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1. Jhegaala (Vlad)
2. Iorich (The Vlad Taltos Novels)
3. The Book of Athyra (Jhereg)
4. Dragon (Vlad Taltos)
5. Tiassa (Vlad)
6. Freedom and Necessity
7. The Book of Taltos
8. Issola (Vlad Taltos)
9. The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
10. The Book of Jhereg
11. Orca
12. To Reign in Hell: A Novel
13. Sethra Lavode
14. Dzur (Vlad Taltos)
15. Agyar
16. Jhereg
17. The Paths of the Dead (The Viscount
18. Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille
19. The Phoenix Guards
20. The Lord of Castle Black: Book

1. Jhegaala (Vlad)
by Steven Brust
Hardcover: 304 Pages (2008-07-08)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$8.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B003156BOK
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

Fresh from the collapse of his marriage, and with the criminal Jhereg organization out to eliminate him, Vlad decides to hide out among his relatives in faraway Fenario. All he knows about them is that their family name is Merss and that they live in a papermaking industrial town called Burz.

At first Burz isn’t such a bad place, though the paper mill reeks to high heaven. But the longer he stays there, the stranger it becomes. No one will tell him where to find his relatives. Even stranger, when he mentions the name Merss, people think he’s threatening them. The witches’ coven that every Fenarian town and city should have is nowhere in evidence. And the Guild, which should be protecting the city’s craftsmen and traders, is an oppressive, all-powerful organization, into which no tradesman would ever be admitted.

Then a terrible thing happens. In its wake, far from Draegara, without his usual organization working for him, Vlad is going to have to do his sleuthing amidst an alien people: his own.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (41)

5-0 out of 5 stars Jhegaala
For fans of the Vlad Taltos series this is an interesting trip in search of Vlad's mother's roots in the human dominated eastern lands.

2-0 out of 5 stars The worst of the best.
Though not without its merits, Jhegaala is for least enjoyable Vlad book.Sometimes Brust's experiments pay off (Athyra).Sometimes they make for interesting challenges (Freedom 7 Necessity).In this case, they just don't get anywhere terribly interesting.Luckily, Iorich rocks by comparison.

4-0 out of 5 stars Moody, but better than 95% of the fantasy out there
I'll cut to the chase, this is not Steven Brust's best book.Its not for beginers to the Taltos series.It not as exciting as some of his other books.HOWEVER, it is a Steven Brust book in the Taltos series which are always fantastic.It is entertaining and does fill in a large gap in the history of Vlad.

For those critics who are complaining about how its not as exciting as his more recent adventures have been... did any of you take the time to think about the timeframe of the story?This happened right after Teckla (also a bit of a slow read for a Taltos book).This happened BEFORE he became the superhero you're thinking of in Issola.This was Vlad back in the day when he was small time and would get out of his element then have to figure out what was going on... which is exactly the way this book reads.

Jhegaala is entertaining, its funny, its mysterious, and its yet another tasty reading morsel from Steven Brust.I gobble them down as quick as I can... then usually hunt down the past books so that I can gobble down more.

4-0 out of 5 stars A new Taltos book, a nice return to form
Ahhh, an old friend returns.I've been following the adventures of Vlad Talos since the mid-80's.What can I say, I enjoy a little mafia type actions and some reading the adventures of an assassin in a fantasy setting is just so good.One of the most interesting items of Mr. Brust's Taltos series is seeing Vlad working in an organization when he's really an outsider; a very interesting perspective.This time, Mr. Brust thrusts Vlad into a new foreign environment, the Eastern world where his family is from.

This book takes place shortly after Vlad betrayed the Jhereg and left the Empire.As he's on the run, Vlad decides to leave the Empire for a short while and visit Fenario, the land his family's from.Despite looking like the other humans (the Dragaerans are called elves and are different than the Easterners by being taller, looking different, and practicing magic) Vlad has the problem of not being native to the culture and thereby making this a story where Vlad is a foreigner.Because of this, we get to read about Vlad learning about the local culture and learning to work things without his `organization'.

This was a very nice and enjoyable book; much more cohesive than Dzur (Vlad).Mr. Brust did an excellent job going back in time (slightly) and telling us about Vlad learning about his family and his people.There are good character interactions between Vlad and the secondary characters with a nice complex plot/environment for Vlad to work with.Mr. Brust's descriptions are nicely delivered but not as rich or robust as I might like; but it fits the Vlad Taltos stories.As with all of the Taltos series, Mr. Brust does an excellent job of blending Vlad's actions with the Dragaeranhouse in the title.A most excellent story that's worthy of 4 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another fun Vlad Taltos adventure!
Very enjoyable Vlad Taltos novel! Set a bit in the past compared to some of the more recent Taltos novels (offhand to me, it seems to be set sometime a bit preceding the events shown in "Athyra"). Filled with fun dialogue and characters, as well as a great sense of tension to the mysteries that crop up, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! The only thing I really found a bit disappointing was that many of the mysteries and questions raised in previous books from the series were still not addressed here. Oh well, perhaps in the future books! Can't wait to read them! ... Read more

2. Iorich (The Vlad Taltos Novels)
by Steven Brust
Hardcover: 320 Pages (2010-01-05)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$5.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0765312085
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description

House Jhereg, Dragaera's organized crime syndicate, is still hunting Vlad Taltos. There's a big price on his head on Draegara City. Then he hears disturbing news. Aliera--longtime friend, sometime ally--has been arrested by the Empire on a charge of practicing elder sorcery, a capital crime.

It doesn't make sense. Everybody knows Aliera's been dabbling in elder sorcery for ages. Why is the Empire down on her now? Why aren't her powerful friends--Morrolan, Sethra, the Empress Zerika--coming to her rescue? And most to the point, why has she utterly refused to do anything about her own defense?

It would be idiotic of Vlad to jump into this situation. He's a former Jhereg who betrayed the House. He's an Easterner--small, weak, short-lived. He's being searched for by the most remorseless killers in the world. Naturally, that's exactly why he's going to get completely involved...

... Read more

Customer Reviews (29)

2-0 out of 5 stars Vlad the lawyer? Zzzzzz.....
I'm a huge fan of most of Brust's work.Unfortunately, the excitement and mystery are completely missing in this book as Vlad goes from smart ass assassin to become a legal gopher in the Palace.If you have a keen interest in the legal workings of the Dragaeran empire and watching Vlad unravel a boring scheme against Aliera and the Empress, then this is the book for you.The worst part is that it added absolutely nothing to our knowledge of Lady Teldra and could have been completely skipped with no loss of continuity.I also found every character to sound exactly like Vlad himself and Morrolan was written as a dull, crusty old fart.I suggest picking it up at the library if at all.

3-0 out of 5 stars Damning with faint praise
First let me make this clear: if you're a fan of Vlad, you'll like this book. It always fun to return to Vlad's world and hear him interacting with Loiosh and his old friends.


While this book is better than Jhegaala, it simply isn't at the level of the earlier works of the series. The stakes don't seem very high for Vlad, there's little action and nearly no magic and much of the book is him grasping for clues that seem barely significant even after they're revealed. Instead of "holy cow, THAT's what they were hiding!?" it's more like "err, that's all?"

The end of the book clearly sets up the next volume and the stakes will be much higher for Vlad. Let's hope that reignites the series. Brust needs to give these excellent characters more to do!

Iorich is like a family reunion with relatives that you truly love to spend time with but leaving the reunion with no interesting anecdotes. A pleasant time but not memorable.

4-0 out of 5 stars A blast for Vlad Taltos fans!
Remember those episodes of Matlock in which someone is arrested for a crime, but during the investigation it turns out that the arrest was really just a front for a much larger intrigue? Steven Brust's newest VLAD TALTOS novel Iorichis sort of like that -- except the person who is arrested is Aliera e'Kieron, and the larger intrigue involves Empress Zerika of the Dragaeran Empire. Oh, and Matlock's role is played by Vlad Taltos, human assassin and bon-vivant, who is still on the run from the Jhereg but has returned to Adrilankha to help out his friend Aliera. (Disclaimer: I actually don't know if there are episodes of Matlock like that, but it seems likely. Also, I realize I should probably have used a more current legal show like Law & Order, but I know even less about those. So there you have it: Vlad as Matlock. That must be a first.)

After the detour of the previous book in the series, Jhegaala, which was set earlier in the internal chronology, Iorich thankfully moves the story forward again. It takes places after the events of Dzur -- and as such, it's definitely not a book to pick up if you're not familiar with the VLAD TALTOS series yet. (Instead, start with the omnibus The Book of Jhereg, which contains the 3 books that were published first. I definitely recommend reading the series in order of publication, at least until it's completed.)

Another contrast with the previous book: Jhegaala didn't feature many of the regular cast of VLAD TALTOS books, because it still dealt with Vlad traveling alone, on the run from the Jhereg. In Iorich, it's almost as if Steven Brust decided to systematically throw in every single regular character to please the fans: early in the book, Vlad has a sit-down with Morrolan, Sethra, Aliera, Kiera, Zerika (!), Cawti, and later on his old employee Kragar even makes an appearance. It almost feels as if the author was checking names of a list -- not that I'm complaining, because it's lots of fun to see those characters in action again.

Fans of the VLAD TALTOS series will be aware that, in most of the books, Vlad takes on some of the characteristics of the noble house mentioned in the title, and Iorich is no exception. The Iorich attributes are "Justice and Retribution" (according to the handy new illustration of the Cycle, at the front of the book), and so we get to enjoy the delicious irony that career criminal Vlad Taltos is now working (more or less) inside the boundaries of the law to free his friend Aliera. Steven Brust also again uses the now-familiar device of chapter introductions that follow the theme of the novel -- in this case, transcripts of court interviews and other legal documents. The transcript of Aliera's questioning at the start of chapter 12 is an easy highlight of Iorich.

There really isn't much to complain about in this solid new addition to one of my favorite fantasy series. I felt that, after the long set-up, the end was a bit rushed, but we can take that as an example of Vlad's "plan carefully and then strike quickly" style. There also aren't any really world-shaking revelations in this novel -- it almost feels small-scale compared to some of the mind-bending earlier books.

Nit-picking aside, Iorich is a lovely addition to the VLAD TALTOS series. To long-time fans, this will be like a comfort read: set almost entirely in Adrilankha, with most of the major characters in top form, and Vlad doing his thing, talking with relish about his meals, wise-cracking back and forth with Loiosh -- just like the old days, almost. In addition, we also get some beautiful and poignant scenes with Cawti, and on the flip side, the book has an appendix with some truly hilarious "deleted scenes" (even including a brief return of the dreaded KHAAVREN ROMANCES narrator Paarfi). We also get some fascinating looks at life inside the Imperial Palace and the Iorich wing (which is so labyrinthine that it's hard not to interpret it as a symbol for the Kafka-esque intricacies of the law).

