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Swordspoint is a cult classic fantasy of manners (with elements of urban fantasy and heroic fantasy) written by Ellen Kushner in 1987. Later on, it saw two sequels: The Fall of the Kings (which was co-written with Delia Sherman) and The Privilege of the Sword. All three were critically acclaimed and are often held up as examples of a peculiar type of novel, with the basic setting of high fantasy but none of the magic.
Swordspoint tells the story of Richard, a swordsman in Riverside, and Alec, a university student (possibly from the Hill) who lives with him. When Richard kills two men in a duel in an aristocrat's garden, he finds himself embroiled in a rather unpleasant business. There are few he can turn to for help (which he likely wouldn't do anyway) because, every day, swordsmen become less and less respectable.
The Privilege of the Sword is set a generation after Swordspoint, and The Fall of the Kings is set a generation (give or take) after that.
This book contains examples of:
- Action Girl: The Privilege of the Sword is, to some extent, about Katherine learning to become one of these. In The Fall of the Kings her cousin Jessica turns out to be one as well.
- All Myths Are True: Toyed with in The Fall of the Kings.
- The Apprentice: Michael Godwin to Richard at times.
- Butt Monkey
- Career Killers
- City of Adventure: The setting (it's never named).
- Comedic Sociopathy
- Deadpan Snarker: Alec, most of the time.
- Everyone Is Bi: Not everyone, strictly speaking, but certainly a large majority of the characters.
- Gambit Pileup: Lord Ferris is clearly on top of the pile, mind you.
- Well, he thinks he is. But when Diane is the local Magnificent Bastard, don't bet on Lord Ferris.
- Hitman With a Heart
- Jade Colored Glasses
- Jerkass Woobie: Alec. He does some pretty awful things (like picking fights with other swordsmen so he can watch Richard kill them) and he's regularly sarcastic, bitter, and cruel, even to people he loves--but once you've gotten a sense of just how screwed up he is and why, it's hard not to feel sorry for him in spite of his behavior.
- Land of One City: Noticeably averted.
- Love Hurts
- Love Makes You Crazy: Richard and Jessamyn.
- Love Redeems
- Lovers Ledge
- The Magic Comes Back
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The not-Shakespeare play.
- No Communities Were Harmed: Riverside has a fair amount in common with the Southwark of Shakespeare's day (which was and is on the banks of the River Thames).
- Rape As Drama: The Privilege of the Sword has an example which deals very respectfully with the subject.
- Implied in Swordspoint as well.
- Title Drop
- Urban Fantasy
- Urban Segregation: The nobles live on the hill, the poor in Riverside.
- You Bastard
- Your Cheating Heart