Pay It Forward · Review · Writing

Fangirl Friday – Tremontaine, by Ellen Kushner

I first discovered the Tremontaine series when it came up for review on Netgalley. I’d loved (the first half) the first story I read from Serial Box and, because this was by the same group, I snapped it up.

Once I dug into the story of Diane, Rafe, Micah and Ixkaab, I was hooked. I loved every issue, every episode and am eagerly awaiting Season 3 releasing in paperback so that I can have all three on my shelf to re-read over and over again.

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Welcome to Tremontaine, the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s beloved Riverside series that began with Swordspoint! A Duchess whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; her husband’s dangerous affair with a handsome scholar; a foreigner in a playground of swordplay and secrets; and a mathematical genius on the brink of revolution—when long-buried lies threaten to come to light, betrayal and treachery know no bounds with stakes this high. Mind your manners and enjoy the chocolate in a dance of sparkling wit and political intrigue.

Tremontaine is an episodic serial presented by Serial Box Publishing. This collected omnibus edition gathers all 16 episodes from Season 1.

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Amazon

Book Depository

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Ellen Kushner weaves together multiple careers as a writer, radio host, teacher, performer and public speaker.

A graduate of Barnard College, she also attended Bryn Mawr College, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She began her career in publishing as a fiction editor in New York City, but left to write her first novel Swordspoint, which has become a cult classic, hailed as the progenitor of the “mannerpunk” (or “Fantasy of Manners”) school of urban fantasy. Swordspoint was followed by Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award), and two more novels in her “Riverside” series. In 2015, Thomas the Rhymer was published in the UK as part of the Gollancz “Fantasy Masterworks” line.

In addition, her short fiction appears regularly in numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into a wide variety of languages, including Japanese, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Latvian and Finnish.

Upon moving to Boston, she became a radio host for WGBH-FM. In 1996, she created Sound & Spirit, PRI’s award-winning national public radio series. With Ellen as host and writer, the program aired nationally until 2010; many of the original shows can now be heard archived online.

As a live stage performer, her solo spoken word works include Esther: the Feast of Masks, and The Golden Dreydl: a Klezmer ‘Nutcracker’ for Chanukah (with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra). In 2008, Vital Theatre commissioned her to script a full-scale theatrical version. The Klezmer Nutcracker played to sold-out audiences in New York City, with Kushner in the role of the magical Tante Miriam.

In 2012, Kushner entered the world of audiobooks, narrating and co-producing “illuminated” versions of all three of the “Riverside” novels with SueMedia Productions for Neil Gaiman Presents at Audible.com—and winning a 2013 Audie Award for Swordspoint.

Other recent projects include the urban fantasy anthology Welcome to Bordertown (co-edited with Holly Black), and The Witches of Lublin, a musical audio drama written with Elizabeth Schwartz and Yale Strom (which one Gabriel, Gracie and Wilbur Awards in 2012). In 2015 she contributed to and oversaw the creation of the online Riverside series prequel Tremontaine for Serial Box with collaborators Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese and Patty Bryant.

A dauntless traveler, Ellen Kushner has been a guest of honor at conventions all over the world. She regularly teaches writing at the prestigious Clarion Workshop and the Hollins University Graduate Program in Children’s Literature.

Ellen Kushner is a co-founder and past president of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, an organization supporting work that falls between genre categories. She lives in New York City with author and educator Delia Sherman, a lot of books, airplane and theater ticket stubs, and no cats whatsoever.

