Some years back, I discovered a little book called Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. I immediately drowned in that novel, and wouldn’t have noticed a life preserver if one was thrown at me. The irascible scholar Alec, the graceful swordsman Richard St. Vier, their difficult romance, the deadly and colorful Riverside and the cutthroat yet elegant politics of the greater city completely ensnared my attention. Not to mention the swordplay! Honestly, I was intoxicated. I tasted blood and wanted more.
Fast forward to last autumn, when I discovered my well-loved Riverside had exploded into serial fiction. With Serial Box, an exciting and clever new publisher, Kushner and a host of other excellent authors – Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, and more – had created a 13-story “season” of a new series set in Riverside and the nameless city surrounding it. I was hooked from the word Tremontaine, but I don’t know how anyone could resist once Serial Box executed their coup de grâce: a furious and playful commercial.
Season 1 of Tremontaine lived up to every expectation I had – and exceeded them. The world grew, and Riverside’s diversity with it. Most of the major players are women, including women of color. We met Micah, one of the best characters in the series, who is on the autism spectrum – something that is acknowledged, but NOT presented as a handicap. We have bisexual recognition, queer relationships of many stripes, and villains who pluck our heartstrings as much as do our heroes. Gender and cultural politics are interrogated. Power dynamics constantly shift, political as well as deadly intrigue abound, and swordplay is – of course – represented with heart-pounding vigor. Tremontaine is a feast for the senses and the mind; it’ll also make you crave chocolate like anything.
No, seriously, most of my Tremontaine nights were spent with a steaming cup of cocoa to hand. Pro tip: lay in a supply of hot chocolate.
This year, in anticipation of Season 2, I’m a delighted member of #TemonTEAM – bringing you the good word, as it were, of Our Series of Swords and Sin. Sometimes, this means I get sneak peeks and Serial Box outdid themselves with this week’s. Because. Y’all.
I GOT TO READ THE FIRST EPISODE! Even if you were in the room with me right now, you would not be able to hear me say how excited I am, mostly because your eardrums would be recovering from the high-pitched noises of delight I am helpless to restrain.
Ellen Kushner introduces us once more to the intrigues of Tremontaine with “Convocation,” inviting us into post-summer languor giving way to a new season of sensual deviltry and political jockeying. Duchess Tremontaine, Kaab, and Rafe Fenton are all there – as are new players, complicating the playing board and the world in ever more beautiful and delicious ways. Cleverness is your best friend in this world, and the wisdom to wield it – while the best lover is power and the will to resist (just enough) its many charms. I can’t wait for you all to read this episode; I can’t wait to talk about it in more detail. (WHERE ARE MY VIRAGO GRISELDA FANS AT?!) For now, though, I’ve made you a little something – a visual taste of our Grande Dame of Desperation and Ambition’s Season 2 debut:
The Duchess Tremontaine’s back! We’re all gonna be in trouble.
(The image above features an altered close-up of a portrait of Empress Maria Feodorovna, painted by Konstantin Makovsky. Words are by Ellen Kushner, from “Convocation,” the first episode of Tremontaine Season 2. I altered the image in Pixlr.)
P.S. I didn’t even mention the GORGEOUS paper-cutout art for each episode created by Kathleen Jennings! That’s on me because, seriously, the art is a remarkable distillation of each episode and a core part of the story that is Tremontaine.
P.P.S. I feel bad for not mentioning the other authors of Season 1 on account of fine-tuned sentence flow. So, here we go: the other excellent authors of Tremontaine Season 1 were Racheline Maltese, Patty Bryant, and Paul Witcover. Oh, and Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett who snuck in a cat-and-burglar-filled freebie with “Willie Be Nimble.