Audie Award Nominee, Multi-voiced Performance, 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 narrators and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
The Privilege of the Sword tells the tale of a young girl who risks everything to go live with her eccentric, litigious - and extremely rich – uncle Alec in the colorful city Kushner has created, a city where elegant nobles can mingle with raffish actors one moment and deadly swordsmen the next. Fans of Kushner's first book, Swordspoint, will already be familiar with Alec as the angry young scholar with mysterious origins, living in the city’s Riverside district with a notorious killer swordsman. Now, in The Privilege of the Sword, some years later, Alec is the Mad Duke Tremontaine, living in a mansion on the Hill, still tortured by his past….
But you don’t need to have read Swordspoint to enjoy The Privilege of the Sword. This is the story of Katherine herself, a girl who starts out imagining her life will be a sort of Jane Austen-style romance, full of dances and dresses and parties - but finds that her iconoclastic uncle has other plans. When she gets to his house in the city, the Mad Duke dresses Lady Katherine in men's clothes, gets her a first-rate tutor in swordplay, and sets her loose on a traditional world that is not really ready for her…. Nor, at first, is she ready for it.
A few words from Neil on Privilege of the Sword: "Life hands us so many moments when we hover between who we were raised to be, who the people around us are trying to make us, and who we are trying to become. In Katherine's case, that means encountering a range of people and behaviors her mother never prepared her for - including some shocking acts of violence, both physical and emotional. As one of Kushner’s most charming characters, an actress known as 'The Black Rose', sighs, 'It's all so very difficult, until you get the hang of it.'"
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). As with her previous audiobooks, the award-winning Witches of Lublin and Swordspoint, Ellen teamed up with Sue Zizza of SueMedia Productions to illuminate certain key scenes with some truly stunning sound elements, including original music commissioned just for this book (!) by composer Nathaniel Tronerud. Ellen Kushner reads all of the first-person narration from Katherine’s own point of view. In scenes where an omniscient narrator takes over, we’ve called on the amazing talents of the award-winning actor Barbara Rosenblat, a woman who's been called "the Meryl Streep of audiodrama". The cast also features Joe Hurley (Alec Campion: the Mad Duke Tremontaine), Felicia Day (Katherine Talbert), Nick Sullivan (Lord Ferris; Arthur Ghent), Katherine Kellgren (Lady Artemesia Fitz-Levi; Teresa Grey; Flavia "the Ugly Girl"), and Neil Gaiman himself (Rogues' Ball Artist)! The artwork used here is an original painting and design by Thomas Canty created exclusively for the Neil Gaiman Presents audiobook edition of The Privilege of the Sword.
To hear more from Neil Gaiman on The Privilege of the Sword, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.
©2006 Ellen Kushner (P)2012 SueMedia Productions
"One of the most gorgeous books I've ever read: it's witty and wonderful, with characters that will provoke, charm, and delight." (Holly Black, coauthor of The Spiderwick Chronicles)
"Unholy fun, and wholly fun… and elegant riposte, dazzlingly executed." (Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked)
The best thing about the story was how all the characters lives were weaved together.
The least favorite things was use sparingly used guest narrators. It was billed that Felicia Day was narrating the voice of Lady Katherine -- but she wasn't the character's voice in all the chapters of the book. Same with the other guest narrators.
It broke up the continuity of the book and was distracting to the content of the book.
I hope next time when they bill someone as narrating a character, they narrate the character in every single chapter.
The mannered and bloody world of Riverside & the City is escapism at its finest, with nice dose of human insight humming along below the surface.
Building on that foundation, what really takes these stories over the top is the production. The voice acting is stellar and perfectly cast, the characters vibrant and compelling, the background audio engrossing without being distracting. It's an all around wonderful listen, and never fails to pull me into Kushner's world. I love it.
The book was decent, and Barbara Rosenblat and the supporting cast were fantastic. But Ellen Kushner shouldn't be reading her own stuff. More on that below. Mostly, it was fine. But not all that memorable. Neil Gaiman owes me an Audible credit.
Not at all.
As I said, Ellen Kushner shouldn't be reading her own stuff. In this instance, she sounds way too old to narrate the character of a 16 year old girl. And she makes the classic amateur actor's mistake of emphasizing pronouns all over the place. Which ultimately made her sound like Amanda in a bad community theater production of "The Glass Menagerie."Honestly, though, I blame whomever directed this audiobook. That one simple correction would have vastly improved the performance.Still, she's not an actor. She would have done better letting the pros do their job. The difference is pretty striking.
No. It wraps things up in a pretty tidy way, and it's not really compelling enough to go back and revisit the characters.
It's an ok book, but it pulls its punches at the end in a pretty major way.
I doubt it for the author but I probably would for the narrator.
It was extremely slow paced in development. I might have given up for the exciting parts started. Seemed like the same old thing all the time.
About 50 percent of the first third. I didn't/couldn't finish the book so I do not know which elements were critical for the overall story. I might have shortened a few with only the critical parts left.
After the book is over, the author talks a bit about writing it and says that it took her a long time to write this book and she started and put it down quite a bit. It shows. The book tries to recapture the plotting and charming romance of the first but really can't pull it off.
The plot is even more disjointed and incomplete than the first book. There are huge plot problems, like the super abrupt ending to the big conflict, and the complete irrelevance of Lucius and his lover to the entire plot. There are small plot problems, like why does Katherine think she's such good friends with Artemesia that she ought to leap to Artemesia's defense when they've only met twice and one of the times Artemesia laughed at her and won't answer any of her letters?
