Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

An interesting number of authors have lined up to good things on the cover of this novel. I have to say I’m not sure why.

The plot, politics in a fantasy city is potentially very interesting. It is well worked out and makes good use of language. My difficulty in enjoying the book is caused by the difficulty in becoming interested in the characters.

The two main characters Richard and Alec are potentially interesting. Richard is a swordsman for hire and Alec is a self harming scholar with a mysterious background.

But, and a big but it is, you never really feel anything for them apart from a certain dislike for the deaths they cause.

You never really know much about what they feel, In fact in the case of Richard it is clear that in many cases he doesn’t feel anything. Even at the end, you know little about their back stories.

I don’t hod to the idea that people can be completely explained by their pasts, I’m old enough to have seen different people respond to similar events in in very different ways. And have known them long enough to see that part of that is who they are, not just what has happened to them.

So I don’t expect a pat logical back story which “explains” the character, but I do expect enough back story to reveal them.

Another smaller issue was that there was perhaps too much use of exposition rather than demonstration in many places.

As a trivial example: “…Lord Thomas was full of gossip. Some of it, gratifyingly, was about him.” Now as a one off, no issue. But I would rather have an example of the gossip presented, and the character react to it rather than just be told.

Oh, and all the good guys and gals (depending on your definition) are generally handsome/beautiful. The “bad guys”: one has grown old, the other has one eye.

2/5

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