Jan. 14th, 2017

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I bought a copy of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint last year because lots of people I knew seemed to be reading something called Tremontaine, which I gathered was a prequel of some kind, and also because I read a post somewhere about writers who were influenced by Dorothy Dunnett and Kushner was mentioned there.

I originally tried reading the book in the autumn, shortly after the US election; everything I'd heard about it suggested it would be just the kind of entertaining swashbuckling romp that would be perfect escapist reading when the world was going to hell in a handbasket. In fact, though, I didn't find it comforting at all. It's set in an unnamed, decaying city, with lawless areas where the poor and undocumented live in the ruins of grand houses; the ruling class are corrupt and decadent while the poor exist in a world of casual violence, and yet the tone of the narrative is so detached as to be almost whimsical, and it really wasn't what I wanted. So I put it to one side and read something else (Sense and Sensibility, I think).

I don't like giving up on books after only one try, though, so I picked it up again this week, and was obviously in a better place as I was able to appreciate the atmosphere of corruption and decay and enjoy the political maneuvering, while the detachment of the narrative didn't jar as it had done when I tried before. I found the central characters engaging and sympathetic, and I liked the relationship between Richard and Alec a lot. I suspect I will end up reading the later books set in the same universe sooner or later (especially as they now seem to be available for Kindle, which they weren't when I bought my copy of Swordspoint).

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