If you're already a fan of the VLAD TALTOS series, you'll have a blast with Iorich. And if you're not familiar with the series yet, do yourself a favor and go find a copy of The Book of Jhereg right now. You won't be disappointed.

4-0 out of 5 stars Vlad Returns
Steven Brust has been spinning tales about his laconic assassin for twenty-seven years.Vlad Taltos reads like a Robert B. Parker character, which is legitimate because Brust is a self-admitted fan of the author's work, and of the Spenser character.But he has also spent a lot of time developing the world Vlad and his friends hang out in.The streets, marketplaces, and official buildings all feel real, and the relationships grow and change.

In Brust's twelfth Vlad book, his friend Aliera has been arrested for practicing Elder Sorcery, something she has always done and hasn't taken any pains to hide.Everyone has always known it.However, the person prosecuting her is the Empress, who is actually one of Aliera's closest friends.It's all puzzling, which is how Brust has been working his books lately, and usually it works.

I loved the writing.The book just flows and the pages are easy to turn.I got lost in the world and the characters and the history I've picked up from reading the other novels in this series.I enjoyed the meetings Vlad had with all his friends and with his ex-wife, most of whom really weren't all that excited to see him and didn't want him poking around in what was going one.

But the reunion that was the most touching was the one with his son, young Vlad.His son is the one person that asks the questions that Vlad normally lies about or simply ignores.However, he can't do that with his son and he ends up having to face the real answers for why he does things.The sequences are very telling and well done.

Brust also has his game on when it comes to witty repartee in this one.The dialogue is fun to read and follow, and you can hear the voices in your head.(I really wish someone would do audiobooks in the series before long.Tantor Media would do a great job.)The ongoing interior conversation he has with Lioish is absolutely fantastic.

I have to admit that though I loved the writing, the constant circling of the plot got on my nerves.Vlad made the trip enjoyable, and there is the city and the world to look at, but the trip also became too repetitious.I grew tired of talking to the same people over and over again and not getting much back for my investment.And I wanted more action.One scene in particular, where Vlad intentionally takes a beating, is pared down to almost nothing except a brief overview of what it's like to take a beating painwise, but none of the real skill that would have to be employed.

I enjoyed the book though, and it was a pleasant few hours filled with fun characters, but I do hope next time out they do more than simply talk about things.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but mediocre Vlad
Vlad is the most snarky character in fantasy, except maybe for Loiosh. And that's always fun. But when he doesn't have enough to work against, his cynicism starts to seem bitter rather than sharp. And the problem with Iorich is that he doesn't have enough to work against.

Brust is at his best when he is commenting about people. He can really bring out the contradictory feelings we have for our friends, when they drive us crazy but we care for them anyway. And he is great at writing the swashbuckling, fun, scenery-chewing scenes. And his philosophical musings about gods and death and life and people are always interesting. But there just isn't enough of that going on here.

I think the problem is that Vlad really needs other people to play off of, and he doesn't do enough of that. The problem is the contract out on his life. He's always alone, always cautious about meeting people, afraid to hang out with his friends. That is reasonable, given the situation, but it isn't what makes Vlad fun.

... Read more

3. The Book of Athyra (Jhereg)
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 448 Pages (2003-02-04)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$2.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0441010105
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The new two-in-one omnibus featuring two classic novels of Vlad Taltos and his winged jhereg companions-Athyra and Orca.

Vlad Taltos is a sorcerer and assassin without peer-as deadly at spell casting as he is with sword wielding. Accompanying him on his journeys are two leathery-winged jhereg who share a telepathic link with Vlad--and triple his chances against even the most powerful of enemies...

In Athyra, Vlad finds he's ready to retire himself and his jhereg companions, but the biggest hitters of the House of the Jhereg have something else in mind. In Orca, Vlad must repay a debt to a boy who saved his life-even if it means breaking a scandal big enough to bring down the House of the Orca, and possibly the entire Empire. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

4-0 out of 5 stars Good - but getting worse
This set of stories is good indeed, but not as good as the first ones.Brust seems to bob up and down in this series.

5-0 out of 5 stars The saga of Vlad Taltos and his jhereg continues
The Book of Athyra contains two volumes in Brust's tales of Vlad Taltos, former assassin for the Jhereg organization, now on the run from them. The first book, Athyra, details Vlad's return engagement with the wizard Loraan (now undead), from whom he had rescued Aliera e'Kieron (with Morollan's help, of course) and stolen Spellbreaker.

Athyra represents a departure in viewpoint for this series, which was a bit of an adjustment at first, but worked well in the end. Instead of being first person from Vlad's POV, it's limited third person from the viewpoint of an adolescent Teckla peasant named Savn, whose life begins to change when he meets Vlad.

This volume also contains "Orca", which is the only Vlad book I haven't read yet. I'm practically drooling with anticipation. Steven Brust is simply my favorite author, bar none. His book The Phoenix Guards is my all-time #1 read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brust Hits His Runner's High
The 6th and 7th (published, not chronological) collected installments in the Vlad Taltos/Jhereg series find author Brust beginning to experiment more with narrative, voice and story structure. The effect is welcome, injecting fresh life into his flagship character and setting. In Athyra, former assassin Vlad Taltos, passing through the eastern heartlands of Dragaera discovers that, in contrast with his favorite maxim, a seriously subtle wizard's style is not particularly cramped by a knife in the shoulder blades. Told primarily through the eyes of a peasant and the mate of Vlad's reptilian familiar, the story provides a character developing look at Vlad for both the reader and Vlad himself while exploring themes of the simultaneously stultifying and welcoming atmosphere of the rustic and rural. And there's a vampire. Orca, the second novel contained in the book, chronologically follows the first, and features a return to the labyrinthine plots which characterize so much of Brust's work. Two overlapping narratives--one by Vlad, the other by Kiera the Thief, a previously supporting character responsible for introducing Vlad to his one-time life of crime--begin with a simple attempt to save an old woman from being evicted and wind up in terribly realistic attempt to shore up and empire brought to the brink of financial ruin by an financial flim-flam artist. And, briefly, there's another vampire.

While neither book provides any essential revelation (OK, maybe there's two at the end of Orca) required to understand any of the sequels or prequels, the two books represent some of the finest literary installments in the series.

3-0 out of 5 stars Vlad Taltos Self Analysis
I think combining these two novels within one cover was a good idea. Athyra would not have ranked high as a stand alone. I'm not quite sure why but I didn't care nearly as much for it as I have the rest of the books. Vlad spent too much time in introspection, I think. Orca got back to having a little more action and interplay between characters. I found it much more entertaining. There are quite a few references to the previous stories so I would try diligently to read the preceding books prior to these two. Orca contains little tidbits that very innocuously tie the series tighter.I also liked the easily seen comparison to the predatory practices of many of today's corporations so clearly shown in the sub-prime mortgage debacle. Combined I have to recommend you read this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Vlad lover
I absolutely loved Orca. It was really thought provoking and it added an interesting dimension to Vlad's character. In this book, you get to see the more sensitive side of Vlad the assassin. All the action and sarcastic jokes are great and all but it get's kind of boring after a while, especially in long series.
He doesn't turn in to a sap or anything.. or at least you can't tell since the stories told from the perspective of the boy he kind of adopts.... Anyway, it's a nice change.
I actually bought this book and have read it on several occasions. It's good through several readings and it's possible to gain new insight every time you read it. So READ IT!![Note: Sorry for the rambling...] ... Read more

4. Dragon (Vlad Taltos)
by Steven Brust
Mass Market Paperback: 288 Pages (1999-11-15)
list price: US$6.99 -- used & new: US$1.92
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812589165
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
After years of surviving in Adrilankha by practicing the trade I know best--killing people for a living--suddenly I'm in the last place any self-respecting assassin wants to be: the army.Worse, I'm right in the middle of a apocalyptic battle between two sorcerous armies, and everyone expects me to play a role they won't explain. All I've got between me and the worst kind of death is my wits. Oh, and a smart-mouthed winged lizard...
Amazon.com Review
Vlad Taltos is not your average sword-and-sorcery hero. He runs a territoryfor the criminal House Jhereg. He's a witch with a flying reptilianfamiliar as smart and sarcastic as any sidekick in literature. He's also amaster assassin in Adrilankha, the capital of the Dragaeran Empire.(Dragaerans are tall, very long-lived elves; Vlad is an Easterner, orhuman.)

Steven Brust is not your average fantasy writer.Like his mentor, Roger Zelazny, heenjoys playing with time.Although Dragon is the eighth book aboutVlad to be published, most of it takes place between Taltos, the first bookchronologically, and Yendi;interludes and anepilogue occur after Yendi, but before Jhereg.Dragontells the story of the oft-mentioned Battle of Barritt's Tomb, and how Vladenlisted in a Dragon army (Dragons are the warrior Dragaerans) and learnedthat war is nothing like assassination.

Vlad is quick to let readers know the score."I'll let you stay confused alittle longer, and if you don't trust me to clear everything up, then youcan go hang.I've been paid." Trust him. Dragon stands alone, butdon't miss the others (after Jhereg come Teckla, Phoenix, Athyra, and Orca).It's afast-moving, satisfying series. --Nona Vero ... Read more

Customer Reviews (46)

2-0 out of 5 stars dragon
I only read 37 pages and I was lost,He jumps around I don't understand him or the purpose of the story. I've stopped reading it, it's not worth the hassle to try to understand it. I read a lot of books and I consider it not worth the money I paid.

5-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted fantasy
This is a great light hearted read.The characters are real characters, and a lot of the comedy is slap stick, but when you need a light read to get your mind of things, Steven Brust's work is wonderful.

1-0 out of 5 stars Jumbled story line
The author jumbles the story line to try to make the book more interesting.This is a writing style that can work well when plots have interesting plot twists. Actually it is a style that promises a plot twist, but not for this book as it had no plot twists.The book starts into the timeline and jumps back as the character recalls how he got there.I have perhaps read all of the authors books so I have liked the material in the past but it seems like each book becomes less interesting and more jumbled.In this book it is because the characters havent done a single thing that they havent done in past books.With the exception of the main character joining the army.However, the reason for the character joining the army wasnt believable.While people have certainly joined armies in real life for less, it really felt like it was against his character type.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book about Vlad by Steven Brust.
Steven Brust has done it again with the novel Dragon.Featuring Vlad Taltos, beloved protagonist of many of his books, in a new setting, the battlefield, it shows some surprising twists and reveals the back story of Vlad and Morrolan and how they became good friends.It also answers many of the questions about some key plot points which I will not discuss for fear of ruining the plot.All in all, a great piece of writing and a fabulous addition to the series.My hat's off to Steven Brust for his writing skills and imagination.I highly recommend this book to any readers.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
A conflict is at hand in the house of the Dragon.It appears that it is all to do with a group of magical weapons that Morrolan has in his possession.He hires Vlad to help with his security.

