SPOILERS IN COMMENT THREAD: danger, Will Robinson! danger! danger!
I am a happy, happy Bear. And boy does my butt hurt: I just read the entire ARC in one sitting, on a hardwood floor, with only a break for lunch.
This is a sequel to Swordspoint, which takes place a bit after it and a bit before The Fall of the Kings. It is story of Alec Campion's niece Katherine, who comes into her uncle's guardianship in a most irregular fashion... and, as with most people influenced by Alec, winds up the wiser and more worldly for the experience.
It's also beautifully written, breezy, quick, hysterically funny, poignant and bloody and world-weary and heartrendingly naive by turns. This is a fantastic book, a coming-of-age story, and I love it with a quite deep and unreasonable love.
Poor truepenny has had to listen to me sitting here giggling and cursing and wincing and--starting about page 300--flinching and groaning in anticipation of the patented ellen_kushner trainwreck bloodbath heartbreak ending, which you can always kind of see hurtling down on you like an oncoming steamroller....
This book has everything. It has thematic subtlety and an absolutely engrossing style and it's don't-read-it-on-the-train funny. If you're coming in as a Swordspoint fan, the subtext and intertext in the relationships will be all the more poignant, because you will see what Katherine only half-understands. Alec about broke my heart every time the bloody idiot wandered across stage. (He does make me feel better about Kit, though. Because man, it's sometimes nice to know that there are characters in the world who make worse balls-ups of their life than mine.)
Katherine is a wonderful protagonist. She's sweet and believable and heroically idiotically Romantic, as a teenaged girl should be. And she's a force to be reckoned with, as befits who she will eventually become.
And. It is deeply, deeply, deeply satisfying. For any reasons, including psychological insight, and tenderness, and narrative compassion, and greatness of spirit.
And there's one other thing that made it my favorite book of the next six months (It comes out July 27th), but it's a spoiler.
Alec Campion, it appears, can eventually learn.
I am glad to live in a world where I can read this book. I suspect all of my friends know what they are getting for Christmas now.