Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power and prestige in the city's labyrinth of streets and ballrooms, theatres and brothels, boudoirs and salons. Into this alluring and alarming world walks a bright young woman ready to take it on and make her fortune.
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 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 24, 2006
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Excerpt from The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
No one sends for a niece they've never seen before just to annoy her family and ruin her life. That, at least, is what I thought. This was before I had ever been to the city. I had never been in a duel, or held a sword myself. I had never kissed anyone, or had anyone try to kill me, or worn a velvet cloak. I had certainly never met my uncle the Mad Duke. Once I met him, much was explained.
On the day we received my uncle's letter, I was in the pantry counting our stock of silverware. Laden with lists, I joined my mother in the sunny parlor over the gardens where she was hemming kerchiefs. We did these things ourselves these days. Outside, I could hear the crows cawing in the hills, and the sheep bleating over them. I wasn't looking at her; my eyes were on the papers before me, and I was worrying about the spoons, which needed polishing, but we might have to sell them, so why bother now?
"Three hundred and thirteen spoons," I said, consulting the lists. "We're short three spoons from last time, Mother."
She did not reply. I looked up. My mother was staring out the window and gnawing on one end of her silky hair. I wish I had hair like that; mine curls, in all the wrong ways. "Do you think," she said at last, "that we should have that tree taken down?"
"We're doing silver inventory," I said sternly, "and we're short."
"Are you sure you have the right list? When did we count them last?"
"Gregory's Coming-of-Age party, I think. My hands smelt of polish all through dinner. And he never even thanked me for it, the pig."