Vlad agrees, but one of them ends up going missing anyway.This leaves Morrolan at war with another dragon, and Sethra Lavode becomes involved.

She talks Vlad into joining the infantry, which he does, fighting as a grunt, and also using his 'work' skills to do a bit of special forces type work in the dark.

A conversation with a Serioli, Morrolan, and Vlad tells us more about the Great Weapons and Spellbreaker, and Aliera and Sethra the Younger become involved, both wanting a weapon, at the end.

... Read more

5. Tiassa (Vlad)
by Steven Brust
 Hardcover: 304 Pages (2011-03-29)
list price: US$24.99 -- used & new: US$16.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0765312093
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

6. Freedom and Necessity
by Steven Brust, Emma Bull
Paperback: 448 Pages (2007-04-17)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$5.69
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B003R4ZF2Y
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

It is 1849. Across Europe, the high tide of revolution has crested, leaving recrimination and betrayal in its wake. From the high councils of Prussia to the corridors of Parliament, the powers-that-be breathe sighs of relief. But the powers-that-be are hardly unified among themselves. Far from it . . .
On the south coast of England, London man-about-town James Cobham comes to himself in a country inn, with no idea how he got there. Corresponding with his brother, he discovers he has been presumed drowned in a boating accident. Together they decide that he should stay put for the moment, while they investigate what may have transpired. For James Cobham is a wanted man—wanted by conspiring factions of the government and the Chartists alike, and also targeted by a magical conspiracy inside his own family.
And so the adventure begins…leading the reader through every corner of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, from the parlors of the elite to the dens of the underclass. Not since Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle has there been such a profusion of guns, swordfights, family intrigues, women disguised as men, occult societies, philosophical discussions, and, of course, passionate romance.
Amazon.com Review
The early 19th century was a heady time of repeated challengesto the assumption that the social order as it stood was supernaturally(divinely) ordained. A particularly sticky web of politics and romancetraps Susan Voight and James Cobham in a dense, thrillinglysuspenseful plot connecting a reforming democratic labor movement,Chartism, to a secret society, the Trotters Club, whose corruptmembers intend to exploit a magical ritual for their personal,complicated purposes of vengeance and power. Layers of truths andfalsehoods mislead and confound the protagonists in their dealingswith each other and the conspiracies; they come to understand thatonly honesty can save them. Although the perversion of the naturalpower of sorcery fails because it is unnatural, the social order,unnatural or not, is more resistant to justice. The swift pace,surprising developments, and appealing characters make it nearlyimpossible to put this book down. Though the women's rights movementis glancingly acknowledged, the conventionally romantic fulfillment isa little disappointing. Is there no other end for intelligent,financially independent women than maternity and love-partnership (asbinding, or more, as legal marriage) with a man? ... Read more

Customer Reviews (39)

5-0 out of 5 stars a book to savor
I first read this about 4 or 5 years ago, and it blew me away. So when somebody mentioned it a couple of months ago, I decided to take the chance and put it back in my TBR pile, and see if I still felt the same.

I did.

Freedom and Necessity was written by two of my favorite fantasy authors, but it's historical fiction, not fantasy. It takes place in the mid-19th century, and is told entirely in letters and journal entries.

As the book opens, James Cobham is writing to his cousin Richard to inform him that he, James, is not dead. He has only vague memories of the past months, up until the time he arrived, ill and injured, at the inn where he's now working as a groom. Despite his lack of memory, he cautions Richard that he might want to keep James's resurrection quiet until they can discover where he's been and what happened to him.

Working parallel to the cousins is a distant cousin, Susan Voight. She's long been attracted to and fascinated by James, and with the news of his death, she's set out to discover his past--in particular, what happened when he'd disappeared before--in order, she tells herself, to find that he was just ordinary after all and exorcise him from her heart and mind.

Rounding out the main characters is Susan's best friend, James's stepsister Kitty, a devotee of spiritualism, who's "living in sin" with Richard.

They're all intellectuals and philosophers, though James has taken it further than the rest, and involved himself in radical political reform. (Friedrich Engels is a secondary character.) As the clues emerge, it seems that a combination of politics and the sinister Trotters Club is behind James's disappearance and the continued danger to him.

The clues are revealed slowly, in bits and pieces, and the reader has to actually interpret some of them. It's such a lovely novelty to not have everything spoon-fed to you.

In addition, there's a heart-wrenchingly intense romance between Susan and James, made all the better because they're both such great characters. Both strong, both extremely intelligent, both principled to a fault. Neither one gives the other an easy time.

It's a slow, demanding read, but it's also one to savor. Normally, I get impatient with slow reads, but not with this one.

3-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
Will hold your attention through short periods of time and allow you to put it down easily. Will draw you back into it later. Is also easily read for hours.

I'm not a big one for books told through letters and journals because I hate all that flipping the pages to see who signs the letter so you can tell who's talking. This book or rather these authors do such a good job developing a "voice" for their characters that soon you can tell without the flipping for the most part.

That said the main thrust of the story feels kind of unbelievable to me. I laid the book down and thought to myself, "Ooooookay. If you say so, but that totally could never happen. There were too many loose ends." Not a good last impression, I think.

4-0 out of 5 stars extremely complex not an easy readVictorian mystery
In 1849 his family assumes that Chartism revolutionary James Cobham died in a boating accident.Two months after his alleged death, James finds himself at a Portsmouth, England inn with no idea how he got there or where he has been for the last few weeks.His body is wracked with relatively fresh scars and he still has some injuries that have not completely healed.

He writes to his cousin Richard informing him that he lives, but not sure what happened.His affluent feisty cousin Susan Voight decides to investigate.Her premise is that James was not in an accident, but instead someone wanted him dead most likely for his political and social reforms.Even more mysterious is why hold him prisoner and eventually release him with the possibility he will recall all that happened.She begins to unravel a convoluted plot to destroy James and his fervent revolutionaries through the arcane and the mundane.

The extremely complex plot is not an easy read as the story line is told through an exchange of letters and journal entries.Adding to the difficulty is that the tale has a distinct Victorian feel to it as the Dickensian style of using a zillion players to provide a social period piece is employed.Still this is a fascinating historical thriller that brings to life Europe reacting to the previous year's major revolutionary activity.Susan steals the show from the bewildered James and others with her amateur sleuthing.Though there are some fantasy elements with the occult involved, FREEDOM & NECESSITY is a Victorian mystery thriller that will need plenty of time to complete.

Harriet Klausner

3-0 out of 5 stars Well-done, yet unfortunately, it wears a bit thin
I picked this book up after reading a piece in which China Mieville recommended it, and I really wanted to like it more than I did. The authors certainly faithfully reproduce the sound and feel of the mid-Victorian English lower aristocracy quite well, and in general, their historical re-imaginings were acceptably within the realm of the possible. The atmosphere of High Philosophy lent an edge of gravitas to the political hijinks going on (Hegel's Science of Logic is a recurring motif, although that is not his most influential work; The Phenomenology of Spirit is), and Friedrich Engels makes a cameo appearance that is fun too. The problem for me was that the epistolary style is just so incredibly dense, even rather foreign, that it took me forever to wade through the book. Usually I don't care for the complaint that a book is too long, but in this instance, I find it apt. I was enjoying it through about page 300 or so, but thereafter I was quite ready for them to start wrapping things up, yet there were still 200 increasingly tedious pages to go. This one's a tough call, then: I'd recommend it if you're a patient reader and inclined toward Victorian literature like Dickens or Thackeray or Eliot. But if you just want a ripping good yarn and don't want to have to work overly hard for a payoff (and, in my opinion, it wasn't too great an ending), and/or if you're expecting science fiction or fantasy, well, this probably isn't going to be your cup of tea. Myself, I probably could have used a half-cup instead, and with perhaps a little more sweetener....

5-0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite reads
I LOVE this book, but I will admit it's not for everyone. I read a lot of sf/fantasy, but the best comparison I can come up with is A.S. Byatt's "Posession". If you enjoyed "Posession" I think you will enjoy this book. The story can be a bit hard to follow, but I enjoy flipping back to reread pages that are later referred to. Great mystery, intrique, murder and attempted murder, and, to quote the back cover "of course, passionate romance". Wonderful fun! ... Read more

7. The Book of Taltos
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 400 Pages (2002-01-08)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$5.67
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0017OCIEY
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
This is the compendium featuring Taltos and Phoenix-two more novels in Steven Brust's classic series featuring intrepid assassin Vlad Taltos and his dragon companion.

"This whole series is entertaining and worth reading." (Locus)

"Steven Brust isn't afraid to stretch the boundaries of contemporary commercial fantasy." (Newsday )

"Lightning-paced...enjoyable." (OtherRealms)

"Involving, captivating...highly recommended." (The Midwest Book Review)

"Engaging...written with a light touch...good stuff." (Publishers Weekly) ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars An excellant series
So far he has never written a novel in the series I did not like. The world is fascinating and has great depth.

5-0 out of 5 stars Engaging story
If you're familiar with Steven Brust, you'll enjoy the world of Vlad Taltos. They're fast moving stories complete with powerful friends and enemies, a complex world and lots of tongue-in-cheek humour.

4-0 out of 5 stars Arthur's notes order makes more sense
I have enjoyed this series yet would have preferred reading them in the chronological order instead of published order, which I am trying to do from here on out. I don't understand why he would have written it in the order he did, bouncing around between times. Would make one adjustment to chrono order in author's notes add the prologue for Jhereg as the first read.
The bouncing from past to present within chapters is a little confusing yet an interesting way of covering both.Like his humor and style.Great series, definately keeps your interest.Well worth reading.Looking forward to the next book

4-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted fantasy
This is a great light hearted read.The characters are real characters, and a lot of the comedy is slap stick, but when you need a light read to get your mind of things, Steven Brust's work is wonderful.

5-0 out of 5 stars More Vlad = great reading
This is the second collection of books about Vlad Taltos - human assassin in a world of elves.It's a great read!This collection continues the story of Vlad - the first 3 books are in "The Book of Jhreg" which I also highly recommend. ... Read more

8. Issola (Vlad Taltos)
by Steven Brust
Mass Market Paperback: 256 Pages (2002-12-15)
list price: US$6.99 -- used & new: US$2.71
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812589173
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Okay, so maybe I've been living in the woods too long, where you can't even get a decent cup of klava first thing in the morning. So who should turn up but Lady Teldra, the courtly servant of my old friend the Dragonlord Morrolan?

Teldra wants my help, because Morrolan and Aliera have disappeared, and according to Sethra Lavode, it looks like they may be in the hands of the Jenoine. Do I want to mess with them? The guys who made this place? And I thought I had problems before...

Oh well, what's a little cosmic battle with beings who control time and space? It's better than hunkering down in the woods without even so much as a drinkable cup of klava.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (48)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not the best of the collection, but good
I think the irony of this book is that while it's relatively light in page count terms, it's rather wordy at times. At least it's more wordy that other of Brust's Taltos books. The whit and irreverance of Vlad are certainly present, so those who love the character will be pleased. I did find the overall narrative bogging down a little in places, though, as the author spent what I thought was a little more time than usual on exposition. That said, it's still a good read, though I think it's less of a stand-alone novel than some of the others. One would be better off having read earlier books in the collection than hitting this one first.

5-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted fantasy
This is a great light hearted read.The characters are real characters, and a lot of the comedy is slap stick, but when you need a light read to get your mind of things, Steven Brust's work is wonderful.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
Vlad is still on the lam, when, to his surprise, the Lady Teldra turns up.Aliera and Morrolan have vanished, and the high and mighty of Dragaera again need Vlad's help.They go off to visit the mightiest, Sethra Lavode.

They trace Morrolan thanks to Spellbreaker, and find out the Jenoine have him.When Teldra tries to make a deal, they agree.They are happy to let them go, as long as Vlad kills the goddess Verra.

In this book, we learn the nature of reality and why Dragaera exists, and the forces that are at work around it.

The book ends in a serious battle, as the gods, Sethra, Vlad, Morrolan, Teldra and others have to face the Jenoine, and the battle doesn't go too well, in one respect.

Vlad does gain a Great Weapon.

5-0 out of 5 stars Vlad Taltos story number nine
In which Vlad gets caught up in a battle between Gods ...

This highly entertaining comic fantasy novel is number nine in the story of Vladimir Taltos. It is set shortly after "Orca" and is immediately followed by "Dzur."

If you have not previously read any of Steven Brust's "Vlad Taltos" novels or "Khaavren" romances, they are all set in a world of magic, where there are several intelligent species, including two types of men and women. Humans like ourselves are usually referred to as "Easterners," the other type of men and women call themselves humans but are usually referred to in the books as "Dragaerans" or occasionally as Elves. Dragaerans are much taller than humans, live 2,000 to 3,000 years or so, and then after death are eligible for reincarnation provided they have not annoyed a God too much or had their soul destroyed by a "Morganti" weapon or a "Great Weapon."

Morganti weapons are used between mortals when they are really angry with someone because they don't just kill you, but destroy your soul. "Great Weapons," are particularly deadly Morganti weapons which can even kill Gods. Tradition said that there are exactly seventeen Great Weapons.

In one of the earlier books, a powerful magician makes an ambiguous remark to Vlad, suggesting that he both is and isn't carrying a Great Weapon. Baffled Vlad asks if a partular item is a Great Weapon and gets the reply "Not Yet." In "Issola" we find out what this cryptic remark meant.

All Dragaerans belong to one of seventeen "Great Houses" named after animals of the fantasy world in which the novels are set. Nine of the ten novels featuring Vlad Taltos, including "Issola" are named after one of these great houses, usually also featuring a member of that house in a prominent role: if Steven Brust is planning to write a novel for each house we are about half way through the series.

Most of the great houses also have a preferred occupation. For examples: "Dragons" and "Dzurlords" are soldiers, "Tecla" are peasants, "Chreotha" are merchants, "Orcas" are sailors, pirates or - wait for it - bankers, and "Jhereg" are gangsters or assassins. Issola seem to be butlers, stewards etc: the Issola who gives her house name to this book is Lady Teldra, who is Lord Morrolan's seneschal and who is one of the nicest people in any of the Dragaeran novels.

The hero, Baronet Vladimir Taltos, is an assassin and minor sorcerer, who used to be a prominent crimelord within House Jhereg, but is now on the run from them after developing an unfortunate case of principles, which he tries very hard to hide. He has two companions, Loiosh and Rocza who are actual Jhereg - that is to say, they are small intelligent flying reptiles.

Taltos narrates these stories with a wonderful dry wit which is one of the best aspects of the novels.

Stven Brust makes some attempt to recognise that some readers might be new to this book and not have read the previous novels in the series. This does not IMHO make it a good idea to start with this book, but it is still sometimes useful in helping previous readers who don't have a memory like a computer to follow the complex plot. Those who have not read the previous books will still probably find "Issola" hard going.

Be warned, it is also quite a sad story - the ending is much more downbeat than any of the other Vlad Taltos books.

The books are not written in a regular chronological sequence: for example, the fourth novel, "Taltos" is a prequel set before the main action of any of the others, and Dragon, number eight by publication order is the second in chronological sequence, mostly set just after "Taltos." Indeed, Issola and the following book, Dzur, are currently the only ones which occupy the same place in publication and chronological order.

You will get most out of these books if you read them in something close to the "official" order.

If you are interested in these books, my recommendation would be to start with either the first book written, "Jhereg" or the chronologically first book, "Taltos." If you then decide to read the rest, I recommend that you follow something like the order the books were published. Here is a list of the books in publication order, with the chronological place of the main action of each book in brackets after:

1) Jhereg (4th)
2) Yendi (3rd)
3) Tecla (5th)
4) Taltos (1st)
5) Phoenix (6th)
6) Athyra (7th)
7) Orca (8th)
8) Dragon (2nd)
9) Issola (9th)
10) Dzur (10th).

If you enjoy the Taltos novels, you might be interested in another sequence of books which Steven Brust has set in the same country, but quite a few centuries earlier. These are something between a parody and a homage to the novels of Alexandre Dumas. He's called them the "Khaavren Romances" after the central character of the first two novels, who corresponds very closely to D'Artagnan. Obviously none of the human characters overlap, but some of the Dragaerans do: Khaavren himself meets Vlad briefly in "Tecla" and has a sort of offstage cameo in the Vlad Taltos book "Orca." Two of the major characters in the Taltos novels, Sethra Lavode and Lord Morrolan of Castle Black, are also important enough in the Khaavren novels to have books named after them.

The five Khaavren romances, in sequence, are

1) "The Phoenix Guards" (equivalent to "The Three Musketeers")
2)"Five Hundred Years After" (equivalent to "Twenty years after")

Then a trilogy "The Viscount of Adrilankha" (e.g. "The Count of Monte Cristo") which comprises

3) The Paths of the Dead
4) The Lord of Castle Black
5) Sethra Lavode

Overall I found both the "Taltos" novels and the "Khaavren Romances" very entertaining: I recommend both series and this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars Yet Another Excellent Read
Mr. Brust is one of my favorite author's, and "Issola" does not disappoint. ... Read more

9. The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 224 Pages (1996-06-15)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$5.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312860390
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Once upon a time there was a kingdom that lived in darkness, for the sun, the moon and the stars were hidden in a box, and that box was hidden in a sow's belly, and that sow was hidden in a troll's cave, and that cave was hidden at the end of the world.

Once upon a time there was a studio of artists who feared they were doomed to obscurity, for though they worked and they worked, no one was interested in the paintings that stood in racks along their studio walls.

The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars is a tale of two quests, of two young men who are reaching for the moon. And the sun. And the stars.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars Truly adult fantasy
I recently read a speech by Gene Wolfe that referenced this work in a very postive light.
Were I the one who wrote "The Sun, the Moon and the Stars," I would consider a casual, postive mention by Wolfe of more value than a Hugo.
In an age when vampire stories have taken over half the shelf in the SF/Fantasy section of your local bookstores, Brust is an oasis in a barren land.
Get this book. Get "The Gypsy." Get "Agyar."

4-0 out of 5 stars Brust blends a modern story with a classic folktale
Steven Brust likes telling more than one story at a time, quite literally. In this novel from early in his career, Brust gets ambitious, telling the story of an artist struggling with his identity and talent and the hero of an old Hungarian folktale with, perhaps, too much confidence. It is easy for a reader to draw parallels between Brust's main character (in the modern section) and Brust himself, but that may be disingenuous. The artist in the story does not work and play well with others and only learns a little bit of empathy through some painful events. The interludes containing the folktale bring another layer of meaning to the main story and entertain fully.

1-0 out of 5 stars This book is Wretched
Once upon a time there was a girl who read a book so bad that it gave her a headache, and now she is suffering from insomnia and has no recourse but to write a review on amazon explaining the horrors of the book.

Not only is the painter described in it an absolute moron with no mind for artistry or understanding of innovation, the author has a similar ham-fisted lack of eloquence and subtlety. His motifs are inserted with the grace of a brontosaurus using its tail to perform an eye exam. There are so many things wrong with this book that I kept checking the author's bio at the back, trying to see if maybe I had made a mistake and picked up one of those books by a 10-year-old amateur that some publishing companies put out for laughs.

Ok, I think I've made myself clear.

5-0 out of 5 stars Literary Metafiction, Lite
All books are unique, but this one is a little more unique than most.It's one of my favorites, but what it is -- and what it isn't -- takes a little explaining.

It's written by an author best known for his swashbuckling fantasy stories, but this book bears little resemblance to Brust's other fictions.There is a hint of Vlad's cockiness and introspection, a bit of the philosophical debate found in Freedom and Necessity.But it is not speculative fiction of any sort -- science fiction, high fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, etc.If that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere.

It was first published in a series of modern retellings of classic fairy tales, but the fairy tale element is minimal here, so again, if that's what you're looking for, you'll be disappointed.

On the surface this is a story about painters and the visual arts, young artists struggling to make a living post-college, but that, too, is deceptive.Some knowledge of and interest in painting will certainly add to your enjoyment of this book -- particularly some of the clever section headings, which are titles of well-known paintings.On the other hand, the book does not require such knowledge, which may make the very broad level of treatment given to art history and visual theory frustrating for people who come to the novel expecting these to be the focus.

What the book is, as the main character Greg says explicitly, is an attempt to understand something of the process of artistic creation.And while it's ostensibly about painting, the book is written by a writer, so it's no great leap to understand much of the content as about writing.It's a metafiction, a writing about writing.But because the story is about a somewhat similar artistic pursuit, painting, it's an easier to understand metafiction than, say, Borges or the like.When we see how Greg's painting develops -- from his moods, from past works and influences, from the story he tells, from his surroundings and situation -- it's easy to understand how these things may be true for any artistic pursuit.

Two more things need to be said.First, in addition to the above, the story itself is quite entertaining.There are a number of fully realized characters that have different, often conflicting, opinions, and the way the story plays out has a level of drama that is not at all in keeping with the dry and intellectual tone one might expect when words like "metafiction" are tossed around.Yes, some of the characters aren't perfect, but we're talking about artists here: people with both the arrogance to believe their work is good enough to be thrust on society, and yet the sensitivity to need support and acclaim for their work.They are not perfect, yet they are thoroughly real.

Second, this book can be quite inspirational.The central story revolves around Greg's attempt to paint on the biggest canvas he yet has attempted: to conquer what he thinks of as The Monster.While on a literal level this book is about painting and as mentioned can more properly be understood to be about writing, really as a reader it has applicability to any large creative project we may choose to undertake.It's a book that can be appreciated on many levels: intellectually for the metafiction, inter-relationships and references; as entertainment for the drama; and as inspiration for the inner artist in us all.For all these reasons it's among my most beloved and most often re-read books.

5-0 out of 5 stars Powerful Story about Storytelling and the Power of Myth
Returning once again to Steven Brust, I am now choosing to review not one of his Vlad Toltos or Dragaera books going on to a much deeper book by this very creative writer. There are two editions of this book that I know of. The current Orb edition and a much older Ace edition.

Quoting from the back's of the books:

Once Upon A Time

there was a kingdom, that
lived in darkness, for the Sun, the
Moon, and the Stars were hidden in a box ...
which was hidden in a sow's belly ...
which was hidden I a troll's cave ...
which was surely hidden at the end of the world.
And ...

Once Upon A Time

there was a struggling young painter
who also lived in darkness, and - like
the hero of that Hungarian folktale - was
beginning his most perilous quest.
shooting for the Moon. And the Sun.
And the Stars ...

Once Upon A Time

there was a studio of artists who feared
they were doomed to obscurity, for though
they worked and they worked,
no one was interested in the paintings
that stood in racks along their studio walls.

The Sun, the Moon
& The Stars

is a tale of two quests, of two young men
who are reaching for the moon. And the sun.
And the stars.

This is a story that I read every few years. Each time I read it I get more from it. The story is of a artist telling his friends a fairy tale he was told in his youth. In telling them the story he is living a fairy tale in that he is attacking the biggest canvas he has ever painted. One he bought after selling a painting that has sat blank for a long time. Now before giving up on being artists living in community he tries to tackle that canvas.

As both a write and a painter this story draws me in. Each time I read it, I hope to become better at both my crafts. This story is a modern day fairy tale told with compassion, conviction and daring. It dares us to learn to dream again, to hope to wish, and maybe if we are lucky the magic of the story will rub off on us. ... Read more

10. The Book of Jhereg
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 480 Pages (1999-08-01)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$6.88
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0441006159
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Vlad Taltos x 3!Three Steven Brust fantasy novels in one all-new edition-featuring intrepid assassin Vlad Taltos and his jhereg companion. A welcome addition to any fantasy fan's library, The Book of Jhereg follows the antics of the wise-cracking assassin Vlad Taltos and his dragon-like companion through their first three adventures-Jhereg, Yendi,and Teckla.From his rookie assassin days to his selfless feats of heroism, the dauntless Vlad will hold readers spellbound-and The Book of Jhereg will take its place among the classic compilations in fantasy.
--A pocket-sized dragon-what's not to love?
--A collectible 3-in-1 edition featuring one of science fiction's most memorable heroes

"This whole series is entertaining and worth reading!" -Locus

"Engaging...written with a light touch...good stuff!" -Publishers Weekly

"Watch Steven Brust.He's good.He moves fast.He surprises you." -Roger Zelazny

"Hard to put down . . . fun to read!" -OtherRealms

"Imagine James Bond in a world of magic...exciting!" -Voya ... Read more

Customer Reviews (98)

5-0 out of 5 stars A super beginning to an excellent series
I just realized I've written two rather tepid reviews for Brust's latest Vlad books (Jhegaala and Iorich) so I thought I'd do a bit of penance and review the ones that started it all. This omnibus volume, containing the first 3 Vlad books, is a must-have for any fantasy reader.

The stories are great but what Brust manages to do better than the vast majority of writers is make the characters come to life. The personal interplay, the wit and sarcasm, is all sparkling. There is nothing generic about this series. I can't recommend it highly enough (even if I wasn't thrilled with Jhegaala and Iorich!).

5-0 out of 5 stars Good Books
These books are very well written, engaging, clever, and adventurous.They keep you guessing.Brust has invented an excellent magical world.

5-0 out of 5 stars one of the best fantasies of all time
This book includes a colorfully depicted gaggle of flawed but still heroic protaganists, a beuatifly described setting, and a plot so thick and twisty thatone may as well call it jacks magic beanstock. it's a good book

2-0 out of 5 stars er... now what?
I'm at a loss.I've read the first two books collected here and did not like them very much at all.There are 13 more or so of these things... supposedly they get better and more interesting, but I'm not sure I want to put in the work.I know these were some of his first books written in the early 80's so things have to get better right?
I'm spoiled by larger more epic fantasy.I think there is a place for this lighter quicker stuff (see Glenn Cook) but these books just leave me bored because at least in the first two many points of major exposition are simply skipped. It took like 50 pages for me to get a good description of what the dominate race looks like.The Jhereg of the title doesn't seem to do much for the main character except bite the occasional person.The "funny" lines aren't clever and can be seen coming a mile away.but mostly... I just feel like 40 or 50 pages of descriptions and stuff that will help me care about this whole thing is just ... missing... you can do better with your fantasy novel time than these books.Maybe books 12-15 are good?

4-0 out of 5 stars Vlad Taltos The Begining
I've mentioned before I enjoy books with telepathic animals, the lead character in this fantasy, Vlad Taltos, is a witch/sorcerer and assassin. His familiar is a Jhereg which is a parrot size poisonous, telepathic, scavenger, predator mini dragon.Jhereg is also one of the 17 houses of the Empire. Trust me, it isn't that complicated once you start to read."The Book of Jhereg", contains three complete novels, "Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla". Since I am always looking for good prices on my books, this threesome is substantially cheaper than buying the three stand alone novels. These are the first three of Vlad's adventures. First three is a bit of a misnomer as future books actually fit in better between some of these rather than a strict linear progression. It doesn't hurt the story line though. Another interesting twist is that humans in these stories refer to a race of Elves and Easterners/Whiskers refer to what we would consider the normal human genome type. This is a fairly long series, so far I highly recommend it. Fantasy, sorcery, teleportation, murder, violence, love is all in there.I found it difficult to put it down. Brust is reasonably prolific so there is a wealth of good stuff out there to read. ... Read more

11. Orca
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 290 Pages (1996-03-01)
list price: US$6.50 -- used & new: US$4.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0441001963
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
With the help of his two jhereg, sorcerer and former assassin-for-hire Vlad Taltos takes on the corrupt House of the Orca as he sets out to uncover a huge financial scandal. Amazon.com Review
Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novels are wildly and deservedly popular.Here Vlad--wanted all over the Empire, and trying to elude capture--aids a young boy who saved his life and probes the secrets of the House of the Orca. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (23)

4-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
Kiera the Thief is friends with Cawti, Vlad's estranged wife.She wants to know what he is up to, so Kiera fills her in, and a large part of the book has to deal with Kiera, and who she really is.

Vlad is trying to get help for Savn from a local woman named Mother.She agrees, if Vlad will look into her own problem.

He takes her up on the deal Vlad ends up in a private investigator type role, looking into some Orca financial skullduggery that could have very serious ramifications.This he does with Kiera's help.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good story, but a different perspective
I'll be honest that I didn't care for the way the narrative was done in this book. I enjoy the stories from Vlad's perspective, but much of this book isn't. The story, to my mind, was a good one one with typical Brust twists and turns and a very interesting end. I just think that the change of perspective flattens the narrative a bit.

4-0 out of 5 stars In which Vlad Taltos investigates the death of a banker
This highly entertaining comic fantasy novel is the seventh by publication order, and eighth in chronological sequence, in the story of Vladimir Taltos. It follows on shortly after the sixth book, "Athyra." Vlad's attempt to obtain a cure for a young man who was injured saving his life in "Athyra" leads him into the attempt to unravel the secrets around the mysterious death of an Orca financier. This book also contains important plot revelations affecting the rest of the series.

If you have not previously read any of Steven Brust's "Vlad Taltos" novels or "Khaavren" romances, they are all set in a world of magic, where there are several intelligent species, including two types of men and women. Humans like ourselves are usually referred to as "Easterners," the other type of men and women call themselves humans but are usually referred to in the books as "Dragaerans" or occasionally as Elves.

All Dragaerans belong to one of seventeen "Great Houses" named after animals of the fantasy world in which the novels are set. Nine of the ten novels to date featuring Vlad Taltos, including "Orca" are named after one of these great houses, usually also featuring a member of that house in a prominent role: if Steven Brust is planning to write a novel for each house we are about half way through the series.

Most of the great houses also have a preferred occupation. For examples: "Dragons" and "Dzurlords" are soldiers, "Tecla" are peasants, "Chreotha" are merchants, "Orcas" are sailors, pirates or - wait for it - bankers, and "Jhereg" are gangsters or assassins.

Most members of House Jhereg are also involved in "the organization," which is the equivalent of the mafia. The hero, Baronet Vladimir Taltos, is an assassin and minor sorcerer, who used to be a prominent member of House Jhereg but is now on the run from the organisation after developing an unfortunate case of principles. Vlad has a companion and familiar, Loiosh, who is an actual Jhereg - that is to say, he is a small intelligent flying reptile - and Vlad is also accompanied by Loiosh's mate, Rocza.

Taltos narrates most of the stories with a wonderful dry wit which is one of their best aspects. In "Orca" the story is being told by Vlad's oldest friend, Kiera the Thief, to his separated wife Cawti. Sometimes the story is told from Kiera's own perspective, but for most of the book she is quoting Vlad.

The books are not written in a regular chronological sequence. For example the fourth published novel, "Taltos" is a prequel set before the main action of any of the others, while the eighth novel, "Dragon" is mostly set just after "Taltos" but jumps to a few weeks after "Yendi" for the conclusion.

Many of the Vlad Taltos novels contain either flashbacks to much earlier events, references to much later events, multiple timelines, or all three. "Orca" has one of the simpler timelines in the series, in that you get the story in rough chronological sequence as Kiera told it to Cawti.

This book includes a critical plot revelation for the series as a whole, as Vlad finds out the real identity of one of the most important characters in the series. Brust has obviously been setting this up from the start, because there are events in novels written a decade before "Orca" which make more sense when you have read this book. Further, Brust does not always remind you in later books about this real identity, so you need to read "Orca" beforehand to make sense of some events in later books such as "Issola" and "Dzur".

There is also a rather moving scene between Vlad and Loiosh: usually their relationship consists of a constant stream of insulting banter, but in "Orca" there is a scene in which Loiosh is badly injured and you get an insight into another side of the relationship.

Make sure you read to the end because another important revelation comes in the very last sentence of the book.

You will get most out of the Vlad Taltos books if you read them in something close to the "official" order. My recommendation would be to start with either the first book written, "Jhereg" or the chronologically first book, "Taltos."

Here is a list of the books in publication order, with the chronological place of the main action of each book in brackets after:

1) Jhereg (4th)
2) Yendi (3rd)
3) Tecla (5th)
4) Taltos (1st)
5) Phoenix (6th)
6) Athyra (8th)
7) Orca (9th)
8) Dragon (2nd)
9) Issola (10th)
10) Dzur (11th)
11) Jhegaala (7th).

