Swordspoint Ellen Kushner Audiobook Review

I’m kind of on the fence about Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. On the one hand, it breaks pretty new ground TO me in that a gay relationship is front and center in the book. On the other hand, the audiobook starts off pretty well done and interesting with all the different voices reading, but then I just found the sound effects to be a little too much. Yet, as far as being a comedy of manners, I think that Swordspoint succeeds, at least during the parts that I didn’t tune out.

Swordspoint Ellen Kushner Book Cover

Set in Riverside, Swordspoint is not your typical fantasy book. There is no war. There is no evil force waiting to be defeated. Instead, Ellen Kushner’s book is all about the machinations of the nobles. You see, people work their problems and issues out by dueling. Well, the nobles hire swordmasters to duel for them. Richard St. Vier is the best of all the swords masters. One day, he wins a duel and kills another dude, but instead of people being pumped up over it, they are totally pissed off. So then, Richard’s lover Alec gets kidnapped by Lord Horn as a result and so Richard has to do something to get Alec back. Thus lies the crux of Swordspoint.

I kind of feel like I am not as well read as I think I am, because I have NEVER read an adult fantasy before with gay main characters and I totally need to correct that. The cool thing is that even though this was written in the 80s, Richard St. Vier and Alec just happen to be gay. Like, being gay is not their entire personality but a facet. I liked that they were pretty realized characters with strengths and weaknesses and interests. St. Vier is never the stereotypical gay man and I LOVE that. Who knew such an old book could be so progressive? I did like the romance, although hahaha I was listening to Swordspoint at work when it started to get a little heated, and that was a bit embarrassing, but I get embarrassed when ANY audiobook I listen to takes a sexy turn and I’m in my office and not in the privacy of my car or gym.

Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint is tightly paced. Sure, there is SOME meandering, but it’s interesting meandering, ya know? Like if you dig Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer and like reading about polite society, then you’ll dig it. You won’t be like ahhhh I AM SO BORED. At least, I was never all like AHHH I AM SO BORED WITH THESE PEOPLE AND THEIR CONVENTIONS. I was like, whoo-hoo what happens when people stop being polite and start getting REAL. So, yeah interest levels may vary.

I’ve definitely got FEELINGS about the audiobook. It’s one of those ‘A Neil Gaiman Production‘ audiobooks, meaning that the production quality is pretty high. The cast is stellar. Ellen Kushner is the main narrator. Then for each of the characters there is a different narrator. The other narrators are Dion Graham, Katherine Kellgren, Robert Fass, Nick Sullivan, and Simon Jones. The only narrator that I recognized was Katherine Kellgren and I have to say, she really excelled at her parts. As for the other narrators, I thought they did a fabulous job portraying the snooty nobles.

However, there were also sound effects. At first, I was like oh these are SO cool, I love this. But then, they just really took me out of the story and much like TV, I started to tune it out automatically. Like, there’s a few scenes with a cat and every time the cat was mentioned there was this meowing effect but it was SO annoying. I thought it was a little gimmicky. Swordspoint is 10 hours and 54 minutes unabridged. Granted, I still have book 2, The Privilege Of The Sword in my audible wishlist, but that’s because Felicia Day is one of the narrators and I CANNOT RESIST.

Disclosure: Purchased copy

Other reviews of Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner:

This Fleeting Dream – “really enjoyable, and beautifully written

The Review Diaries – “for all my complaints, it is a brilliant book, and engaging world

Nerf Reader – “a good book if you enjoy stories of political intrigue or duels. No interest in fantasy needed.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I have this on my audible wishlist. Interesting thoughts about the sound effects. I think I’d feel the same…. like, a few are okay but it’s a fine line! Also, You should totally check out Sherwood Smith’s Inda books (book one: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00256Z2DW/sherwoodsmith-20) Adult fantasy with some gay relationships. I too like how that aspect was just a part of the story… not some big drama.

    • I’ve had Sherwood Smith on my wishlist for such a long time, I’ll have to make the effort to read her books sooner rather than later.

      Yeah, the sound effects were cool at first, but then got to be a bit much.

  2. I like the sound of this book, though if the sound effects through you off that much I think I’d rather read it than listen to it.

  3. I’ve been totally waiting for this review from you because you KNOW I’ve been so curious about the audio for this one. I’ve heard stellar things about the production and the cast (and am even more excited about the cast for the sequel), but as someone who doesn’t really dig full cast, I’m worried I just wouldn’t get into this one. Did you ever read any of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels? She often includes gay characters, and her Last Herald Mage trilogy (starting with Magic’s Pawn) does feature a gay main character.

    There is actually a Goodreads list for fantasy starring gay main characters if you’re interested in reading others: http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3948.Best_Fantasy_Books_with_Gay_Main_Characters#28759


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