I suppose it's supposed to be a 'tapestry' that shows all the things that go on in Riverside, but it just wasn't my thing. It seemed like just a list of all the ways women are oppressed in the city. I just wanted more.
Leaving aside my general dislike of the whole multi-narrator premise, the production on this wasn't very good. The narration was so quiet I had to turn up the volume as loud as it would go, only to be frequently deafened by the stupid 'sword' sounds which marked breaks in the chapters. There are good narrators out there who can 'whisper' what characters say without actually lowering their voices to an indecipherable level.
Choosing a different narrator
They had what sounded like a 50 year old woman voice the narrator who was in her teens. Did not match well.
Great characters, and interestingly written. I liked the use of multiple narrators and voices. The only time it became weird for me was when the main character suddenly had a different voice.
Katherine and St. Vier. Katherine, grew to realize the independence and freedom of having the ability to defend herself and fight her own battles. But was still free to be the Lady she wanted to be. It was interesting watching how she came to see how helpless her friend was, and how she could right those wrongs.St. Vier, was still the unbending single minded master of the sword. No matter what, if he has the ability, he will practice with the sword. He was one of those types with a single focus in life. To be the best with the sword he could be.
Katherine's Duels. Ellen shows a better understanding of the Fencing type swordplay she talks about in this novel. Made me want to start fencing again.
Sure, but I don't have that much time. Though, it was nice to savor it. Sometimes when I get towards the end of a good book I almost want to stop.
This is so much more than a coming-of-age story. It is that, definitely, but interwoven alongside the tale of a young girl's discovery of her identity are beautiful and profound explorations of the nature of love, honour, beauty, friendship, happiness and gender. Ellen Kushner plays a delightful game with all of these concepts, and the listener can't help but wonder what they all really mean.
The narration is just spectacular. Barbara Rosenblat's deep, purring murmur seductively draws you into the Riverside world, and Ellen Kushner's own mocking drawl is the perfect counterpoint. At times I wished there was a little more Rosenblat and a little less Kushner, but it's kind of a privilege to know that one is hearing the characters speaking EXACTLY as the author intended them to.
I never thought listening to a young girl's first person narrative would be so enthralling. And don't let that factual description fool you - this book DEFINITELY doesn't belong in the young adult category.
The reviews said this would be like Jane Austen from the perspective of varied gender roles. Instead I got to hear a prepubescent girl learn about sex.
Yes; I'm not sure if I can trust reviews by Neil Gaiman any more.
I would cut out some of the side characters, like the actress the Black Rose. I found her unbelievable and unnecessary.
Enjoyed listening to this nicely character driven story; however, the ensemble performance left something to be desired. I felt that the changing voices (based on perspective) distracted from the story. The voice of Katherine by Ellen Kushner sounds exactly like Betty White, who I then visualized as Katherine every time! And then there was the over the top Mad Duke/Peter O'Toole voice that I just wanted to strangle the narrator (no offense). Overall, though, a good story despite the narration at points.
"Teenage swordswoman loose in Riverside"
It's just occurred to me that these books: Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, The Fall of the Kings, would make a great TV series. It's such a fully realized world with lots of intrigue and fascinatingly amoral characters.
As ever, it's crucial to read the books in the right order. However, I think this is my favourite of the three. Maybe it's that I found Catherine, blundering naively around Riverside, making unsuitable challenges as she goes, really charming.
Ellen Kushner is a great narrator and I enjoy the dramatic scenes and music very much.
I loved this long-awaited audio book. Katherine's voice is delightful - so innocent and excited at the beginning of the story, and developing into a much more mature viewpoint as the narrator grows up. Joe Hurley is terrific as the dissolute 'Mad Duke', and captures his lazy, drawling voice (and his abject misery) well.
The scenes with Katherine and Marcus as intrepid investigators are great, and I love their rivalry: 'Marcus, you rat!'
The 'enhanced' sections of the book are wonderful, and really bring the cast of characters to life.
"A good follow up to the first of the series"
The quality of the reading and production, the style, and the story are all in line with what you would expect from the first book of the series. I found it entertaining, and some of the characters are very appealing. The incompatibility of the expectations of a naive country girl from a good family, and the depraved and corrupt 'realities' of political and sophisticated urban society is nicely handled. Although some of the events and plots lines do not have that feel of plausibility, the story is nevertheless good enough to keep you listening.
I strongly suggest reading the first of the series before this one.
"Some good performances, story is mediocre"
Was predictable, there were many holes in the plot or leads that you wanted to chase up.
Reminds me of this romantic Bryonic era, hedonistic, the Duke Tremontaine is a delightfully intriguing character.interesting exploration of human sexuality and a girl's coming of age journey.
Felt it could have delved into Lady Kathryn's character developmentthe sound effects did not enhance the listening experience.
I felt the story could have just been narrated by one person would have been easier to follow
"Excellent in every way"
I don't think I've ever read (or listened to) non-magical fantasy before, and it made a refreshing change of pace. I'm quite sure I haven't listened to a book read by the author before either, and that was an interesting experience. Nobody knows the book and its characters better than the writer, so unlike some readings I didn't question the interpretation of some phrases as I might otherwise.
The story itself is delightful, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
"Interesting and unexpected"
Intriguing characters set in a complete and believable world. It was a delight to listen too - being a fan of fantasy I found it refreshing to come across a book like this as it is very different to anything I've read or listened to before. The narration is great, with occasion scenes being acted out by different people which gives a bit of variety and adds depth to the story. I would say though that even though this story stands alone, I think it would be better to read the first one before this one as it gives away some key points of the first story. Having listened to them both in the 'wrong' order I think the first one would be more enjoyable if you had no idea of where the story was going, but they are both excellent.
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