If you enjoy the Taltos novels, you might be interested in another sequence of books which Steven Brust has set in the same country, but quite a few centuries earlier. These are something between a parody and a homage to the novels of Alexandre Dumas (Junior). He's called them the "Khaavren Romances" after the central character of the first two novels, who corresponds very closely to D'Artagnan.

Obviously none of the human characters overlap, but some of the Dragaerans do: Khaavren himself meets Vlad Taltos very briefly in the book "Tecla" and his current role in the Empire is described in a sort of offstage cameo in this book, "Orca." Two of the major characters in the Taltos novels, Sethra Lavode and Lord Morrolan of Castle Black, are also important enough in the Khaavren novels to have books named after them.

The five Khaavren romances, in sequence, are

1) "The Phoenix Guards" (equivalent to "The Three Musketeers")
2)"Five Hundred Years After" (equivalent to "Twenty years after")

Then a trilogy "The Viscount of Adrilankha" (e.g. "The Count of Monte Cristo") which comprises

3) The Paths of the Dead
4) The Lord of Castle Black
5) Sethra Lavode

Overall I found both the "Taltos" novels and the "Khaavren Romances" very entertaining: I recommend both series and this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Mysteries Revealed
Without going into detail, any fan of Vlad must read this book.Between Orca and the next few books it looks like we are starting to find out some of the mysteries that have been hinted at in previous installments in the series.Very cool and very unpredictable.

As far as Orca goes, Vlad and his faithful sidekick, Loiosh, continue wandering - just ahead of the Jhereg assassins out to get him and toward what appears to be a great destiny.They solve a mystery involving a deep conspiracy and encounter some covert operatives of the Draegaran government.

As always it's an excellent read.Brust has some of the best dialogue - fresh, crisp, wise cracking... and is the master of conveying emotion in the speech of his characters.The plot is in depth and challenging.Orca is better than most of its predecessors as a whole.

Obviously, however, you need to be familiar with the series to "get it."

1-0 out of 5 stars We've seen this before
I liked this story the first time when Vlad was called Drizzt, and he was a dark elf saving villages in the Forgotten Realms.

Brust can do better. ... Read more

12. To Reign in Hell: A Novel
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 288 Pages (2000-07-07)
list price: US$15.99 -- used & new: US$5.21
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312870493
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Steven Brusts Vlad Taltos novels and his swashbuckling tales of Khaavren have earned him an enthusiastic audience world-wide. But To Reign in Hell has been out of print for yearscausing used copies to trade for improbable sums. Now, at last, To Reign in Hellreturns to print in a paperback edition, with an introduction by Roger Zelazny. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (93)

2-0 out of 5 stars Not so good
This is the story of the revolt in heaven against God, and the casting out of Satan. I expected a fairly typical telling of that event, and got something quite different.

This is a story of the War in Heaven and eventual Fall from Grace, both sides are told from a non-judgemental point of view, and neither God, nor Satan are all good, or all bad.

There's a fair bit wrong with this book though, and I really do wonder what's with the five star ratings. I've read better, and though perhaps it's still quite rare for an author to tackle the theme of angels, the fact this one does does not make it necessarily a worthy read.

Overall, I found the beginning and end of this book to be engrossing, the pacing in the middle was slow though. The writing quality varies, and there are some extremely poorly written sentances. Dialogue is pretty good (sometimes excellent) for the most part, but the book consists of about 90% dialogue. Pages and pages of dialogue, sometimes with three or more characters speaking, and requiring of some concentration in order to follow who's saying what.

Characters aren't really developed immensely-yes, each one has a different personality and is motivated for different reasons, but there's no real understanding behind why they do what they do.

Satan is portrayed as being a victim of circumstances, rather than the troublemaker that went out and actually intentionally caused a rebellion. This is an interesting take on the idea, but Satan's role as troublemaker is taken by another angel, who spends the entire book causing misunderstandings and miscomunication between the sides of God and Satan.

This made the book frustrating, though perhaps it was trying to get accross a strong point-so much tragedy and conflict caused just because people don't talk to each other. But a whole book where the plot relies on one miscommunication after another?

I really don't know if this book was supposed to be funny, but it kinda was, just for how silly the whole conflict got.

In To Reign in Hell, Stephen Brust portrays quite a different idea of what heaven was like in those early days. And, to be honest, I found myself dissapointed. The place read like a medieval fantasy world, and I couldn't help wondering at why this was. Would have been nice to see something more different.

Another issue I had with this book is that it needed an editor. Some of the writing is attrocious, and there are some noticeable errors.

So. Read this book if you'd like to read an idea of the war in heaven. If this book hadn't used Angels, God and Satan to tell its story, this probably wouldn't have been as well received as it has. It's not that well written. I don't regret buying it, but don't expect a masterpiece.

3-0 out of 5 stars Mostly just leaves me with more questions
I read this book a while ago (2 years at least) and I'm still thinking about it, oddly enough.It isn't that it was amazingly memorable or anything.As I was reading it, I was like "wow, this is really sucking me in" and read it all in one sitting.Then, despite my intense enjoyment of it, I realized I was really unsatisfied!
Unfortunately a lot of the premise of the book makes absolutely no sense under a little bit of scrutiny.Like the most basic element driving the story is this notion of the 'flux' but in reality you never get any actual explanation of what it is, what drives it, where it originates, why it comes sometimes, etc.There were also some problems I found with the motivation of the angels, although I will admit I no longer can remember what my problem with it was exactly.

Anyway, the reason I still look back and think about this book is because I always think about how I enjoyed it and how easily the dumb problems with the story could have been fixed to make it a more satisfying read!A fun book, so long as you don't think too hard about it.
I hope he has better books, I have yet to read another by Brust.I am willing to give him another chance though.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Essential Read
Written by Steven Brust, "To Reign in Hell" is a book unlike any other. It depicts the revolt in heaven from a fantasy perspective, portraying all the main characters (God, Satan, Lucifer, Michael, plus a bunch of other angels, archangels, and firstborn) not as heroes or villains, but as ordinary people who - if circumstances were different - would've never taken up arms against each other.

The most glaring thing about this novel is the minimalist writing style. The majority of "To Reign in Hell" is composed of dialogue, most of which is plain and devoid of unnecessary chatter. Descriptions are few and far between, and when they do occur it's always to depict some great turmoil, or to introduce an important character. Hence, "To Reign In Hell" reads a lot like the Bible itself. This gives it a weird, haunting atmosphere - as if it, like the good book, was written in times long forgotten, by an author seeking to convey sacred information rather then blind the reader with literary flashiness.

"To Reign In Hell" has superb, yet very discreet, character development. Protagonists and antagonists alike are defined by their actions and their doubts, while the conventional devices such as "stream of thought" and "backstory" are mostly omitted. This has the double effect of making the cast more believable (these creatures are thousands of years old, it'd be unrealistic to expect them to change much, if at all, in the course of a few years), and inspiring the readers to actively think about character motivations in order to decide who is right and who is wrong, and why they do the things they do.

The one thing about "To Reign In Hell" that I found underwhelming was the plot itself. The protagonists and antagonists alike were played against each other by a character who didn't understand the magnitude of the damage he was causing until the things had already spun out of control. I understand this is Brust's vision and that it's therefore pointless to complain about it, but I still feel the book would've been better (and a lot harder to write) if the war in heaven was the result of a hate/greed-fueled rebellion, rather then a series of misunderstandings.

On the whole, "To Reign In Hell" is a great novel. If you enjoy Christian mythology half as much as I do, then you will find this book to be one of the most enjoyable reads of your life. "

1-0 out of 5 stars walking and talking
I could hardly keep the characters straight.Not enough character development.I didn't care, I don't care and I am very near the end where all the drama is and I still don't care.

4-0 out of 5 stars worth reading
The title is a little misleading, however once you get into it, you are able to disregard it. I found the idea of the revolt in Heaven being founded on a misunderstanding and deceit to be intriguing. The author uses enough description to create a picture, but not too much as to over-shadow the imagination of the reader. I find this a wonderful characteristic in my favorite authors. I would and have suggested this book to my friends. Another retelling of biblical events that is also worth a read is The Devil's Apocrypha: There Are Two Sides to Every Story. If you have read this book and are interested I highly recommend it as well. I look forward to further reading of Steven Brust's writings. ... Read more

13. Sethra Lavode
by Steven Brust
Mass Market Paperback: 384 Pages (2005-03-01)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.15
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812534182
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

Book Three of The Viscount of Adrilankha

She's the oldest person in the Dragaeran Empire, a military genius and master of sorcery whose own story stretches back to before the dawn of history. She's Sethra Lavode, the undead Enchantress of Dzur Mountain. Now, after a long absence, she's returned to take an active role in the Empire's affairs-and the affairs of her friends Khaavren, Pel, Tazendra, Aerich, and all their friends and relations.

Since the day Adron's Disaster reduced Dragaera City to a barren sea of amorphia, the Empire has been in ruins. The Emperor is gone, along with the Orb that was both his badge of office and the source of the magical power that in former times was practically a public utility. Trade has collapsed. Brigands rule the roads. Plagues sweep through the population. And an ambitious Dragonlord, the Duke of Kâna, has moved to rebuild the Empire-in his own name, of course.

Unknown to him, Sethra Lavode has already helped the Phoenix Zerika, true heir to the throne, retrieve the Orb from the Paths of the Dead. Sethra means to see Zerika on the throne. But making it so will entail a climactic battle of sorcery and arms...
... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not about Sethra Lavode
This concludes the Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy, but Sethra Lavode is an extremely minor character in the book.After reading the Vlad books, Sethra Lavode's story remains an intriguing enigma, and I was hoping for specific details.The Lord of Castle Black (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Book 2), the predecessor to this volume, has the basic life story of Lord Morollan, including how he came to possess Castle Black and Blackwand, and I was hoping for a similar treatment for Sethra.None of her mysteries are revealed, instead it's the final battle of Zerika's side against Kana the usurper.Morollan clashes with a god, and Piro 'The Blue Fox' continues his rebellion alongside Ibronka.

I enjoyed portions of the book, including the final confrontation, Khaarven coming to terms with Piro, and mention of the Jenoine.I also thought the first three or so chapters were mindcrushingly slow, but the book gets better after them.Brust has an annoying habit of constant cliffhangers in the mid-volume, and they really kept me 'in' this volume.

Overall I was satisfied with the reading experience, but the title mislead me regarding my expectations.Sethra holds one war council and plays a small direct role near the end.The character with the most page count was Piro and his band, and a more appropriate title would have simply been "The Blue Fox." If you want the rest of the story regarding how the Phoenix Empress Zerika began her reign, then great book.(The most relevant sub-theme was love between members of different factions.)But I wanted Sethra Lavode's origin story, which was nowhere inside the volume.Meh.

