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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 (1112 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Olavi Saarikoski 04-21-16 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "Slow yet enticing"

    I started listening this book more than a year ago and grew bored of it after some hours, the book sounding like a list of uninteresting nobles and their relationships.

    I picked it up again last week and couldn't stop listening. Suddenly the world in the book was very alive and interesting.

    I would recommend this one for people with the patience to dive into the world and let Ellen Kushner take care of the rest.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Tough 03-27-16
    K. Tough 03-27-16
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    1
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    "Great world, beautiful writing"

    ...just didn't connect with the characters. Very few female characters, and none of them with any real agency. Good story but just not for me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Turtle Boston, MA 04-19-16
    Turtle Boston, MA 04-19-16 Member Since 2007
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    "Maybe books should have ratings."

    I didn't finish listening to this. Just not my thing...bit of a soap opera. I've really liked Neil Gaiman stories and just kind of went with it on that recommendation. I found the book a bit more descriptive (I don't want to use the word crude as that's not quite right) than I'm interested in.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jhazmin 02-24-17
    Jhazmin 02-24-17
    RATINGS
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    4
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Yawn"

    This story was incredibly boring and I was quite sad by that. None of the characters had any redeeming qualities. I found the addition of sounds and the different actors more of a hindrance than an enhancement. Overall really disappointing but I don't think that's because the writing was bad. The whole premise was just not for me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. MacArthur 02-10-17 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I tried!"
    Any additional comments?

    I love Curry. I liked this story but I could NOT get through it! I feel like such a fraud!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbalie Upper Peninsula of Mi. 12-13-16
    Debbalie Upper Peninsula of Mi. 12-13-16 Member Since 2016
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    13
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    "returned it."

    weak character bonding ability. Gave up in chapter 3 when i still could not identify main character or know where the story was headed.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Andert St. Louis, MO United States 12-01-16
    Amanda Andert St. Louis, MO United States 12-01-16 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great world building with very little plot"

    The writer is very talented but had I known so little would actually happen in this book I would have gone with something else. Also the full cast performance is actually distracting at times. The constant vocal switches in heavy dialogue scenes made it really hard to focus

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    IslandWriter 05-03-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
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    "So-so"
    Any additional comments?

    I know a lot of people who really enjoyed this story. I don't think it was for me. I was bored for most of it and didn't like most of the characters. While I thought Ellen did a fantastic job of narrating it, I wasn't a fan of the background noises and other actors speaking some, but not all the parts. It would have been better to only have one narrator reading the story and no extra sound effects. But, that's just me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Beccameriel
    London, United Kingdom
    6/4/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Witty and sophisticated fantasy"

    I LOVED this book. A fully realized fantasy world without some kind of magic is quite a novelty and this really works. The differences between the rich and poor societies are carefully drawn and totally believable. Most of the characters are quite world-weary and louche - I especially enjoyed the Duchess of Tremontaine who was rather reminiscent of the Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liasons Dangereuse (no idea if I spelt that lot right). It's refreshing, too, that everyone has a fluid sexuality - you love who you love and it doesn't matter what gender they are.

    Ellen Kushner narrates her own story very well and I think the partial dramatization and use of sound effects does help to draw you into the world. It's a really interesting approach to audio books and one that I hope to hear more often. I'm currently imagining how awesome this would be for Patrick Rothfuss's books.

    I am definitely going to get the next book in the series.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Ms
    London, United Kingdom
    3/2/12
    Overall
    "The games the rich play"

    Interesting narration/dramatisation of a novel I hadn't come across before. I enjoyed the mirrored dance of manners, intrigue, swordplay and personal relationships. Something a little different for jaded palates.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jan
    Newton Abbot, United Kingdom
    1/31/12
    Overall
    "Wonderful!"

    Although I'm a relative newcomer to Swordspoint, I love the world of Riverside and its characters. I really like the unique way this audiobook was presented - part narration, part dramatised, part sound effects. It brings Riverside and the Hill to life.

    The right voice reading an audiobook makes all the difference, and in this case Ellen Kushner reading her own story is perfect. I can't wait for the sequels to be given the same treatment!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • nicole
    United Kingdom
    5/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A book that made me rearrange my top ten"

    In this city the rich use swordsmen to settle their disputes, either to first blood or death. Swordsmanship is both art, entertainment and noble way to settle disputes with important political and social decisions often depending on the outcome. On the face of it the noble with the most money should always win, as he or she should be able to hire the best swordsman but the best swordsman is Richard St. Vier. Coldly practical towards life and death and caring very little for anything other than the honor and challenge of his art and the whims of his love, Alec, Richard is not so easy to manipulate. Alec is, brilliant, damaged, contemptuous of the politics of the rich and fascinated by death. So the balance of power swings back and forth between the rich on the Hill and the poor in Riverside.

