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The Privilege of the Sword [Library Binding]

Ellen Kushner
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

April 18 2008
Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power in the city's ballroom, brothels and boudoirs. Into this alluring world walks Katherine, a well-bred country girl versed in the rules of conventional society. Her mistake is thinking that they apply. For Katherine's host and uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremontaine, is in charge here—and to him, rules are made to be broken. When Alec decides it would be more amusing for his niece to learn swordplay than to follow the usual path to marriage, her world changes forever. Blade in hand, it's up to Katherine to navigate a maze of secrets and scoundrels and to gain the self-discovery that comes to those who master: the privilege of the sword.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Kushner's winning high fantasy with its sophisticated swordplay marks a welcome return to the romantic Riverside world she introduced in Swordspoint (1987). Coming-of-age gets complicated for winsome Lady Katherine Samantha Campion Talbert after she's shipped off to her uncle, the Mad Duke of Tremontaine (aka David Alexander "Alec" Tielman Campion), who reigns over a decadent world of erotic and political intrigue. At first Kate's frightened of becoming a swashbuckler, but after training with the duke's favorite lover, the dashing Richard St. Vier, and becoming friends with Marcus, Alec's devoted young assistant, she finds she's more than up for the task. Her skills are tested in her effort to avenge the rape of her best friend, Lady Artemesia Fitz-Levy, by one of her uncle's foes, Anthony Deverin (aka Lord Ferris, Crescent Chancellor of the Council of Lords). Kate's discovery that "Fear is enemy to the sword" and love is the key to triumph leads to surprising consequences. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Booklist

The most recent Riverside story follows Swordspoint (2003) in chronology and features many of its characters. Alec, Duke Tremontaine, aka the Mad Duke of Riverside, has sent for his impoverished young niece, Katherine. She and her family hope he'll make a good marriage for her, but the Mad Duke has decided to train her as a sword fighter. She is furious, and besides a swordmaster to train her, her uncle also springs what becomes her fall into society, without warning or training, on her. She learns the sword perforce out of self-defense and also, bit by bit, the city, the nobility, politics, and her uncle. When Katherine is trained and entered into society with her weapon, she wades hip-deep into plots against her uncle and becomes the champion of a lady in distress, too. Plot and style hereare in the swashbuckling tradition of Dumas, but the characters are very real beneath their facades, people who bleed when they are cut, even when manners require that they make nothing of it. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the hype! Nov. 18 2007
By Patrick St-Denis TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I didn't buy this book when it was initially released because it appeared to be a sure miss for me. Then followed praise and rave reviews, and still I declined to pick it up. It is only when it was nominated for the World Fantasy Award that I finally caved in. Given the fact that I don't always agree with the WFA nominations, and even more seldomly with the winners, I should have known better. . . In a way, I brought this upon myself. . .

I am acutely aware that some will grill me for saying this, but Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword is, in my humble opinion (which doesn't count for much, as some will surely point out!), fantasy chick lit. I'm all for strong and genuine female protagonists, yet this is one of the "girliest" novels I've ever read. Needless to say, this book didn't do it for me. I'm not implying that male readers won't enjoy it (many already have, with more to come, I'm sure), but, personally, I found it completely impossible to connect with the characters and the paper-thin plot underlying this tale.

On the upside, Kushner's prose is excellent. The author writes her narrative economically and skillfully. The Privilege of the Sword is as well-written as it gets. Still, as good as the prose is, it cannot possibly make a boring and predictable story any better.

There is no worldbuilding to speak of. This novel reads more like an alternate history book than a fantasy tale. Unfortunately, it lacks that breadth of details that an author like Guy Gavriel Kay brings to the table.

The characterization is the aspect which leaves the most to be desired. Artemisia and Lydia rank among the most insufferable, whiny, vapid, harebrained and soporific characters in the history of the genre.
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