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"A Wild and Wicked Youth": 05/30/09
Ellen Kushner uses "A Wild and Wicked Youth" to quickly sum up the key events that shaped Richard St. Vier the protagonist of her novel Swordspoint. I haven't read the novel but I want to now that I've read her short story.
Richard strikes me as an unusual fantasy hero in that he comes from a loving home with a strong and well educated mother. Although they don't live with his father it's implied that he's very much alive and that the mother has left him for reasons she doesn't wish to share.
More typical to the genre is Richard's tutor: a traveling beggar man with extraordinary swordsmanship skills. He teaches Richard everything he knows and of course Richard will end up besting him.
Richard spends his childhood learning to sword fight in the belief that some day he will be his best friend's bodyguard. Crispin, the young son of the local lord is amiable with Richard until the time that he inherits the title. He and his mother then trick Richard into betraying their long time friendship.
"A Wild and Wicked Youth" kept my attention by being character focused. The world is clearly well defined in Kushner's mind but she doesn't waste time trying to prove it to me. Instead she puts her efforts into telling Richard's story and therefore leaving me wanting to know more about him! This is all I ever ask of a story or novel.
Throughout the story I had a nagging sense of having read it before but as far as I know I haven't read any of Ellen Kushner's stories or novels. If "A Wild and Wicked Youth" reminds you of a specific story or novel please share about it in the comments section.