Review: The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

the fall of the kings

Remember two months ago how I wrote in my review of Swordspoint that I hoped to read The Fall of the Kings very soon? Yeah, that took a while.

Reading these books for the first time has led me to familiarize myself with their unusual history. Swordspoint, the first book set in the world containing the city of Riverside, was published in 1987. The Fall of the Kings is the second book in chronological publishing order (2002) but not in linear narrative order, taking place eighty or so years after Swordspoint, whereas the third book in this loosely connected series, The Privilege of the Sword, takes place only a couple decades after Swordspoint. As all three books were written to be read as standalones, it doesn’t matter in which order one reads them. I decided to go with chronological publishing order, in part because I was curious how the gaps in time between the writing and publishing the three books might affect each respective novel.

The Fall of the Kings differs from Swordspoint in three ways:

  1. The vast majority of the story takes place among the middle class residents of the city and in particular the city’s University, briefly identified in Swordspoint as Alec’s prior place of residence before taking up with St. Vier.
  2. The book is a collaboration between Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Kushner is the originator of this universe and first set of characters, and Sherman is the one who first came up with the idea of writing an in-universe story set amidst the middle class and University.
  3. There is magic. Old, wild, powerful, and wondrous magic.

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Review: Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

swordspoint

“Let the fairy tale begin on a winter’s morning, then, with one drop of blood new-fallen on the ivory snow: a drop as bright as a clear-cut ruby, red as the single spot of claret on the lace cuff. And it therefore follows that evil lurks behind each broken window, scheming malice and enchantment; while behind the latched shutters the good are sleeping their just sleeps at this early hour in Riverside. Soon they will arise to go about their business; and one, maybe, will be as lovely as the day, armed, as are the good, for a predestined triumph…”

So opens Swordspoint, subtitled A Melodrama of Manners, the first novel set in the fictional world containing the City with its neighborhood Riverside, long ago abandoned by the nobility and now the home of the city’s more disreputable citizens—such as swordsmen.

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