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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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I BROKE MY OWN RULE

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

Never, never buy a book narrated by the author. I would rather they pay the price for one excellent narrator than several mediocre ones. An excellent narrator is an artist while the others just speak or overact.

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

Could not get through even to the fourth chapter.

5 of 6 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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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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.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A disappointment in every respect.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Nothing! Neither story nor characters ever really captured my interest; I didn't care for the author's own narration; the actors who suddenly chimed in at seemingly random times sounded like they'd been recorded separately and dropped into the main narration (and hadn't consulted with the author/narrator on characterization! De Vere sounded like a surfer dude from LA, circa 1990); the sound effects were distracting and often just bad (I couldn't figure out why someone was typing with one finger in the background of one scene... and then realized it must be the "fire" crackling!). It sounded like nobody had done any final mastering on the recording-- strange for something that's touted as a wondrous "production" with all the glories of multiple narrators and sound effects.

What do you think your next listen will be?

I've already given up on SWORDSPOINT, and won't bother downloading the 2nd part. I'm on to an excellent Ngaio Marsh novel.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I hate to say this, as I'm a huge NPR fan and have many friends who are NPR on-air talent, but the author's public radio on-air style of reading does not serve her story well. I feel it needs a more actorly reading. The dialogue is stylized-- but her reading of her own dialogue is not. She has a beautiful voice-- just not the right delivery for her own fantasy, olden-days world. As for the actors, I think it must have been hard to get the hang of their characters when they had so little to read-- and some of them sounded strangely amateurish. An odd mix of deliveries, many of which sounded like sight-reading..

Any additional comments?

I hope this concept of partly-dramatized readings will be dropped ASAP by the Neil Gaiman series. I *adore* Gaiman, but if this is his idea of a success, HELP!!!!

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Georgia
  • Lyneham LPO, Australia
  • 02-01-12

Engaging and fascinating.

Loved it. Story was engaging and paced well, characters were likeable and believable, and the 'radio play' style of the audio book was brilliant to listen to.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Nancy
  • Moscow, ID, United States
  • 12-29-11

engrossing world away

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

The performance engages the imagination and creates a make-believe world that filled with familiar swashbucklers -- who turn out to be not as familiar as I expected. The richly detailed setting became increasingly enjoyable.

What other book might you compare Swordspoint to and why?

Intriguing turns of plot reminded me of stories of the courtiers in a Louix IVX novel.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 12-15-11

Still Talking in that Hill Drawl...

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I have already recommended it to several friends; it's an excellent performance by all the actors, and it is truly a pleasure to hear Ellen Kushner read her work. The characters speak like I hear them in my head, which is impressive in itself, but the exact delivery of their lines and the lovely accents made this even more fun than reading the book.

What other book might you compare Swordspoint to and why?

The Fall of Kings, The Privilege of the Sword, but they are by Ellen Kushner (and Delia Sherman). It's a pretty distinct style, this book. I suppose Georgette Heyer is similar, but not nearly as so gratifyingly sharp.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

Clearly, the narrator knows exactly how her characters sound.

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

Yes. It actually was what got me into my car in the morning, however, since I listen to books when I go to and from work.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Very enjoyable!

Would you listen to Swordspoint again? Why?

Yes - it was a really original and well done story.

Would you be willing to try another book from Ellen Kushner? Why or why not?

I would. I was engaged in the characters and loved listening to the story.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Zachary
  • Indianapolis, IN, United States
  • 01-10-12

Not my cup of tea.

This book is not what I was expecting. Swordspoint is all about the bisexual love polygons, and none of the characters are... entirely likeable. Self centered, irrational nitwits for the most part. The few clever characters are only there in the background. We are restricted to viewing the dunces in the foreground fighting over insults. For me the only reason I made it past the first few chapters was to satisfy my curiosity about a few certain mysteries. Sigh, that's one credit I'll never get back.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Not for Fantasy Fans

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

This book is not for fantasy fans. Yes, it takes place in an imaginary time and place, but that describes many novels. It's simply fiction.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Fantasy.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

The attempt at dramatization was very distracting. Thought I thought the use of sound effects and different voices would add to the listening experience, it was in reality very poorly done and incredibly distracting.

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

Disappointment.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful