The Privilege of the Sword
by Ellen Kushner
Review by Harriet Klausner
Spectra Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0553382683
Date: 25 July, 2006 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
His sister is totally on target that Davey has not grownup as he still throws rowdy orgies at his two main residences, the family mansion Tremontaine House and his Riverside home. She is also correct about his other pastime of causing trouble for his family, neighbors, and rivals as he expects others to subsidize his debauchery. Two decades have passed, but he remains the same degenerate that he has been at least since his sister married.
Alec sees his niece as the instrument to finally defeat his greatest adversary, the widower Lord Ferris. She will learn to be a master swordswoman so that she can become his bodyguard and defeat Ferris; he will know she is ready when she defeats the master training her. Katherine is unhappy that her uncle will not allow her to wear pretty dresses as he wants her dressed as a man, but she admits that she finds the sword training fun and really works at it until she becomes quite skillful. She makes friends with Lady Artemisia Fitz-Levi though she wonders if her Mad Uncle Alec as he insists on being called arranged this as the woman is engaged to Lord Ferris. Finally he relents and Alec escorts Katherine to the iniquitous Rogues' Ball where Artemisia begs her to help her get out of her engagement at the same time that her uncle begins in earnest his plan to annihilate Ferris.
The sequel to the superb Swordspoint, The Privilege Of The Sword is an excellent sword and society thriller that comes across as a fantasy yet no magic, enchantments or spells are used. That is the sorcery of Ellen Kushner as the reader will feel that they are in attendance in a medieval realm in which sword wielders defend the dominion by enforcing good "manners" on their foes. Thus readers are hooked trying to comprehend what diabolical scheme does the Mad Duke have in mind when he decides to train a female and expects her to enforce "manners" on males especially swordsmen as no one wants to believe it is settling a score with his sister only.
The fast-paced story line is character driven predominately by the relationship between uncle and niece, but also somewhat by the enmity that freely flows to and from the Mad Duke and Lord Ferris. Katherine is a terrific person who knows her uncle is crazy, hates what he is doing to her except for the sword training. She loves the sword and becomes adroit and confident with it to the point she expects to defeat any man including her instructor with a sword and any of the male bodyguards; no one will rape this lock. She in some ways feels she owes her uncle for his insistence on her training, but also loathes him for his hatefulness towards her mother, his deviousness and perverted nastiness that has placed her in uncomfortable situations. Ms. Kushner writes a brilliant sharp medieval manners thriller that hooks readers from the moment Mother reads her brother's message that he wants to turn his niece into a great swordswoman.