Tremontaine: Ellen Kushner et al.

★★★

with chapters by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, Patty Bryant and Paul Witcover

Apologies to all the authors I wasn’t able to show in the photo above, but it seemed a good idea to stick with Ellen Kushner. This ambitious project takes place in her world after all, unfurling the intrigues and romances that act as a prequel to Swordspoint. Here we see the city in all its familiar shades, from the dangerous alleyways of Riverside thick with thieves, rogues and swordsmen, to the elegant decadence of the Hill, where fashions, plots and chocolate are the order of the day.

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La Clemenza di Tito: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791)

Mozart: Clemenza di Tito

★★★★

(Salzburg Festival 2003; Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt)

For my first opera DVD of the new year, I decided it was time to make the acquaintance of Mozart’s Clemenza. This is one of the most popular and frequently filmed operas out there and it can be hard to know where to start; but fortunately there was help on hand in the form of Dehggial, who writes the knowledgeable and deliciously irreverent blog Opera, innit. Dehggial has a particular fondness for Clemenza and recommended this production from the 2003 Salzburg Festival. It’s a rather austere, dark take on the opera with some splendid singing and powerful acting. It was only after buying it that I realised it had been designed by none other than Martin Kušej, which meant there were some interesting links with motifs from the Royal Opera House’s recent Idomeneo.

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The Fall of the Kings: Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman

★★★½

Riverside III

Following on from Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, this is the third in Ellen Kushner’s series set in her broadly 18th-century city, around the nobles’ district of the Hill, the warren of Riverside and the halls of the University. The latter, which figured only briefly in the two previous novels, becomes the main setting here. I was rather charmed to find a fantasy book in which one of the main plot strands is a dispute over historical methodologies.

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The Privilege of the Sword: Ellen Kushner

★★★★

I have a list of what I call ‘comfort books’: novels which, in times of stress or sadness, I can curl up with and be reminded that the world is a wonderful place (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is one; These Old Shades is another). The Privilege of the Sword, a sequel to Swordspoint, has just joined this very select company. A quote on the back cover of my edition calls it ‘A magical mixture of Dumas and Georgette Heyer‘, which is precisely the right way to describe this gloriously bubbly swashbuckling adventure. Stuffed with duels, romance and intrigue, it also has the kind of feisty, independent heroine I would have adored as a sixteen-year-old. And I adore her even more now: in the intervening twelve years I’ve read enough books to know what a rare kind of heroine she is.

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