The Fall of the Kings

by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman | Science Fiction & Fantasy |
ISBN: 0553381849 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 11/19/2002
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This book is in the wild! This Book is Currently in the Wild!
1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Haven't read this one yet, although I did read the short story with the same title that appeared in a recent fantasy anthology - not sure if the short story was an excerpt from the novel or if the novel grew from the story... Anyway, it's a distant sequel to "Swordspoint" (which has recently been re-released in paperback; hooray!), a marvelous "fantasy of manners".

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, January 9, 2004
In progress... this one's actually a lot funnier than "Swordspoint," although there are already hints that this will not always be the case - there's a lot of scheming and power-play going on in the background, and our hero, an earnest academic who's trying to track down an ancient - and banned - book of magic, appears to be destined for trouble. But the banter between the students and professors in this fantasy-medieval-ish university is a lot of fun, and the imagery is just marvelous. To be continued...

Journal Entry 3 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Friday, January 7, 2005
OK. I actually finished this book in early August, and was so upset about it that I think that contributed to my postponing writing the journal entry. (That, and the fact that I wanted to analyze why I liked the previous novel so much and disliked this one, and to compare and contrast this book and its "I didn't like the ending" with another book whose ending wasn't what I'd wanted, and yet was NOT disappointing to me.) In part I think my disappointment was due to the expectations I'd had; Swordspoint is a hard act to follow, but the beginning of Kings seemed to suggest that it was making a good run at it - and then it fell apart.

As previously noted, early on the book is very lively, introducing its characters and setting a busy and rollicking scene. There's some lovely imagery, too, with descriptions to die for:
Theron found himself looking up at the dangerous Laurel sculpture. Rain had washed some dirt down it, and lichen was growing there, making the sculptor's highly textured tree seem even more lifelike in the twilight. A young man with marble skin reached out beseechingly from the bark encasing his legs, his thighs...

As one who, human, offered not his fruit
To one bright god
Must live condemned to offer it to all.
Ah! Bitter immortality! Majestic

He'd forgotten the rest of the verse.
There's also lots of wonderful myth/history built in to the plot - the folkways that people still follow during the festivals, tied in to the historical lore that Basil St. Cloud is researching in his quest for true magic. There's an ancient Royal Hunt that involved the wizards and the kings, there are rituals and tests - all counterbalanced by the current day's rituals and tests, as St. Cloud tries to find the knowledge that will set him ahead of all the other professors - and help him keep the love of Theron Campion.

But then things go all pear-shaped. The story feels choppy to me; it's told in the third person with the focus shifting between the two main characters - fair enough - but then, near the end, seems to back away from both of them, looking on from the view of secondary characters (and one surprise new character who showed up late in the story and, while fascinating in herself, pretty much stole the thunder from the primary characters) .

I'd been expecting some form of tragic ending; this tale of an idealistic young scholar who stumbles upon what he thinks may be a genuine book of magic, and decides to dig up the truth about the kings-and-wizards of ancient history, and the unstable young noble with whom he falls in love was pretty much guaranteed not to have a rosy conclusion. But somehow the way this ended just - annoyed/disappointed/irked me; it wasn't heart-rending so much as "what? what just happened?" - with the feeling that it was setting up for a sequel in which that lovely new character will have more of a role. And I didn't like that; give her her own book if you want, but let Theron and Basil get to the end of their story while still holding center stage. [I am beginning to sense that while I rather like Kushner's writing, Sherman's is less to my taste, and perhaps that's one reason why this collaboration did not appeal to me.]

The occasional tie-ins to Swordspoint characters were interesting (especially one ghostly cameo that gave me chills), but overall Kings had a different feel - even with more than a hint of magic, it felt less fantasy-world than the previous book. Oddly enough, the short story "Fall of the Kings" that appeared in a Best Fantasy and SF collection struck me as having much more impact than this novel did.

[I'm giving it a (grudging) 6; the beginning reached an 8 at times, and the ending wasn't better than a 4.]

Released 17 yrs ago (1/11/2005 UTC) at Daniel Webster Highway (See Text For Details) in Nashua, New Hampshire USA



I plan to take this book to tonight's Nashua BookCrossing Meetup in the coffee shop of Barnes & Noble at 7. [I'll be the one in the BookCrossing T-shirt.] If you're interested in the book, feel free to stop by; I'll give it to whoever asks first, even if they're not a BookCrosser (yet!).

If there are no takers, Fall of the Kings will come home with me for release elsewhere, as I don't leave unattended wild releases inside bookstores - life's confusing enough as it is...

Journal Entry 5 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Unclaimed at Meetup - will release elsewhere.

Journal Entry 6 by wingGoryDetailswing at Shell Station At Exit 4 in Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Released 17 yrs ago (1/11/2005 UTC) at Shell Station At Exit 4 in Nashua, New Hampshire USA



I left the book inside the ATM booth at the Exit 4 Shell station at about 8:15.

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