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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 12-02-11

Different and Thoroughly Enjoyable

Unlike most of the other reviewers posting early, I had never read (or even heard of) this book. I scooped it up based on (1) Neil Gaiman's recommendation and (2) the presence of Simon Jones, my all-time favorite narrator, in the cast.

The story is offbeat, as one might expect from Gaiman's choice of it, but is fast-moving, enjoyable, and thought-provoking, with drama, action, and an undertone of humor. The production values are great; it combines the soundtrack elements of a radio play with straight narration, and does so with superb dexterity.

25 of 30 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Unique, slightly magical, great listen

Would you consider the audio edition of Swordspoint to be better than the print version?

Yes, the cast is great and it adds another dimension to the story

What was one of the most memorable moments of Swordspoint?

Richard's voice, the relationships of the characters

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

the sense of the scenes and time period

Any additional comments?

If you enjoy this genre, this is a must listen. I even bought the paperback to keep in my physical library

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A Detailed Swashbuckler

What did you love best about Swordspoint?

The well-described locations and complex relationships among the many characters gave this story a solidity that I appreciated.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Emily
  • Auburndale, MA, United States
  • 01-12-12

Amazing performance!

If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

Sexy swashbuckling politicoes

Who was your favorite character and why?

Richard and Alec are kind of terrible but I love them in spite of themselves. Although hmm, the Duchess might beat them.

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

Well, I've heard Ellen read in person before, so sort of? She's a fantastic reader, and loves her characters and her settings so much. This was a great performance, and the sound effects and other actors for the dramatized scenes really added such richness to the recording.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Oh, those mad, bad boys.

Any additional comments?

I read this book a few years ago, and just loved it then. Having such a fantastic audio version made me wriggly with joy. The last line of dialog is so simple and, out of context, utterly mundane, and the fact that it made me weep into my steering wheel is a testament to Kushner's ability to make a reader care so much about the characters that all of the context can fit into such a short line.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 12-27-11

Wonderful production of a terrific book

Swordspoint is one of my all-time favorite books--one I re-read every few years. I find it exceptionally compelling as a story, and I love the complexity of the plot and the intricate maneuvering of the characters. Ellen Kushner is a superb writer, and I have read all her work, including the other tales of Riverside. Swordsman Richard St. Vier and his lover Alec are two amazing fictional characters and I love being a part of their world. The audio version of the book is terrific: Kushner and her supporting cast make the ten plus hours fly by. Congratulations to everyone involved in the production, and thanks to Neil Gaiman for selecting it.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great experience

I have read this book in Japanese more than 20years ago and this was the first time "reading" it in English and let me tell you...Wow

The audiobook version of this book was given as a gift to me and it was such a jewel. It is actually read by the author with the casts including music and sound effects. I was not only able to experience the original English version, but also could enjoy the nuances and the richness of the dialogues as well, through the wonderful narration by the author.

The experience of listening to this production was like watching (listening) to a classical Shakespeare-like periodic play. If you are a fan of this book, don't miss the experience!

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • San bernardino, CA, United States
  • 12-08-11

Excellent Story - sound effects distracting

I remember loving this book when I first read it and it was just as good the second time around. Brilliantly complex take on the swashbuckling story. The only negative is probably personal, I didn't care for the sound effects, some were just off, and others pulled me out of the story.
Overall it was an excellent listen and if you like sound effects it will be splendid.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS BOOK!

I have read the original book several times and never dreamed I would get lucky enough to have the author herself read her work, with selected dramatization in parts. It's wonderful, it's fantastic, it's...well...it's Richard and Alec, the quintessential couple. And once again they are coming alive in my life, but this time via my ears instead of my eyes. I couldn't be much happier.

17 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Jo Green
  • Cordova, TN, United States
  • 12-02-12

Swashbuckler of the unusual kind!

The story and the narration were absolutely fabulous. It was almost like a movie with some of the sound effects, and acting. The story is about a swordsman and his friend/lover that he is constantly getting out of trouble, and political machinations of some really evil/stupid/self-serving people. OK they aren't all stupid, just one, but sneaky and conniving fits the bill. Wonderful listen, entertaining throughout. Great characters that I really had to love or dislike. I was glad there was a second book waiting.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jon
  • LOUISVILLE, TN, United States
  • 11-26-12

A nice break from the usual fantasy

If you could sum up Swordspoint in three words, what would they be?

Swords, sex, and subterfuge

Who was your favorite character and why?

Both St. Vier and Alec were interesting characters and an equally matched pair. Alec was a bit irritating at first and seemed irrational, but once you began to understand more of his psychology and the reasons for his odd, self-destructive behavior, he became quite likable. Of course, everyone in this story is ethically gray, but that works within the context of the book's world. I don't necessarily need characters to be likable, just three-dimensional and with realistic motivations.

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

This was the first of Kushner's books that I had experienced and the first time hearing her narration. It was fantastic. I wish that every writer was this good at reading their own work (many aren't). I definitely want to listen to more.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I didn't really have an extreme reaction, but I enjoyed slipping back into the atmosphere of the world and its various locations (taverns, mansions, theaters, and courtrooms). The setting and the recording itself were wonderfully engrossing.

Any additional comments?

Thank you, Neil Gaiman. I wish every book received this quality of production. The music, the sound effects, the background noise, the voice actors, everything greatly enhanced the listening experience and brought the whole thing to life.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful