Book review x 2: Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner

So… I finished reading these two books a couple of days ago, but haven’t had time to write and do them justice. This is rather a pity, because it has meant I’ve had to start reading other books, and I wasn’t really ready to leave that world. It’s also a pity that I read Privilege of the Sword before writing a review of Swordspoint, because it has, I think, coloured my view of the first book.

Where to start? Both books are set in a world that seems like a cross between Georgette Heyer’s regency London and 18th century Paris, and the world of Dangerous Liaisons. The intrigue, however, is largely political rather than sexual (which is not to say that sex does not play a part in the political intrigue – it clearly does), and, thank goodness, there are no stupid-but-virtuous pawns. Actually, there isn’t much conventional virtue to be seen anywhere, but the virtuous characters – and the rather more prevalent sympathetic characters – are in general as intelligent as the more appalling ones, which is a great relief. I particularly like what I can’t help seeing as a glimpse of what Mme de Merteuil might have been, had she turned her energies to politics. I’m not telling you which of the two books she is in, though. That would be cheating.

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