’t realized until about halfway through the book that while this novel takes place some 60 years after The Privilege of the Sword, it was published four years before that novel was. I didn’t find it anywhere near as accessible and delightful as The Privilege of the Sword, or as thrilling as Swordspoint, but I don’t think that’s really the point. It’s a love letter to academia, and I think it’s more challenging than the other two books (and I mean that as a compliment). I’m also somewhat astonished by how little violence there is for the majority of this novel – something that pleases me in a genre that seems to depend on violence in order to be entertaining (and I say that as someone who is usually entertained by good fantasy novels, but also as someone who has noticed a disturbing trend).
Kushner’s narration is excellent (of course!) and the illuminated cast general does very solid work, as does the illuminated cast (I particularly liked the actor who played Justice Blake). I’m pretty bummed this is the final book in the series, partially due to how unique Kushner and Sue Zizza make this listening experience). My only complaint about the narration is a very odd one – it takes a little bit of work to hear Nick Sullivan, who played the deliciously wicked Lord Ferris in the other two Riverside novels, as the romantic historian hero St. Cloud. That’s not to take anything away from how strong his performance is here – it’s nice to hear Sullivan not be such a monster for a change. But Lord Ferris’ shadow always seems to be lingering whenever Sullivan began talking. (Though this was probably emphasized by me listening to this novel right after The Privilege of the Sword.)
In the final analysis, The Fall of the Kings is a unique kind of fantasy novel – one that challenges our expectations concerning magic and escapism in fantasy fiction. While I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as I did the other books in this series, I do appreciate that it did something very different from what we’re used to in fantasy fiction, and I found that refreshing.
It's no secret that I absolutely adore Ellen Kushner's "Riverside" series, and "The Fall of the Kings" is perhaps the deepest and richest of the three. Co-written with Delia Sherman, "The Fall of the Kings" depicts the fine lines between history and legend, science and magic, obsession and love.
Theron Campion, elegant young nobleman-about-town, has recovered from his unhappy love affair with a scandalous artist, and is ready to indulge in a new romance with the idealistic young magister of history, Basil St Cloud. But St Cloud has an obsession of his own: the study of the ancient kings, their wizards, and their magic. But such a study is forbidden in the City, and Basil and Theron's passionate affair has dangerous ramifications neither could imagine.
The story in itself is glorious – I've never wanted so desperately to visit the City as I do now that the University district has come alive in such richness and vivid detail. As often as I've read and reread the Riverside books, it's always a treat to hear Ellen Kushner reading them! She knows just where to put the emphasis, and her narration is alternately gentle, amused, dreamlike, and sensual. (The romance here is between two men, so if that is something that might bother you, be forewarned.)
Ms Kushner has described the aesthetics of the "illumination" as, "You're listening to me read you the story, and then you start to dream it, that it's come to life...", and that's a perfect description. Nick Sullivan, whom I loved to hate as the villain in the other "Riverside" books ("Swordspoint" and "The Privilege of the Sword") is eminently swoonworthy as the idealistic Basil St Cloud, while Ryan McCabe conveys Theron's peculiarly innocent qualitities perfectly. The Student's Ensemble made me laugh out loud – they got it so very right! And Nate Tronerud's fabulous music adds so much depth and color to the tapestry. I think this has got to be my favorite of his three "Riverside" scores.
Listening to this audiobook was like a happy dream, but one which I'll get to enjoy over and over. Thank you, Ellen and Delia, for writing this book, and thank you, Neil Gaiman, for adding it to your Audible series! It will be a joy for years to come.
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