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Ellen Kushner
book cover

Who recommends: Julie, Rebekah, Catie, Danielle, Margaret
Who discommends:

This was a re-read. I was pleased to see that this book had been added to the list, but since I last read it over 10 years ago felt that a re-read was necessary so that I could comment meaningfully... Oh, and alright I just wanted to. First published in 1987, this was I think one of the first of the new wave of urban fantasies that are commonly labelled "Fantasy of Manners". It made a great impression on me when I first read it and I was curious to see if I would still feel the same way.

The setting is a divided city where the rich folk live on the hill and the poor live down by the river. The modes and manners are reminiscent of Georgian England but with some differences; one of the most obvious for the purpose of the story being that the aristocracy settle points of honour, not in personal duelling but via the use of surrogate swordsmen.

The narrative focusses on the career of one such swordsman, Richard St Vier, commonly reckoned the best of his age and his relationship with the mysterious ex-scholar, Alex. The story is a brightly faceted one; turning on points of honour; awash in decadance and betrayal. Questions also touch on the relationship of the central couple, giving little relief until the entirely satisfactory ending.

Re-reading I was struck afresh by Kushner's cleverness. I've read a number of SF novels which focus on a same-sex relationship, commonly the affect is alienating for the heterosexual reader. The reverse is true here; the relationship is described in terms of love, comfort and romance, not lust. I cried again when I reached the end; so happy that it had all worked out.--Catie (27 Oct 99)

Recommend - one of my regular rereads--Tanya (19 Oct 00)

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