15 years have passed since Swordspoint. The Duchess is long dead (*sniff*). The Hill is little changed. And the Mad Duke will drop his lawsuits against his sister if she sends her daughter to Tremontaine House to learn the sword. Welcome to the second Riverside Read-along.
We meet Lady Katherine counting spoons. With one elegant scene we gather that she is young, naive, and impoverished. We also learn that it’s all her uncle’s fault: the Mad Duke Tremontaine has been pursuing what sounds like frivolous legal action to try and seize her mother’s dower lands, denying them any income for years as the case remains unsettled. Given the Mad Duke already holds Tremontaine, he really doesn’t need them, but he’s clearly got a grudge. And he’s Mad. Gosh, that doesn’t sound like Alec.
It’s no real surprise when he offers the family a settlement if they’ll send young Katherine to the city to live with him. Hooray, you might cry: Katherine has been chosen to be his heir! This may or may not be true, but like Diane, Alec has far too many games to play for us to be certain. Instead, there are conditions: Katherine may not make contact with her family for six months, and she must learn the sword.
Katherine belonging firmly to that happy group who celebrate opportunities without looking for the bagful of spiders that come with them, she persuades her mother it’s her family duty to go and sweeps off to Tremontaine with notions of silk dresses, velvet capes, diamond-crusted slippers, rich husbands. Oh, Katherine.
Needless to say, that’s not what she finds. Lisa commented that it was like Cinderella, which is both apt and hilarious (because I think that makes Alec the fairy godmother, which may keep me giggling all week). The characters she encounters at Tremontaine – her well-meaning if hard-drinking lady’s maid Betty, the peerlessly capable Marcus who runs the household, the beautiful and cruel Alcuin (Alec’s latest squeeze) all play into this impression. They fit the archetypes, but they’re also delightful.
Katherine has so much to learn it’s almost painful to watch. I thought Richard was naive, but at least he understood how the city and the Hill worked, if not their politics. Katherine knows less than Jon Snow. Her first ball is almost a disaster, and then she loses her dresses. Her new-made friend Lady Artemisia also has much to learn, starting with gaining an appreciation for a well-turned pair of ankles (and the rest) being flaunted in hose. Get on board, Artemisia!
In the background, beyond Katherine’s comprehension, Alec is manoeuvering. Whether this has anything to do with the fact that Ferris is now Crescent Chancellor (!) or more to do with his own delight in breaking rules (“I do not make the rules … This annoys me, and so I comfort myself by breaking them.”) is unclear. I haven’t quite put my finger on what he’s up to, but smashing noble privilege to bits would seem to be high on his agenda (oh, Richard).
The real joy of this first Part, however, has been Venturus. He reads an awful lot like Syrio Forel dancing master (the books are of similar vintage, so I think there must just have been something in the air right then). He is flamboyant, rude, refuses to acknowledge Katherine’s a girl (he doesn’t teach girls), and his mangling of English provides additional entertainment. He’s also a very damn good swordsman and teacher. He better not end up like Vincent.
And then Katherine is whisked off to a country estate, where she is greeted by a mysterious man with dirty hands.
“I could hardly wait for them to go, so I could find out what happened next” – you and me both, Katherine. You and me both. This feels lighter-hearted than Swordspoint so far, but I suspect we’ll start to see the wheels within wheels turning behind the scenes next week.
Join us for our weekly read (full schedule here)! We will be livetweeting with #TPOTS through 100 pages or so every Sunday night at 10pm UTC.