skygiants: C-ko the shadow girl from Revolutionary Girl Utena in prince drag (someday my prince will come)
[personal profile] skygiants
[personal profile] genarti read The Privilege of the Sword for the first time recently, because I had been telling her to since 2008, and then kept trying to talk to me about it. Unfortunately at this point I did not remember most of the things she was trying to talk to me about because I hadn't read it since 2007, so eventually I also had to reread it in self-defense.

It turns out this is still and probably will always be my favorite Ellen Kushner book. The central plotline follows Katherine, a cheerful young lady who gets invited to restore the family fortunes by going to live with her incredibly weird uncle in the big city and becoming a swordsman!

Unlike many plucky heroines, Katherine does not initially have really any interest at all in cross-dresing or becoming a swordsman. However, eventually she comes to enjoy swordfighting for its own sake, helped along by the mentorship of her incredibly weird uncle's nice ex-boyfriend, the necessity of dueling for a friend's honor, and the discovery that bisexuality and gender fluidity are potentially relevant concepts to her teen coming-of-age story.

...that's the A-plot! B, C, D, E, and F plots include:

- Katherine's mom's reparation of her relationship with Katherine's weird uncle
- Katherine's weird uncle's actress girlfriend's dreamy new cross-dressing fantasy Broadway show
- Katherine's weird uncle's unfortunate friendship breakup with his mathematician bestie
- Katherine's bff's attempts to overcome trauma from rape-by-fiance by engaging in romantic gay roleplay via letter-writing
- Katherine's other bff's attempts to overcome trauma from an abusive childhood by engaging in competitive voyeurism
- Katherine's bff's gigolo cousin's star-crossed romance with a scriptwriter/potter who is on the run from her abusive in-laws who do not appear in this book
- trade routes?? politics?????

I'm pretty sure that's not all the plots. There are so many plots in this book. It's fine because the plots are barely the point at best, the point is coming-of-age and life after trauma and thumbing your nose at Societal Conventions while getting to know and like yourself! I especially enjoy how after a whole book of Katherine's weird uncle Alec being like 'children! you don't understand the complexity of this situation, allow me to perform some more delicate backstage chess maneuvers against the villain who wishes to ruin our lives,' he finally gets so mad that he's just like 'WHATEVER I'M JUST GONNA MURDER HIM, PEACE,' conks him over the head, and flees the city! Leaving his house and fortune to a tribe of cute teenagers to turn into their own weird artist's colony! WAY TO CUT THAT GORDION KNOT, ALEC.

(Note: emo murderous Alec from Swordspoint drives me up a wall in his own book, but is significantly more tolerable to me when he's just Katherine's incredibly weird uncle. I mean he still drives me up a wall here but it's much funnier when he's driving everyone else up a wall too.)

Date: 2017-07-18 02:00 am (UTC)
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
From: [personal profile] rymenhild
As you know I love this book best of all Kushner books.

As you also know I have still not forgiven it for not ending with Katherine/Artemisia. But I am sure that is going to happen! When they get around to it!

Date: 2017-07-18 03:06 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer

Date: 2017-07-19 01:46 am (UTC)
aamcnamara: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aamcnamara
...maybe I should also reread Privilege of the Sword. Huh.

Date: 2017-07-19 03:27 am (UTC)
genarti: ([avatar] fandom in a nutshell)
From: [personal profile] genarti
Yes, that's where I am too! Like, I would be totally fine if Katherine/Artemisia happened down the line, but I would also totally be fine if it didn't, because I'm not actually sure how much they're into each other and how much they're just into the role they're playing for each other, but they're both such children! As is Marcus! They've got time! Maybe they'll all end up with other people too, or instead. They're 15!

Which is old enough to fumble their way through honorable duels and also a duchy but IT'S FINE. I do very much enjoy how Kushner walks the line of having them all read as genuine adolescents, which can be a tricky balance.

However, I do very much appreciate how canonically explicit all the queerness is. I would mind the lack of Katherine/Artemisia way way more in a book where I thought that the option of giving them a queer relationship had just not occurred to the author, which is (obviously) very very much not the case here.

Date: 2017-07-18 02:14 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I'm pretty sure that's not all the plots. There are so many plots in this book.

I remember like half of those.

Date: 2017-07-18 06:50 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I think the gigolo cousin's star-crossed F-plot romance with the potter is where I started losing track!

That was one of the ones I did not remember. I'll have to re-read when I unpack my copy. I mostly remember Alec, who would have been a nuclear trash fire of a parent, but makes a surprisingly great weird uncle.

Date: 2017-07-18 04:09 am (UTC)
elle_white: (12 Kingdoms: Youko/Shoukei/Suzu)
From: [personal profile] elle_white
This book does sound fascinating, and I now feel compelled to read Ellen Kushner's novels.

Date: 2017-07-18 09:32 am (UTC)
aquamirage: Stevonnie running down the beach (we don't dive we cannonball)
From: [personal profile] aquamirage
This sounds wild and AMAZING. I haven't read any Kushner, is it okay to start with this or should I start somewhere else?

Date: 2017-07-18 01:46 pm (UTC)
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophia_sol
...OH HUH. I definitely read this book once upon a time when I was a naive wee baby teen! I remember literally nothing about any of what you describe of what the book's about, and mostly just remember being shocked by some of the content. Maybe I should reread.

Date: 2017-07-18 02:46 pm (UTC)
mneme: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mneme
Oh, YES. Book is great.

Reminds me, after Hugo/Mythopoeic voting closes, I SHOULD READ RIVERSIDE. I totally haven't done any of this, and there's like, two seasons of it now.

IIRC, there are also some very good short stories. (some of them work better if you actually -like- Alec and Richard, of course, murderous-ness and all).

Date: 2017-07-18 03:11 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer
Compare to the Alpennia series by Heather Rose Jones, specifically the initial situation of Daughter of Mystery.

(Oh hey the third one's out yay!)

Date: 2017-07-18 03:21 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
I honestly can't remember if it's Swordspoint or Privilege of the Sword (or both) that I've read- this post sounds familiar but mostly I just remember how annoying Alec was, and it sounds like that could be either book.

Date: 2017-07-19 06:16 am (UTC)
lacewood: (books books books)
From: [personal profile] lacewood
Wow, I seem to have forgotten almost all... the subplots in this book... which is perhaps not surprising if there are this many of them?!?!

Also I agree, Alec is SO MUCH IMPROVED by not being the main character. He's still a disaster, but at least I'm not expected to INVEST in him being a disaster. WAY LESS ANNOYING THIS WAY.


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