5-0 out of 5 stars fabulous writing style
This is the 3rd book in the Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy, following The Paths of the Dead and The Lord of Castle Black. It's a trilogy the way the Lord of the Rings is a trilogy--it's one story, broken up into 3 volumes, and you really have to read them all to get the full effect.

So in Sethra Lavode, we get the conclusion of the war between Zerika's followers and the Pretender, and the resolution of the problems between Khaavren and his son Piro, who'd run off and become a highwayman, and basically tells us how Morrolan and Sethra Lavode and Sethra the Younger get to the point they're at when we first meet them in the Vlad Taltos series.

I won't rhapsodize about the writing style in this series here except to say that I absolutely love it. The point being that you have to love this style to enjoy the books, otherwise you'd hate it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted fantasy
This is a great light hearted read.The characters are real characters, and a lot of the comedy is slap stick, but when you need a light read to get your mind of things, Steven Brust's work is wonderful.

4-0 out of 5 stars Super Reader
The conclusion to The Viscount of Adrilankha novel-in-three-books is just as good as the first two parts. Not surprisingly, due to the title, Sethra herself is a point of view character at times. However, so is Khaavren and friends, and his son Piro and friends, who are, most of the time, still road agents. This also concludes Brust's five book homage/satire/pastiche of Dumas' Musketeers series.

Kana, in the war for the empire, has enlisted the aid of two extremely powerful entities to counter the advantages that Zerika and her followers have in the Orb, the Necromancer, and the Warlock.

He then attacks Adrilankha, leaving Sethra trying to combat an invasion with only somewhat confused conventional forces.

This leaves Khaavren and friends, Piro and band, and Morrolan and Blackwand to play vital roles.

Stylistly, this is still the same, dialogue and all, and has an amusing 'after the credits' scene with the gods from the Halls of Judgement.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Nice Finish
This one reads more like A Vlad Taltos novel in some spots than a Khaavren romance, but it does hit the spot quite nicely.

Brust wraps up a whole lot of loose threads in this one, yet leaves enough questions answered, presumably in case he wants to work on these characters some more.

The plot hinges on how Empress Zerika finally gets complete control of The Empire, with the help of the usual cast of characters, including Morolan, Sethra Lavode, Khaavren, Pell, Aerich, and my all time favorite Brust character, Tazendra, who by this time is a major sorcerer, adding interesting twists to the whole thing.

The story is very fast paced and can be conquered in a few hours. There are no unnecessary detours, even though Paarfi is the narrator, which is an amazing feat in and of its own.

More important, this book, and this series, is a great bridge between "The Phoenix Guards," and the Vlad Taltos books.

Well worth the time and effort. ... Read more

14. Dzur (Vlad Taltos)
by Steven Brust
Mass Market Paperback: 288 Pages (2007-10-30)
list price: US$6.99 -- used & new: US$3.51
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0765341549
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

In which Vlad Taltos confronts the Left Hand of the JheregÂ…and discovers the game has more players than he thought
Vlad Taltos, short-statured, short-lived human in an Empire of tall, long-lived Dragaerans, has always had to keep his wits about him. Long ago, he made a place for himself as a captain of the Jhereg, the noble house that runs the rackets in the great imperial city of Adrilankha. But love, revolution, betrayal, and revenge ensued, and for years now Vlad has been a man on the run, struggling to stay a step ahead of the Jhereg who would kill him without hesitation.
Now Vlad's back in Adrilankha. The rackets he used to run are now under the control of the mysterious Â"Left Hand of the JheregÂ"Â--a secretive cabal of women who report to no man. His ex-wife needs his help. His old enemies aren't sure whether they want to kill him, or talk to him and then kill him. A goddess may be playing tricks with his memory. And the Great Weapon he's carrying seems to have plans of its ownÂ…
Picking up directly where Issola left off, Dzur gives us Vlad Taltos at his bestÂ--swashbuckling storytelling with a wry and gritty edge.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (71)

3-0 out of 5 stars A quick, unfulfilling read
It's been a while since I've read a Taltos book and I have to say that this instalment in the series is not encouraging, especially after the excellent effort in Issola.Vlad is back in his old neighbourhood of South Adrilankha where his ex-wife needs some help as getting rid of the mob in that area has not helped in the way she thought it would.

This book has a few minor scenes that advance Vlad's story somewhat, but having said that you also get the impression that the author was more interested in writing his perfect restaurant scenes at the beginning of each chapter than he was with telling a satisfying story.One of the reasons I'm not quick to pick up books in this series these days is because it has dragged on so long over the years with the plot advancing and more interesting stories only appearing every few books.For me this was just a place marker instalment in the series and not one of the books in it I'd be in a hurry to read twice, like I did with the early books on Vlad, which were much more funny and interesting.

5-0 out of 5 stars A more mature Vlad....
All characters have to change.Change is good.Vlad Taltos has had a lot happen to him which is not good.His marriage has been destroyed, the Jhereg are out to get him, and most of his friends can't help him because they would be dead by nightfall.Isn't life grand?But it seems that the Left Hand of the Jhereg, women who are ten times more dangerous than the rest of the Jhereg, are moving into his ex-wife's area.And on top of that the Demon Goddess seems to be messing with his memories.But he has three things on his side.A couple of real Jhereg, lots of money and a Godslayer.Oh, and did I mention he is also a ruthless son of a bitch?
Enjoy, used or new.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not the worst, but far from the best
I feel like Brust really phoned this one in (or maybe psychically communicated it in). I've read this entire series several times, including the Phoenix Guards series, so I know Adrilankha well. Dzur was probably the most boring of the series.

Brust has used framing devices to great effect in his previous books - the cycle poem in Jhereg, the witchcraft spell in Taltos, the cleaning bill in... was it Yendi or Teckla? And now the dinner at Valabar's in Dzur. Each course of the fabulous meal frames a chapter. But it's getting a bit old, and this iteration feels like Brust is showing us how much he enjoys food, a proclivity he adequately broadcast in his previous books without overdoing it the way he did this time around. I almost could have seen this coming.

Mr. Brust, we get it. You like food. If you'd like, we can arrange for you to get a show on the Food Network. But right now, you write fantasy novels. By all means, have a little fun with the meals your characters eat. Make them gourmands - it fleshes them out nicely (it was well done in The Phoenix Guards books). But I almost wanted to skip the introduction to each chapter, and this was only the first time I've read it. (Only on the 4th or 5th time on Taltos did I even begin to contemplate skipping the witchcraft spell.)

The other bit of laziness that stands out is the character Telnan. Was he anything more than an exposition device, and a reason to call the book Dzur? A literal deus ex machina? Unless he plays a major role in future books, I think we can chalk him up to Brust needing a Dzur in this book, a crutch I would have more readily forgiven him for if he used it in Chreotha, a House far less full of possibility than Dzur. I mean, seriously. This is the best he could come up with for Dzur? What a waste of a very complex House.

Other than those two specific complaints, I also felt let down at the end. "That's it?" is not my usual reaction at the end of a Brust novel. "Yeah, and?" was a popular one at the end of each chapter. Why is the Left Hand trying to move in? What difficulties, precisely, is Cawti having to face here? What further maneuvering was required for the Demon to reach his goal (trying not to spoil anything here)?

Dzur had its moments (a couple of neat surprises), and reading a new Vlad Taltos novel is like slipping into a comfortable bath after years of showers, but Brust seems to have forgotten to bring the rubber ducky. I wouldn't steer away faithful fans of the series, but this one could have been much better. Brust really dropped the ball.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ah! Hello Vlad, my old friend, glad to see you again.
The story: This is the 10th book in the series, so there is a lot of setup which goes into getting to this point in the story, so, to avoid giving anything good away, I am going to be a bit confusing which is just as well because the books do not follow any chronological order: this story start exactly where the prior book, Issola, left off with Vlad walking into Valabar's to enjoy a meal the likes of which he had not had in a few years. Of course, doing so was a pretty stupid thing to do consider the size of the price that is on his head, but he would have time to enjoy his meal and leave with little to no chance of someone killing him, but of course, something else comes up; he has to bail out his wife from the mess he left behind from the last time he bailed her out which was why he was on the run to begin with.

His wife left him for, well, let's just say, he didn't listen very well, but at the same time, in order to save her that time, well, he got the price put on his head. So the results of this book, he saves her again, and gets a lot more people pissed off at him which will no doubt increase the price on his head but he has along the way in the past picked up some toys, one of which he can use to threaten gods into helping him, so finding or killing him will not be easy.

I just cannot wait for the next book in the series.

4-0 out of 5 stars Liked it, Didn't Love it
Brust is at his old tricks in Dzur, meaning he used another little bit of fancy authorship to keep you recalling a specific character so he could use said character later in the book. I haven't always cared for what he's done in that regard, but this one wasn't too annoying.

A warning, though. Several of the Taltos series of books can be read out of sequence without too much concern. Dzur, however, speaks back to previous events more directly and frequently than most. I've read all the early books, but clearly not at least one of the later ones. I won't say I was lost, but the reading experience would definitely have been helped knowing the full back story.

In terms of the plot of this book, it was decent. All the classic Vlad banter and whatnot that endears one to the character is present. The storyline was interesting, but do I do feel a little wanting having reached the end. None of the Taltos books is long, but they are generally meaty, if you take my meaning. This one wasn't so much.

Overall, I did enjoy the read, but wouldn't rate this as one of the better books in the series. ... Read more

15. Agyar
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 256 Pages (2004-08-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$2.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0765310236
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Born over a century ago, Agyar was once a frivolous young man, before he found im-mor-tality in a woman's blood-red lips. Now he roams from woman to woman and decade to decade, finding himself at last in an Ohio college town, where he must choose between the seductions of salvation and of destruction. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (29)

3-0 out of 5 stars Didn't Like Jack Agyar
I am ambivalent about this novel.The prose was not very good, being in the first person and deliberately lacking details.It did have a beginning, middle, and an end.However character wise, the only one I liked was Jill, who spent the entire novel as a victim.

Agyar is a vampire story, from the perspective of the vampire.He isn't a free vampire, he's a minion.Jack Agyar himself can put on a charming facade, but ultimately I never fooled myself into liking him.This is why three stars, I didn't like the main character.I wouldn't want him as a friend.

Overall, I would not want to re-read this novel.The style was memorable -- the two poems, the words at the start of chapters, and certain introspective moments, so I understand [other] people like it.I'd recommend checking it out from a library first.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
A fairly mundane vampire tale, as one of these supernaturally afflicted types meanders his way around an American university town, trying to work out what to do, as do other characters in the book, whether academic types, or other denizens.

Some of the law enforcement types do become involved when death turns up.

5-0 out of 5 stars A good read, for anybody
I picked this book up for my girlfriend 2 Christmas' ago.I try to get her to read 'Sci-fi/fantasy' since it is typically the genre I read, in hopes of having a little in house book club.She burned through this book fairly quickly and recommended I read this.So I gave it a try.