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Website: http://www.ellenkushner.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ellen.kushner

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ellenkushner

Tumblr: https://ellenkushner.tumblr.com

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Season One

* NOTE: It wouldn’t let me copy my entire review (8 pages) so let me just say that I fell in love with Rafe and Will, I want to read more about Joshua and Micah, and I hope Diane burns in the deepest pit of hell. *

Book – Tremontaine (Season One)
Star rating – ★★★★☆
No. of Pages – 462
Cover – quirky and clever!
POV – 3rd person, multi character, often omni-present
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Serial, Historical, Coming-of-Age, Queer
Content Warning – mild violence, sexual situations, adultery/cheating, prostitution
Orientations – MM, MF, FF

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** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **

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This is my second Serial Box production and I’ll admit that I loved the beginning of the other series ‘ReMade’ but had trouble with the fact that so many various authors wrote parts that made up the whole. Some authors voices didn’t work, for me, but that isn’t a problem I had with this series. For once, though each author’s voice is very talented, I could easily have read this from start to finish without knowing there was more than one author. They all tried to keep the same “voice” and atmosphere to their shorts that made it possible to read each one as a new chapter in a whole cohesive story. Characterisation, setting, mood, and the attention to detail never slipped.

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OVERALL

This collection sucked me right into the world of Riverside and Tremontaine. I’ve not only added the paperbacks of all three seasons to my pay-day buy list, but I’ve also added the three paperbacks of the Riverside series. I just know that Kushner can’t disappoint me, now.

The overall setting of the plot has strong hints of A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. All of which is to the good, because I love those books and that type of world. It adds enough historical possibilities to enough fantasy elements that I end up with the best of both worlds.

Every episode has a complete story arc all of its own, but which also pieces together with the other episodes to create a woven tapestry of an overall arc throughout the season. Each episode is just a small part of a bigger puzzle.

Each episode adds more and more mystery, asking and answering questions within each episode, that all boil down to one large plot that it intricately woven between a handful of characters:
Diane and William Tremonatine – Duke and Duchess – who are suffering financial difficulties that William is largely unaware of, because Diane has made some unwise gambles that didn’t pay off, and is scrambling to fix the awful mess they’re in.
Rafe – a talented, passionate scholar who falls head over heels for William, gets in the way of Diane’s plots, and takes in the helpless, hapless, and innocently naive Micah.
Micah – a girl everyone assumes is a boy, due to her cousin’s plan of dressing her so to keep her safe on the unfamiliar streets of the city. She’s a farm girl with a head for numbers, exceedingly talented, and adorably innocent and unaware of the ramifications her numbers could have on an entire people.
Ixkaab – first daughter of the first daughter, fighter, member of the service, and irrascible hot-head. She’s got a thing for Tess the Hand, a master female forger – huzzah for women’s rights! – and skill with a blade and for spying. But, in trying to protect her family from one threat, she haplessly stumbles into ignoring another much more serious threat.
Applethorpe – a skilled swordsman, fascinated by Ixkaab’s fighting ability, who has some secret past that took him his home of Riverside, taught him skill with the sword, and brought him back an even bigger mystery than before. He knows people, understands political undercurrents, and inadvertently drops himself right in the middle of a wasps nest of political intrigue and mayhem.

Through all these characters – all of whom provide a POV scene of their own, at some point, no matter how large or minor – have a bearing on the overall plot. Through their eyes (sometimes omni-present) we watch the mystery of the Tremontaine house unfold. And potentially disintegrate. And I absolutely love that it’s Ellen Kushner who bookends the season, writing the first and last chapters. Although, I do have to admit that Episode 10, by Joel Derfner gave me a book hangover.

Yes, there were some editing issues, a few spaces before commas, inconsistent editing, a change of font issue, missing full stops, backwards quotation marks. Small things that would probably go largely unnoticed if I wasn’t a naturally picky grammar/editing nazi. Which I hold my hands up to confess I am. Things that mean I can’t give a 5 star, flawless, rating. Each episode contains editing issues and inconsistently use a single scene of present tense, that doesn’t always make sense.

I have to mark what I have in front of me, and with those errors, and a few 4 star episodes amongst the rest of the 5 star episodes, I had to properly calculate the final rating.

That will not stop me from devouring Season 2 over the next week, nor buying all three seasons, and the entire Riverside trilogy, in paperback the minute I get paid.

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