The Privilege of the Sword - Ellen Kushner

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the previous book in these series (Swordspoint) is one of my favourite books, one of the ones that I come back to and re-read on a regular basis. It was one of the first books I came across within the SFF genre that had a relationship between two men at the heart of it and, while it's not perfect by any means, I love the whole setting as well. 

 

The Privilege of the Sword is set about 20 years later, so whereas Alec was an itinerant scholar in Swordspoint, here he's now the (Mad) Duke Tremontaine and pretty much free to do whatever he wants because he has both the money and power to do so. In payment for an old debt within the family, Alec decides that his teenage niece will come to the city and train as a duellist. Initially Katherine is resistant, but soon throws herself into the scheme and finds herself also in the middle of intrigue involving both her uncle and others. In particular, one of Katherine's few friends initially accepts a good marriage proposal only to discover that her intended is a scumbag who takes advantage of her naivete, which insult Katherine then takes on herself to avenge. 

 

Overall, I really liked The Privilege of the Sword and, as with the previous book, the world in which it was set - Alec is very much the ruler of Riverside now, someone who everyone looks up to regardless of his supposed craziness. What probably stops me from giving this book 5 stars is the relationship between Alec and Richard, which had been the heart of the previous book, only for Alec to be getting up to all sorts of things with other people. What would have worked better for me would have been if everyone thought Alec was terribly licentious but actually wasn't, because I really felt for Richard - that investment for me in their relationship I have because of my love for Swordspoint meant this was much harder to swallow than might otherwise have been the case.