Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Genre: Fantasy

Year of publication: 1987

Rating: ♥♥♥

Summary: In a fantasy world similar to 18th century Europe (think Count of Monte Cristo), nobles fight duels by proxy, via hired swordsmen. Richard St. Vier is the best swordsman around, and Alec is his mysterious lover. Alec dresses like a poor scholar, but speaks and acts like a noble. The two become entangled in the plots of scheming nobles, and must use all their skill, cunning, and resources to stay alive.

Thoughts: I liked the idea, but the execution was a little flat. I felt that the reader was never allowed to get too close to the characters. Alec wasn’t particularly likeable, and while Richard was easier to like, he remained distant. I never really got a good sense of the world of the novel; it seemed to be presented more like a charcoal sketch than a full painting. However, the environments immediately surrounding the characters were well described. The writing was good, and the plot was solid. My main complaint is that I wanted more from the characters — more interaction, more insight into their feelings, more relationship development. However, the lack of these things is probably more in-line with the characters’ personalities as the writer created them.