I read Swordpoint not too long ago because a) it looked interesting, b) the second book had a chick with a sword!, and c) a bunch of Goodreaders liked it, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I liked it fine, but it didn't seem finished. There was a complete story arc, but I just walked away feeling like there was no resolution. Basically, Swordpoint + The Privilege of the Sword = one big novel. I got my resolution from Swordpoint in its sequel, and then some.
This book had me howling because the women act like women. Not all women all the time, obviously, but that gossipy overanalysis we all do that we totally pretend doesn't happen when there are men in the room? Yeah. Yeah, Kushner nailed it (You know you wonder what he meant when he sent you flowers. Because they're roses. Yellow roses. Why would someone in the throes of heated passion send you yellow roses? Seriously, now). Truth be told, I was actually a little annoyed at the insipid women in the beginning (though amused when our intrepid heroine pictured herself sweeping elegantly down well-structured staircases like a Gothic heroine). Then they introduced the book within the book, and y'all know I'm mad about that trope.The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death
, written by A Lady of Quality, is a trashy romance novel. And not just any trashy romance novel: it's Twilight, only with better writing (also: swordfights!). All the girls in the book are utterly mad for the tale, and it's used as a frame narrative in highly amusing ways. This ridiculous book, scorned by men and older married women, influences our heroines to act the way they do depending on who in the story they decide to emulate. Do they see themselves as the daring romantic lead? The intrepid heroine? The best friend who totally should be the love interest but isn't for some reason because he's way cooler? It was funny the first time Kushner brought it up. It was funnier the second time. But this lady doesn't even need to obey the rule of three: every time she brings up The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death,
it becomes sillier (and occasionally very pertinent).
Oh, frame narratives. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
The other thing I absolutely adored about this book: the characters grew. Every major character introduced in the beginning of the book had metamorphosed by the end, and I love it. I hate the books with stagnant characters who are perfect at the start and never ever change because that would remove the sparkle
for the reader proxy. I want my heroes to change and grow throughout the story, because that's what people do. Even if it's in a very small way -- speaking up easier around a group of people, gaining or losing confidence, a slight attitudinal shift -- people adapt or fall behind.
Also: chick with a sword. That will never stop being cool.