My first novel, Swordspoint, was set in a city that remains nameless to this day. Despite that, I have never found it difficult to find my way there, and now have three novels and a few short stories set in that place. I invite you to join me there.

The Novels:


The Privilege of the Sword

The Fall of the Kings

The setting is an unnamed city, the capital of an unnamed city state. It is currently ruled by a Council of Lords who overthrew the monarchy over 200 years earlier. Some readers call the city "Riverside," but that's just the name of the little island in the river where Swordspoint's protagonists live. It's inspired by all the cities I have read about, studied, and walked in, and loved the best: Elizabethan London, 18th century Paris, modern New York, and a few dozen others....

The world and its people were introduced in the very first short story I ever published professionally! "Red-Cloak" featured the swordsman Richard St Vier and his acerbic companion Alec together making trouble in a district called Riverside. I lived on West 110th Street, on Manhattan's Upper West Side. In those days it was a tough, edgy place: today's luxury condo's were then SRO's for guys who howled at night and girls who charged by the hour, or cramped refuges for new immigrants, or the dusty warrens of scholars, actors and musicians. I adored it. But I wondered what it would be like to be able to walk on the streets without always having to look over your shoulder. I was also reading a lot Fritz Leiber's "Lankhmar" stories then, some Sherlock Holmes, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Dunnett, and the occasional Blue Boy....

"Red-Cloak" was my first sale, and for awhile it was about the only one: I kept trying to write more Riverside stories, but everyone told me they read like chapters from a novel. So I gave up and, after much agony and many false starts, finally managed to write Swordspoint.

As I explain in the Afterword to the new edition from Bantam (February, 2003), I never intended to write anything else in the same setting. But then I changed my mind. There followed a few more short stories, collected and published in the 2003 reprinting of Swordspoint (Bantam/Spectra). In 1998, Delia Sherman and I published a novella about Alec's posthumous son Theron; it was the genesis of our novel The Fall of the Kings (Bantam/Spectra, 2002), which takes place about 60 years after Swordspoint.

I am so fortunate to have Delia Sherman as my writing partner for The Fall of the Kings! Delia had read and loved Swordspoint back when it first came out, and was only too happy to lend her not inconsiderable knowledge of history, academia and human nature to the continuing story of that world - and to its ancient past, as well. (For more on our collaboration, see how we got that story.)  

Now things get a little confusing. Many years ago, I started working on a story about a young girl, the niece of Alec from Swordspoint, coming to the city to live with him. I kept stopping and starting as my life went through various permutations ... Then, one night, a visitor from the Antipodes took ill on my couch, and asked me to read her a story. I took out the manuscript, and ... well, I'll let her tell you about it.  

It wasn't until The Fall of the Kings was published, though, that my agent said, So, what's next? Don't you have a half-finished manuscript about these people? I dug out the various files and notebooks, and got to work. The Privilege of the Sword was published in 2006. No one's sure whether it's an adult novel about a teenage girl, or a Young Adult novel that should be R rated, and I don't much care. My biggest problem was coming up with a title for it.  

Which book should you read first?  

I wrote each one to stand alone. But to follow the fortunes and adventures of my city's denizens in their proper order, consult the Chronology below.



Here is a list of all the works set in or around the Riverside district of a city so well-known that, like Manhattan, nobody ever bothers to call it anything but "the city." It's in order, not of publication, but of events as they befall chronologically in that world, with Swordspoint as the Year 0.


"The Witch in the Wood"
by Delia Sherman (short story).
Under My Hat. New York: Random House, 2012.


"The Tragedy of King Alexander the Stag"
by Delia Sherman (short story).
A Distant Soil #29, ed. Colleen Doran, Image Comics, 1999.


"'A Wild and a Wicked Youth'"
Fantasy & Science Fiction, April/May 2009. Reprinted in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol 4. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2010.


"Red Cloak"
In Whispers magazine. 1982. Reprinted in A Distant Soil #28, ed. Colleen Doran, Image Comics, 1999 and in Swordspoint (Bantam, 2003).


Swordspoint: a Melodrama of Manners
London: Allen & Unwin, February 1987. New York: Arbor House, November 1987. Tor Books, July, 1989. Bantam/Spectra, February 2003.


"The Swordsman Whose Name was Not Death"
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1991. Reprinted, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Fifth Annual Collection. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992 and in Swordspoint (Bantam, 2003).


"The Duke of Riverside"
Naked City: Tales of New Urban Fantasy, ed. Ellen Datlow New York: St Martin's, 2011.


The Privilege of the Sword
Bantam/Spectra, July 2006. Small Beer Press, 2006.


"The Man with the Knives"
New York: Temporary Culture, April 2010. Reprinted, Tor online, 2010, and in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 5. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2011.


"The Death of the Duke"
In Starlight 2. Tor Books, November, 1998. P/B Tor Books, 1999. Reprinted, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Twelfth Annual Collection. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999 and in Swordspoint (Bantam, 2003).


"Honored Guest"
In The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales. Viking, 2007.


"The Fall of the Kings"
with Delia Sherman. (Novella). In Bending the Landscape: Fantasy. Atlanta: White Wolf, 1997. Reprinted, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Eleventh Annual Collection. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.


The Fall of the Kings
with Delia Sherman. (Novel) Bantam/Spectra, November, 2002.