Reviews & Awards


Winner, Gaylactic Network Spectrum Award, 2000 Hall of Fame.
Nominated for Prix Imaginales (roman étranger), France, 2009.


"Swordspoint begins with a single drop of blood on a field of new-fallen snow, an image that burned itself forever into my mind the first time I encountered it. I can close my eyes and see it still. It’s a terrific opening, and unforgettable opening… and the book just gets better from there."
— George R.R. Martin


"Expands the literary boundaries of stylistic and imaginative achievement in fantasy and contemporary literature."
The New York Times Book Review


"You probably keep a copy of Swordspoint on your bedside table, ready in case you catch the flu or have a particularly difficult day at work. If you don’t, then beg, borrow, or buy a copy… so you can wander around the City, drinking beer and quarrelling with pickpockets at a bar in Riverside, taking chocolate and gossip with the aristocrats on the Hill."
—Theodora Goss, Strange Horizons


"A glorious thing, the book we might have had if Noel Coward had written a vehicle for Errol Flynn. It’s wicked and visual and witty, and it pulls you in like the doorman of a Bourbon Street bar.”
—Gene Wolfe


"Kushner let[s] her rapier-like writing, vivid characterizations, and cleverly plotted story speak for themselves. The result [is] an urbanely sophisticated romantic adventure that staked . . new ground for literary fantasy."
—Paul Witcover, Realms of Fantasy


"A many-faceted pleasure. It manages to evoke both the witty Regency romances of Georgette Heyer and the fog-shrouded, dangerous streets of fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar. At the same time there is a cutting edge to the plotting and characterization that marks Ellen Kushner as a writer with a distinctive voice of her own.”
—Guy Gavriel Kay


"Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint has the distinction of being among the most intelligent and stylish fantasy novels I’ve ever read."
—Robert M. Tilendis, Green Man Review


"Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint: A Melodrama of Manners took the fantasy world by storm when it was published in the 1980s, and Ellen was hailed as the fantasy field’s answer to Dorothy Dunnett."
—Terri Windling, Endicott Studio


"An elegant, talented, and vastly enjoyable novel."
—Samuel R. Delany


"Swordspoint is not so much fantasy as it is alternate history.  No dwarves or elves or magic elixirs.  Instead, it’s anti-heroes, courtly intrigue, and plenty of swordplay. ….Kushner excels at weaving a complex but not overly complicated web of deceit, double-crosses, and hidden agendas…. secret games made all that more interesting by its colorful assembly of players… .characters who straddle that fine line between black and white… .a testament to Kushner’s ability to craft a tale both deeply textured and vividly imagined."
Joseph Mallozzi


"Charming, exciting, and ironically provocative, rather as though Georgette Heyer had turned her hand to fantasy."
—Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn


“For all those lovers of Dumas, Baroness Orczy and Dorothy Dunnett… [with] Dickensian characters and ready wit… If you have even an ounce of interest in the interplay of sharp swords, and sharper tongues, then Swordspoint is for you."
—Charles de Lint


"[Kushner] draws you through the story with such lucid, powerful writing that you come to trust her completely—and she doesn’t let you down… It’s the kind of trust that only a special kind of writer earns: the writer who has so fully realized the story’s world and characters, who has such perfect command of language and structure that the story never falters. Watch this woman—she’s going to be one of the great ones."
—Orson Scott Card, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1988)


"A bravura performance, a delight from start to finish."


"A tale as witty, beguiling and ingenious as a collaboration between Jane Austen and M. John Harrison… a well-nigh faultless first novel."


"Brilliantly written, exciting and a delight to read. [An] absorbing genre-bender… Her writing is clear, fluid and beautiful, with wonderful dialogue… Swordspoint is both moving and witty, a rare combination… I didn’t want it to end."
Aboriginal SF


"A scintillating gem… witty, wicked, fascinating, beautifully written—and unique."
—Joan D. Vinge, author of The Snow Queen


"Ellen Kushner writes like an angel… pellucid, poetically structured prose [and] a gathering sense of tragic reality. I have not in some time read a better writer."
—Algis Budrys, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction


"Colourful, exciting, and packed with action."
The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald


"[Takes] up themes essential to the literature of outsiders: the deceptiveness of appearances, the anguish and bravado of alienation, and, perhaps most important, the challenges that face anyone who crosses borders, geographical, cultural, or economic…. Swordspoint is a tour de force, as riddled with feints and parries as a duel… rich with nuance and subtle shifts… Ellen Kushner ably delivers … a world deceptively familiar yet deeply unlike our own. Readers who listen carefully, who resist the temptation to impose their values on these vividly realized characters, will be amply rewarded."


"[A]n encounter with a subtly different sensibility and worldview… [with] memorable characters in a rich world… couched in elegant prose and some very witty dialogue exchanges."
Eve’s Alexandria


"Some of the action scenes in this novel are unforgettable, but it really is the world that stays with you. The combination of Kushner’s flawless ability with dialog and the story of living by the sword just to get by in an urban landscape is what quickly picks you up and places you firmly in your place, right alongside Richard and Alec as they make their way through every day life."
—Jeff Pelletier, Fantasy Book News