September 19th, 2006

mmm books

Kushner, Ellen - The Privilege of the Sword

I haven't actually read all of Swordspoint before; I started it out a long time ago, got bored (I know, heresy), and never finished it. So I have slight inklings as to how this book plays off of Swordspoint, but nothing substantial.

Katherine's uncle, the Mad Duke Tremontaine, has basically blackmailed her family into letting her become his ward, in a way. She's to learn swordfighting. I get the sense that many things have changed since Swordspoint; Alec often mutters about how the privilege of the sword isn't what it used to be.

I very much liked how in the beginning, Katherine isn't particularly interested in learning the sword; she is horrified by the fact that her uncle has taken away all her dresses and provided her with men's clothing, and she misses embroidery. It was a rather refreshing change from the Spunky Heroine who makes her brother teach her fencing and steals his clothes and hates embroidery and girly stuff. Katherine felt much more like a product of her society, especially her horror in having her legs show so clearly in the tights and pants.

That said, I never quite got emotionally involved with the book. I liked Katherine, and I especially liked how the melodrama The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death played into the story, but I don't know. Not enough political maneuvering? I mean, there was a lot of maneuvering; it's just that Katherine wasn't privy to it, so I wasn't really as well. I liked Artemisia, despite her initial stupidity, and I was particularly glad that Kushner didn't end up playing Artemisia and Katherine against each other, as the evil traditional female who was all catty and the untraditional female who was all noble.

My favorite parts of the book involved Katherine's not-quite romantic bond with Artemisia, the bond among the women of the story. I loved the questions of the privilege of the sword -- does it only belong to men? What happens if there is a female swordsman? What about a woman's honor, if her male relatives don't defend it? Does it still exist?

It was a particularly nice counterpoint to the bits of Swordspoint that I read; one of the reasons I put it down was because it was so male and the women that I remembered were the catty nobles who acted like sluts and were condemned for it.

Here, there's a nuanced understanding that that's how the society makes them work, because that's the only way they can get ahead if they can't defend themselves, which is why Katherine is so cool.

I think I liked this intellectually much more than I did emotionally, but that may be because I haven't read Swordspoint and haven't picked up on a lot of things. (though there is a scene in the book that totally got to me, despite not having read Swordspoint)

- yhlee's review
- jinian's review
- sartorias' review
- buymeaclue's review