The decadent aristocracy on the Hill hire swordsmen from the slums of Riverside to fight their duels at Swordspoint. Richard St. Vier is this generation's swordsmaster and a favorite with the nobles until he kills without a contract.

Richard becomes a pawn in a political power play when his gentleman-scholar lover is kidnapped to force Richard to accept a refused commission. Richard's revenge changes his popularity and uncovers the hidden identity of his noble lover. If a patron doesn't come forward to protect Richard, his career is over—and so is his life.

In this reissue of the prequel to The Fall of the Kings, Ellen Kushner's tale is reminiscent of Georgette Heyer's "comedy of manners"-styled Regencies. Quirky characters and frequent plot twists are deftly woven into an enjoyable read. (Feb., 368 pp., $6.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kelly Rae Cooper