Book cover: The Privilege of the SwordLady Katherine is settling into her trousers and starting to take pride in her swordcraft, but she’s a long way from ready for the master who awaits her at Highcombe. And so am I, frankly. Welcome to #TPOTS week 2.

If our first week saw Katherine off-balance, desperately trying to find familiar things to latch onto, this week shows how adaptable she is. She’s not dismayed to discover her new fencing master is a swordsman of an entirely different class to Venturus, and she takes her setbacks with equanimity. At least until she realises he doesn’t need to see her to be able to put her in her place.

I really liked the pacing through Act II: I had a distinct sense of time passing as the seasons changed, which let me appreciate the relationship between Katherine and her new tutor all the more. Long walks, hours of practice, evenings by the fire, history, poetry and banter – it absolutely feels like a training montage with more class.

So of course Alec shows up at Year’s End to ruin it, because that’s what the Mad Duke does (just ask Ferris).

At this point, I can’t say more without spoilers, so if you’d like to remain unsullied, I suggest you stop now. Just take my word for it that this book is amazing and deserves your time. Go read it. Go on. Shoo. We can catch up once you’ve caught up.

 

Still here?

 

Right then.

 

Because of course I spent all of last week wondering what had happened to Richard. And here we have him, just as talented but seemingly wiser than when we last met. If his relationship with Alec in Swordspoint was turbulent and troubling, their interactions at Highcombe are a whole lot worse. Alec is horrid. He’s selfish. He’s cruel. And Richard just absorbs it with love and refuses to bend to his will. Oh, my heart. None of this makes me like Alec a smidgeon more (and I was already liking him a whole lot less for Katherine’s sake), but it makes me think Richard has grown.

Then to top it off, we realise Alec has drugged Katherine to ensure that he and Richard won’t be disturbed during their confrontational tête-á-tête – and she’s subsequently sick for what seems like weeks.

 

This, finally, brings Katherine to Riverside and allows her to build a friendship with young Marcus. These two are working hard on shenanigans, which Alec – hypocritically, but probably rightly – disapproves of; I rather enjoyed the scene where he ran rings around them and then read them the riot act. They have a lot to learn, but if anyone is going to get Alec in hot water he deserves for it to be Katherine.

 

Because Katherine isn’t really much less naïve than when she arrived on the Hill, if better equipped to deal with unexpected orgies. Alec has given her no education except in the sword, but this is to satisfy his own ends. I’m left chewing my fingernails and staring at Ferris, thinking what an opportunity this leaves for him.

This week sees the new Crescent Chancellor paying Alec a visit, which is excellent theatre. Alec gets right up Ferris’s nose, and no matter how angry I am with him I can’t help but cheer him on all the way (and think his grandmother would be proud in some respects, at least). I can’t say I entirely paid attention to the ins and outs of the proposed tax regimes, so I’m not sure who I ought to be agreeing with politically, but I do like watching Ferris get disappointed.

…which may be why it’s excruciating watching him court Artemisia. She has no idea what she’s getting herself into – as cousin Lucius so acidly observes. Her story appears to be the classic tale of the disappointed young Lady with aspirations, and I feel for her (if only a little). As for what Lord Ferris is up to, I have no idea. Certainly he needs heirs, and I assume Artemisia has an enviable dowry, but I never trust that there isn’t more going on than meets the eye where our Sir Peacock is concerned. However, in this instance, I’m probably overthinking it.

All in all, The Privilege of the Sword spent this week tearing my heart into little shreds, throwing them in the air and then dancing in stately fashion through the falling confetti. I absolutely can’t wait to go back for more.

As usual, our reactions as we read are captured on Storify (thanks @effingrainbow).

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.