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The Fall of The Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
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The Fall of The Kings

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The Fall of The Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman
Mass Market Paperback $8.99
Sep 30, 2003 | ISBN 9780553585940

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    Sep 30, 2003 | ISBN 9780553585940

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  • Dec 18, 2007 | ISBN 9780307418463

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"Immensely appealing, intelligent, and great fun."
–Kirkus Reviews

"The authors tap into fantasy’s genuine source of drama, its ability to haunt, appall, transform."
— Locus

"Embraces the age-old struggle between scholars and mystics…to bridge the gulf that separates history from mystery."
–Fantasy & Science Fiction

"One of the bawdiest and most intellectually stimulating novels of the year!"

"Richly textured…authentic…A fantasy novel that won’t insult your intelligence."
–Science Fiction Chronicle

"Gorgeous prose and a galloping story, with…a deep understanding of a true scholar’s passion for his subject."
–Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow

"Stunning…If Oscar Wilde were writing high fantasy, he’d want to write The Fall of the Kings."
–Sarah Smith, author of A Citizen of the Country

"Attractive characters, realistically enmeshed in social, political, and personal concerns… realized with a robust depth and realism."
–Suzy McKee Charnas, author of My Father’s Ghost

"Kushner and Sherman don’t spin fables or knit fancies: they are world-forgers, working in a language of iron and air."
–Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Lost

"The Fall of the Kings is, if possible, even better [than Swordspoint]–twistier and deeper."
–Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods

"Splendid….one of my favorite books this year!"
–Charles de Lint, author of The Onion Girl

"This is how fantasy should be written!…sweeps you in and lets you live the story with the characters."
–Lynn Flewelling, author of The Bone Doll’s Twin

"A delicious read . . . dark, sexy, and wickedly funny by turns. I loved it. You’ll love it too."
–Terri Windling, editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror

"Ellen Kushner writes like an angel…pellucid, poetically structured prose [and] a gathering sense of tragic reality."
–Algis Budrys


School Library Journal Adult Books for Young Adults WINNER

Author Q&A

An Open Letter from Ellen Kushner

Dear Bantam Spectra Readers,

What’s it like to return to a world you once lived in?

The Fall of the Kings is set some 60 years after my first novel, Swordspoint — which I began writing what seems nearly as long ago! In that time, I’ve gone from just-another-kid-with-an-unpublished-novel, to winning a World Fantasy Award for my second novel (Thomas the Rhymer), to acquiring a whole second career as a host on public radio. My national weekly series, Sound & Spirit <>, just wasn’t leaving me enough time to write the ficition I love. So I turned to my companion, Delia Sherman (author of Through a Brazen Mirror and The Porcelain Dove), to help me out–or maybe she just got sick of my whining that there was no time, no time, my radio career is booming but my writing career is heading down the tubes, oh no, oh no!

Anyway: we began to play, “What if?” together. What if the characters from Swordspoint had kids? What would they be like? How would the city change? And what parts of the city were yet to be explored?

As a “recovering academic” with a degree in Renaissance Studies, Delia was awfully curious to know what the city’s University was like (you may remember that the mysterious Alec, in Swordspoint, has left there in disgrace, vowing never to return). I said, “OK, you write about that part.” So she chose the historian Basil St. Cloud to be her guide to the University, and along the way he picked up a loyal band of students who, to me, are themselves one of the most compelling “characters” in the book. I went back to my beloved Riverside District, and the troubled young nobleman Theron Campion, who uneasily divides his time between Riverside (still a dive, but slightly gentrified in the past 60 years), the Hill (where the nobles live) and University. And as a writer of historical fiction (and a wicked fierce researcher), Delia really wanted to know more about the background of the country: what was there in its past that gave rise to the rather louche society of Swordspoint? So, together we began to explore its history, and even its murky pre-history and legend….

How did we make up the plot?

Women always laugh when I explain, “It was like playing ‘Barbies’.” Or maybe, imagine Tom & Huck down by the river being pirate kings…. We just made stuff up, with each of us directing our own characters. We’d talk things through, and then we’d write them down. (We are, after all, both professional writers!)

Did we have fights?

Oh, yeah–but not about what you think. Except for the question “Should someone die at the end? And if so, who?” we were pretty much in accord about all the plot twists and turns. The bitterest fights were over the use of punctuation: “I can’t be-lieeeeeeve you want to put a comma there!” “You think that’s where that paragraph breaks? Whaddaya, nuts?!”

The absolutely worst fight of all, though, was over the naming of the city–or “the City,” as its denizens tend to refer to it. Delia said the place had to have a name, finally, because it was driving her crazy. I tried. Really, I tried. But nothing felt right. And in the end, I invoked the “New York Rule”: If you’ve ever lived near or in Manhattan, you know that nobody calls it that. New Jerseyites, for instance, don’t say, “I’m going to New York this weekend to see a show;” it’s: “I’m going to the City.” Or: “Do you live in the City?” or “We’re thinking of moving to the City…”


It is a pretty long book, and I wish I could tell you who wrote what. But true collaboration is a funny thing: as Neil Gaiman recently told an interviewer (re. his work with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens), “I wrote 90% of the book. The only problem was, [s]he wrote the other 90%.”

To be honest, Delia must have written at least 75% of the first draft. But then I rewrote her stuff, and she rewrote my stuff, and we added and subtracted . . .it took more than 3 years to write this book, and it is honestly true that at this point there are entire paragraphs where neither of us can figure out who wrote what you see on the page.

It has been a real joy to return to all the districts of this City with such a boon companion.

Ellen Kushner

P.S. If the story of the new novel sounds strangely familiar to you, it may be that you read the novella Delia & I published in 1997, also called “The Fall of the Kings.” I recently found an e-mail I wrote someone at the time, talking about how hard it was to cut the thing down to story-length, and how both of us feared that it was just going to have to be turned into a novel…

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