A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{March 11, 2014}   The Fall of Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

fall of kingsPlot: Theron, son of the late mad duke of Tremontaine, is best known for his scandalous romances and his irresponsible ways. But his most recent affair with a history professor has got him caught up in the ambitions of royalists, treason and long dead magic.

This review is based on the audiobook narrated by Ellen Kushner with the help of a full cast (including Neil Gaiman!).

This is the third Riverside audiobook (after Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword) and sadly probably the last. I cannot express how much I love this series and it works so well in audio format. The Fall of Kings takes place many years after its companion novels but many of the characters we have come to love (or their children) return. And it has all the intrigue, complex interpersonal relationships and elegant writing that I’ve come to expect from Kushner.

The swordsmen that were so central to the first two novels have been replaced by the very different world of academia (I’ve seen some complaints about this online but I don’t feel it hurts the narrative). The central struggles of the narrative are those between different kinds of scholarship and researchers search for the truth… with some spies seeking traitors to add to the intrigue. As a librarian I couldn’t have been more thrilled by the way Kushner and Sherman capture the excitement and passion of research. In doing so they  flesh out the fascinating history of their world and the politics that led to the fall of the ancient kings. But admittedly, if you are expecting physical battles, you won’t find more than a handful of fist fights.

There are also so many great new characters: Theron, of course, and his lover Basil but my favorite is without a doubt Theron’s half-sister, a pirate and trickster and something of an embarrassment to the Tremontaine family. I could go on for a while but half the fun is meeting these fully realized characters.

And, this might be a little controversial, but I loved the ending. It isn’t simply happy and it is far from stereotypical; some might find it quite shocking. But I found it refreshing and right for the characters.

This series is among my favorite audiobooks and I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans.

2014 (#5)


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