The Privilege of the Sword
Author: Ellen Kushner
Series: #2 in the Riverside series
Run Time: 15 hours and 40 minutes
Narrators: Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, Neil Gaiman
Producer: Neil Gaiman Presents
Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power in the city’s ballroom, brothels and boudoirs. Into this alluring world walks Katherine, a well-bred country girl versed in the rules of conventional society. Her mistake is thinking that they apply. For Katherine’s host and uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremontaine, is in charge here—and to him, rules are made to be broken. When Alec decides it would be more amusing for his niece to learn swordplay than to follow the usual path to marriage, her world changes forever. Blade in hand, it’s up to Katherine to navigate a maze of secrets and scoundrels and to gain the self-discovery that comes to those who master: the privilege of the sword.
And once again, listening to a category for the Audies made me find a book that I would never have picked up and read if it hadn’t been nominated. It wasn’t like this was a new release – in fact, the book was released in 2006. But with the advent of Audibles ACX program, older books that were never released in audiobook format are slowly appearing on the market. And I have to say that I love Neil Gaiman for producing this audiobook (as well as having a cameo in it!).
Anyways, at first I thought this was a neat twist on historical fiction with a female in a typically male role. But rather, when I looked at the random shelving on Goodreads, it fell more into the fantasy genre. Although it was written in such a way that the fantasy aspect was rather down-played. However, I did manage to find a new sub-genre that I’d never before heard of, Mannerpunk – or a satirical take on the uptight societal manners that you would expect to see in historical fiction. Kind of like the steampunk genre – stuff set in Victorian time period with the use of mechanical equipment…but back to Katherine.
I love kick-ass heroines and Katherine was definitely that. I mean, a female trained in sword-fighting. But its a bit hard to go into various facets of the story without providing spoilers for other parts – but needless to say, it was full of swordplay (both real and training), theatre, drama and romance and various combos of all four. Kushner was able to develop such a detailed world – I felt like I was there with them.
I will admit that having not read either of the books in the series published previously, so I did feel like I was missing some of the backstory. But never fear – I have book 1 (Swordspoint) on Mt. TBR and plan on getting to it probably in the next week or so. This review is very scatter-brained apparently and i kind of struggled with it – which is weird, because I don’t normally have those issues…but anyways, I highly recommend this book and possibly the other ones in the series (although I can’t say for sure, since I haven’t read them…).
The narration was almost as entertaining as the story itself. I have to admit that I was rather taken-aback when I started it and Neil Gaiman was the first person I heard at 6am on the way to work, as he did provided the introduction to the book. The main narration was done by the author and Barbara Rosenblat. I will admit that I am normally not a fan of author narrating their own books, but for some reason, this seemed to work. Ellen was the voice of Katherine and then Barbara the voice of Artemeisia. The rest of the cast, including (once again) the fantabulous Neil Gaiman appeared as various other characters in the book. Overall, I would give both the book and the narration a solid 4 stars and I’m looking forward to listening to more books produced by Neil Gaiman’s production company.