Swordspoint is one of the definitive books in the mannerspunk sub-genre. It’s a fantasy novel in that it takes place in a fictional world, but it calls itself a “melodrama of manners” about a swordsman named Richard and his lover, a mysterious and self-destructive young man named Alec.
Richard and Alec live in Riverside, which is sort of the commoner half of an unnamed city-state. The nobility live on the Hill across the river and there are other POV characters on that side of things.
The story is somewhat labyrinthine, with political intrigue and plots-within-plots that unfold along the way. The characters are compelling and likable, despite mostly being somewhat horrible people. For the romantics among you, the love story isn’t the point, but it’s very present.
Swordspoint is the first book in the Riverside Series, with two other novels and several short stories. Kushner’s writing is nuanced, with some beautiful use of language. There’s always something bittersweet about these stories, never wholly happy, but I love them desperately. They’re fantastic.