Book Cover: SwordspointIt’s week 3 of the Swordspoint read-along, and the politics on the Hill are getting as sharp as the swords in Riverside. Who is Alec? What is Lord Ferris up to? Will Richard’s overconfidence be his undoing? Why did someone give him a kitten?

This week in Swordspoint we’re moving on from scene-setting and character-building and getting on with plot. This isn’t to say there’s not plenty of page time given over to fleshing our cast out: we get to look through the slippery Lord Ferris’s and eyes (and Lord Horn’s *shudder*), although Alec remains a mystery to us.

Michael, oddly, has moved on faster than Lord Horn. After sighing, sulking and spitting blood over Diane, his commitment to becoming a swordsman is remarkable. I doubt he’s put so much single-minded effort into anything in his life, although it hasn’t entirely hampered his social life – he’s still finding time for the theatre and flirting with Bertram. He seemed to have forgotten that Richard St Vier turned him down as a student, but I suspect that name and face will be writ large given Michael’s encounter with him this week (see me avoid the spoilers?).

Michael bothers me. There’s a certain narrative that takes the dandy and turns him from dismissable fluff into the unlikely danger, and given he is hustled out of town at the end of this week there’s ample room for him to sweep back in to stick it to Richard later on. Character development points, but nooooo I’d hate to see Richard humbled in this way. Perhaps they can both end up out of town and team up to stick it to Lord Ferris? We’ll see.

Lord Ferris doesn’t get better on closer acquaintance. He’s a two-faced schemer, clearly working with everyone to his own advantage and not happy to settle for second place. Also, Lord Halliday seems to be a genuine Good Guy, and I doubt Lord Ferris has such altruistic politics. You’re a pawn or an obstacle in his world, unless you’re poor Katherine in which case you’re a pawn and a bedmate. She seems trapped by circumstance to contribute to a scheme she doesn’t really want a part in (it’s clear Ferris considers Richard disposable, and I don’t get the feeling Katherine is harbouring a grudge).

Speaking of closer acquaintance, time with Lord Horn left me wanting to scrub my brain in a bad way. All the commentary that this is what Michael could turn into (if he doesn’t become a swordsman) seems well-placed, and it’s an unpleasant thing indeed: oily and sticky and utterly self-absorbed. Horn’s redeeming feature is that he has no idea of his unimportance, although as a noble he could no doubt continue to make things distractingly complicated for Richard and Alec.

That said, the biggest complication for Richard appears to be the rather dubious legality of professional duelling. I’m so confused. We first encounter it in what is basically a staged fight – two (well, three, thanks to de Maris) professional swordsmen duelling as proxies for lords; part entertainment, part politics. However, it’s becoming clear that without sponsors defending their duellists, there’s an opportunity for murder accusations and legal proceedings. Add in the explicit suggestion that a ‘duel’ may involve killing a number of household guards before cutting someone down in their study, and it starts to look a lot more like assassination and a lot less like rapiers at dawn. In this respect, the events at the Academy – let alone what may yet happen to Lord Halliday – make it seem like Richard is very unlikely to navigate the politics in the latter part of the novel… Especially given his distaste for written contracts. Sure, the money’s good, but RICHARD NO. Ferris can’t be trusted!

Last thought for the week: my love for the Duchess Tremontaine is unabated. It continues to be unclear where her politics lie, and it becomes ever clearer that she lies wherever and whenever she damn well pleases. Irresistible, oh yes.

Finally – the Storify account (no explicit spoilers, but extra-strong hints about certain developments; poor Lisa) of the live-tweeted group read on Sunday night. Two weeks left to go – still time to jump in for the second half of the book if you’re a fast reader 🙂