    There are very few `good' people (by today's standards) here, as those people would soon have been destroyed or corrupted by the harsh world they live in. Kushner's characters are so vivid and alive and I grew to love them partly because of their flaws. Ellen Kushner has an extensive grasp of the English language, which enhances her descriptions and makes the conversations between her characters so much more interesting.There aren't copious amounts of sex scenes or vapid declarations of love here, the romance is in their actions and the sacrifices they make for each other.

    Even though Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners has been published for many years now, I've still never read anything like it. There are hints of Les Liaisons dangereuses, with the social and political intrigue becoming inseparable from each other and the way most characters attempt to manipulate others, even those they may care for. It's also in the regency like setting of the story. This fantasy world has no magic or monsters (that are not in human form) but the dark fairy tale like nature of the story and beautifully described world also reminds me of Anne Bishops' writing.

    The narration is both brilliant and problematic. This is because it keeps switching between the author whom I loved and the actors who were also very good but it ended up giving you two very different voices for the main characters.

    I wasn't sure about this series at first but I gradually grew to love it so much that I've had to change my top ten audio book series. However, while it's an inelegant description, be warned this is Marmite. From the reviews it is fifty, fifty whether you will love it or hate it. Since Audible has such a good returns policy however, do you really have anything to loose by giving it a try?

    If you love this book as much as I do there is another book called The Naked City which includes a 45 minute short story, bridging the gap between Swordspoint and it's sequel The Privilege of the Sword both can be purchased from Audible.

    The site below also gives the chronology of the series including links to several of the short stories available on line. Do not read out of order or you will get huge spoilers.

    http://www.sff.net/people/kushnersherman/kushner/world.html

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Alex
    MalakoffFrance
    11/25/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Unusual, intriguing and mixed"

    The performance is indeed a performance - although there is one main reader, some of the characters are played by other actors and, sporadically, there are background noises and voices. Overall it works very well. Unfortunately, the main reader is not particularly good, and not really up to it. She is nevertheless good enough to not be annoying.

    Similarly, the story is unusual - a fantasy world, without magic based (I presume) on the elaborate elegance, manners and class obsession of the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. The characters are well-constructed and plausible, although none are particularly likeable; the story is interesting and kept me listening, wanting to know how it would evolve and end up.

    Overall, this is more historical romance and intrigue than fantasy and adventure. A good listen, and I think I will be listening to more of the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • nogginthenog
    uk
    7/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Definitely enhanced!"
    What did you like most about Swordspoint?

    What's not to like about this book?


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

    Very often authors reading their own work don't really do it justice. This isn't one of them - Ellen Kushner does a fabulous job, aided and abetted by a few others. I could forgive Gaiman anything for putting this together!


    Any additional comments?

    Although actually I have a confession - I read Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer and loved it so much that I rushed out and bought Swordspoint. (the paper version) It just didn't do it for me though: I put it to one side and forgot about it. Then I stumbled across this audio recording, listened to a sample and thought I'd give it another go. So glad I did - it had me absolutely gripped. For some reason, I found it came across better listening to it than reading it ... the recording is absolutely perfect with the sound effects and the brief dramatized sections enhancing rather than detracting from the whole. When it finished I rushed straight off to download the sequel, which I am currently listening to and is every bit as good. Go try!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • number phobia
    9/14/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "last 3 chapters held story. hard slog"
    If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

    The contrast with narrators was for me off putting,, it meant I needed to re listen to who was who. The story lacked lustre and a bit uninteresting. Sorry author.


    What will your next listen be?

    GAme of thrones Dragon series


    How could the performance have been better?

    Forget the extra voices unless they're the same throughout


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

    Not many


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • SallyH
    West Yorkshire
    1/29/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Meh"
    Any additional comments?

    A moderately interesting story, but I just couldn't care about any of the characters. In particular, why were Richard and Alec together? There didn't seem to be any warmth or affection between them. They were both cold, damaged and unavailable.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Terry
    Sussex, United Kingdom
    6/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing"

    Maybe I was expecting too much for my intro to Ellen Kushner, but I blame that on the publicity I read before adding this audio book to my wishlist. For me, the story seemed weak with little scope and I actually found the multiple narrators a distraction not a bonus. Sorry, but I like to hear the same character's voice throughout. In this audio book it was Ellen Kushner one moment and then another narrator the next and this happened with a number of the characters. A semi-play format may have seemed a really good idea but it just did not work for me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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