The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This fairy tale begins in a time where men wear swords and women carry scented pomanders. Up on the Hill, where the aristocrats live, Richard St. Vier kills two men during a party in Lord Horn’s garden. Richard returns to Riverside (the less reputable part of town), where he lives with his lover, the aristocratic former student Alec.

Because of the duel’s outcome, Lord Karleigh, one of Lord Halliday’s political rivals, goes into hiding at his country estate. While discussing the duel over cups of chocolate, the Duchess Tremontaine flirts with Michael Godwin, a young nobleman, and succeeds in planting the idea that he should become a swordsman. When Richard St. Vier refuses to tutor him, Michael goes to the studio of one-armed swordsman Master Applethorpe. There he discovers he has a talent for swordwork.

Meanwhile, Lord Ferris comes to Riverside in disguise and attempts to hire Richard to kill Lord Halliday, so that Ferris can gain control of the Crescent Council. Alec recognizes Lord Ferris and tries to convince Richard not to take the challenge. Lord Horn, angered that Michael did not succumb to his amorous advances and feeling insulted, tries to hire Richard to challenge Michael. His approach to Richard is so ignoble and lacking in honor that Richard refuses the assignment. Enraged, Lord Horn has Alec kidnapped.

When Richard realizes that his lover is no longer safely under his protection, he carries out Lord Horn’s...

(The entire section is 551 words.)