The Duke of Riverside by Ellen Kushner


Title: The Duke of Riverside
Author: Ellen Kushner
In: Naked City (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Comedy, LGBTQI, Medieval fantasy, Urban fantasy
Dates read: 12th July 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: Why would you want to go there with me?

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There’s a young man whose decided to come down to Riverside and find his death. What he doesn’t realise is that no one is going to end the life of an unarmed man. But what he finds instead is much, much better.


The wit and dry humour in this story had me chuckling a fair bit. There was something about a strange, lanky scholar who was desperate to be killed roaming the streets and just having absolutely no luck. It got even better when you found out that he was a duke and abhorrent to the rest of his family. The beauty, humour and irony in the story had me cackling more than I should probably admit if I still wanted people to consider me sane (which I don’t, so it’s fine).

Growing up, I never seemed to read many stories which featured LGBTQI characters. But as my reading tastes have grown, I’ve noticed that it’s a theme that shows up more and more frequently. Or it may just be that it’s a theme that is written about more frequently as our society changes. Regardless, it’s something that I always love in my stories. And the unexpected coupling of two men in this story took me completely by surprise. Partly because in the beginning I thought it would be a tale about Alec just being killed in some random, heinous way. And partly because it’s a medieval fantasy-esque story, and I tend to find that that’s not a relationship that is outwardly hinted at.

The final scene of this short story is one of those that is incredibly difficult to get out of your head. The entire time I’ve been writing this review, I have that great, final image struck into my brain. But, you really must read this story yourself to have that fine enjoyment.

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Image source: Patricia Briggs

3 thoughts on “The Duke of Riverside by Ellen Kushner

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