Authors are often told to write a story, than cut the first few chapters. The advice is meant to put the reader closer to the action and shear away the backstory. Such advice would have served Kushner well.
Once you've trudged through the first eighty pages, Swordspoint casts you into a story full of intrigues and scheming nobles. The highborn settle matters of honor by hiring swordsmen to offer contest to the offending party. Such conflicts often involve two swordsmen, each championing the cause of their respective patron. Public shame is heaped on the losing side who are forced to flee the city and lick their wounds in seclusion.
All nobles seek out the famed swordsman Richard St Vier first, a man unmatched in the deadly art. But nobles play a mortal game, one in which a sword stands little hope. Each noble seeks to bend Richard St Vier to their plots. There was a time when such a possibility didn't exist. But that was before Richard found Alec,
Love is a double-edged sword. To grasp it is to feel it's bite. There is a certainty in pain, a promise of life, of living. Richard understands the cost of love, even as his exposed wounds leave him vulnerable to the cruel highborn who seek to control him.
You'll want to read this book. After it picks up its stride, it's not enough to stop and wait for tomorrow. Each chapter increases the stakes. The prose is clean and flows. The characters are breathing and real, and the plot is layered and complicated.
Had Kushner cut the first eighty pages, this book would have earned a spot on the exceptional shelf; those books which resuscitate the imagination with charged air. As it stands, it assures a purchase of the sequal The Fall of the Kings