The story unfolds easily, without a quickly draws you in, and Agyar (the title character) is a very interesting and realistic character.If you are a Die Hard vampire junkie, this probably isn't for you.You will not find the overly brooding, standard fare that pervades most of the genre.It is a love story told through the memoirs of Agyar as he is going through his life, which happens to be the life of a vampire integrating with the world.Because the book is told through these memoirs, the story unfolds in a very subtle way.He tells of things and events and we don't realize the extent of what is actually occurring until later.But the writing keeps you interested.Keeps you going page after page.

Recommended for anyone looking to try something a little different, to broaden your horizons.

5-0 out of 5 stars brilliant and unique
Though it has been many years since I read this book it stands out in my mind as one of the better books I've read.

Steven Brust has declared this to be one of his best works and I have to agree.I am a great fan of the Vampire genre and Brust's approach to it is refreshing for not relying on any of the tired cliches.

Brust presents his vampire in a 'realistic' way and does it so slickly I was a good way into my first reading of the book before I realized the protagonist was a vampire.

If you love Brust or love the genre, this is a great read.If you want a horror novel, you won't find it, but you will find a fresh take.

4-0 out of 5 stars Not Brust's best, but enjoyable
Steven Brust isn't afraid to take chances with his writing. Not all of those efforts work, but they're all *interesting.* His "500 Years After" is a pastiche of The Three Musketeers, set in a fantasy universe, for example, and it has all the charm (and the wordiness, which I find irritating) of Dumas' books. I might not like the end results, but I sure like the way in which he *tried.*

Brust took chances here too, with mixed results. Mostly positive, mind you -- this book kept my attention through a long plane flight, after I'd given up on another novel -- but you are unlikely to slam your fist on the table and say, "DAMN that's amazing!"

As someone else remarked, the less you know about this book, the better. It would be best if someone handed it to you without a cover, so that you had no preconceptions... but if you're here, you already figured out that Brust is telling a vampire story without labeling it as such. The main character complains dispassionately about losing his passion for life (and the difficulty of deconstructing that sentence should give you an idea of how rough a job Brust gave himself). He's haunted, in more than one way, and in that regard he'll remind you of Brust's best-known character, Vlad (whom I'm just a little in love with). But Agyar is not Vlad, and we don't have the comic relief of Vlad's familiar ("Can I eat him, boss? Can I?").

I liked this story, however, largely because Brust's writing is as strong as I've come to expect. He can take a largely predictable story and turn it into something better: believeable characters doing plausible things.

I wouldn't recommend this as the first Brust book that someone pick up. I started with Yendi, more than 20 years ago, and it's the one I press into friends' hands.

In short: I liked this. I'm not blown away by it, but I admire what he tried to do, and I read it in one sitting. ... Read more

16. Jhereg
by Steven Brust
Mass Market Paperback: 364 Pages (2008-03-11)

Isbn: 2070318427
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17. The Paths of the Dead (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Book 1)
by Steven Brust
Mass Market Paperback: 448 Pages (2003-08-18)
list price: US$7.99 -- used & new: US$4.09
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0812534174
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
The long-awaited sequel to The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After

Two hundred years after Adron’s Disaster, in which Dragaera City was accidentally reduced to an ocean of chaos by an experiment in wizardry gone wrong, the Empire isn’t what it used to be. Deprived at a single blow of their Emperor, of the Orb that is the focus of the Empire’s power, of their capital city with its Impe-rial bureaucracy, and of a great many of their late fellow citizens, the surviving Dragaerans have been limping through a long Interregnum, bereft even of the simple magic and sorcery they were accustomed to use in everyday life.

Now the descendants and successors of the great ad-venturers Khaavren, Pel, Aerich, and Tazendra are growing up in this seemingly diminished world, con-vinced, like their elders, that the age of adventures is over and nothing interesting will ever happen to them. They are, of course, wrong . . . .

For even deprived of magic, Dragaerans fight, plot, and conspire as they breathe, and so do their still-powerful gods. The enemies of the Empire prowl at its edges, in-scrutable doings are up at Dzur Mountain...and, unex-pectedly, a surviving Phoenix Heir, young Zerika, is discovered—setting off a chain of swashbuckling events that will remake the world yet again.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (32)

2-0 out of 5 stars Extremely Overwritten
This is a Paarfi book -- pages and chapters full of words which add little to the story itself.Occasionally they are diverting, but the majority of the time they are tedious.The book itself contains 34 chapters.Notable events happen in perhaps five of them.The rest are filled with character introductions, characters traveling, and small talk.

Nothing is settled.Morrolan is mentioned, but he never encounters the other main characters.Young Ibronka (still unsure who she is in terms of the series) is introduced, and has several chapters, but all that happens to her is going from point A to point B.Piro, Khaarven and Daro's son, has his first adventure, but again, it's mostly traveling without conflict.Characters from Five Hundred Years After (Phoenix Guards) appear, but with the exception of Sethra Lavode, their roles are not very important.

It is my opinion this book is an overblown short story.Reading chapters 33 and 34 will give you everything you need to know regarding this work, and honestly, only chapter 33 deals directly with the 'Paths of the Dead.'Perhaps the extra fluff is simple stage setting for The Lord of Castle Black (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Book 2)?It's the next in the series, and hopefully contains more substance.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not as charming as Phoenix Guards, still has some good story elements
You know all those times in the Taltos/Jhereg books where they refer back to the time when Zerika emerged from the Paths of the Dead, with the Orb?Well, this is that story.Sort of.

Zerika's story is at the very end.Leading up to it we have the exceedingly long-winded tale of how her companions were assembled, in a style somehow not unfamiliar (echoes of the Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After, which echo Dumas' Musqueteers and that whole French romantic adventure thing).

I especially liked the beginning, which treats more of Morrolan, whom you may also recall from the Taltos books.It was frustrating that he did not figure in more of the story, but as this book is but the first of a trilogy, and the next volume seems to be about him, I think it will work out OK.And then the last book is Sethra Lavode, that is, that is the title, so one hopes that our curiosity regarding the mysterious undead Enchantress of Dzur Mountain will, at least somewhat, be assuaged.

In this book we meet a lot of people, way too many people, and I sure wish that, along with all the intros, asides, postludes, etc., there was also appended a couple of good maps (of the Empire, before and after, at least); a couple of family tree charts, and dang it all some information on the Serioli (although, come to think of it, the time that we did meet them, in whichever Taltos book, I found the story to be less enjoyable than some others).

Be that as it may, Brust did a marvellous job at maintaining the style he chose, from the introductory matter, through the 400+ pages of narrative, and in the appended bits about how to "write like Paarfi" (the fictitious historian who narrates these flowery tales).

If you are inclined occasionally to read wordy books that are not without humour, you may like The Paths of the Dead and its relatives (its predecessors, The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After, and the other two "parts" of the larger work The Viscount of Adrilankha:The Lord of Castle Black and Sethra Lavode).

But it's definitely not for everyone.And it's not for the impatient or sporadic reader (I often must read sporadically, in fits and starts, and would have gotten completely lost).

Good luck.

1-0 out of 5 stars Brust Did Better With Vlad
Ok, I surrender, this is the third book in the Khaavren Romances series, the first being the "Phoenix Guard" and the second, "Five Hundred Years After". I didn't like either one of those books but I really enjoyed Brust in his Vlad Taltos series.Maybe I have just read too much of his work lately but "it ain't working for me." Setting is the same, language the same, but again, it just couldn't get my interest.I would lay it down, read a couple of interesting books, pick it up, try to read it and lay it down again. I am now taking myself off of Brust for the foreseeable future. Maybe if I let mymind clear I can rediscover what I found so scintillating in the Vlad Taltos series. Of course, maybe, that series was just better. I don't recommend it.

4-0 out of 5 stars I love this series.
This is going to be a short review, because the 'filler' of my reviews tends to be criticism, and I don't think I have any for The Paths of the Dead.The story is fun and interesting, the characters are (while a bit shallow) quite interesting and likeable, and the Dumas-inspired style of narration and dialogue is both interesting and, at times, hilarious.I smiled.I grinned.I laughed out loud.I quoted bits to hapless co-workers in the breakroom.Highly recommended; read and enjoy!

5-0 out of 5 stars it's all about the writing style
It's all about the writing style. I mean, how can I resist a book that contains such exchanges as:

"Well, there is a question I would wish to ask you, if it is no trouble. Do you know a place where a traveler such as myself might secure lodgings in this charming village?"
"How, lodgings?"
"Yes,. That is, a place where I might spend the night, enjoying more or less of comfort."
"Ah, yes, I see. Well, I must consider this question."
"Yes, I understand that. You, then, consider the question, and I will wait while you do so."
"And you are right to wait," said Erik promptly, "for I have even now begun considering."
"And I," said the young warlock, "have begun waiting."

!! The whole book is like this. Just wonderful.

Obviously, if that gets on your nerves, you're going to hate the book, and I'd recommend skipping it and saving yourself the pain.It's definitely not something everyone enjoys.

I've got to add Steven Brust's First Theory here: "All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what's cool." And I agree very much with what Steven Brust thinks is cool in this book. ... Read more

18. Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 288 Pages (2003-03-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$8.66
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B0035G03GM
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille serves the best matzoh ball soup in the Galaxy, and hires some of the best musicians you’ll ever hear. It’s a great place to visit, but it tends to move around—just one step ahead of whatever mysterious conspiracy is reducing whole worlds to radioactive ash. And Cowboy Feng's may be humanity's last hope for survival.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (23)

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Free SF Reader
This novel is about what it is like in a bar that ends up travelling around the universe to escape nuclear destruction.

Also a bit of a gentle homage to playing in your average garden variety pub band, as well, and what happens to your life when you hang around doing that a lot.

3-0 out of 5 stars NOT a light romp!
The cover and title of this novel, and even the first couple of chapters, make it seem like a story in the vein of Spider Robinson. But it gets dark-- very dark, and pretty sad. While he was writing this, Brust must have been having romantic troubles or something, because the novel is very cynical and pessimistic about love and the relationship between men and women.

All in all, the novel was a downer, and the conclusion didn't seem to merit the sacrifices I had to make along the way. Much more bitter than sweet.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book - it's all about the characters
All good books are based on characters. No matter how good or bad the plot, if the characters aren't well developed and interesting, the book sucks. This book has great characters, fairly archetypal, but still well rounded and interesting.

As with all Brust books, this a mystery in the Arthur Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes style.Whether set in a fantasy or SciFi, the setting is just local color to flavor the meat of the book - solving the mystery.

This is one of those books I re-read about once a year.I always pick up something new each time I read it.The first time you read it, you might find it hard to keep up with all the characcters (four who work for the bar, four who live in the bar, and four ~bad guys.)With all mystery books, it's a fun read to see who dun it and why - it's not about defining the bad aspects of society who drove some charcters into the story line (although this IS explained...)

I'd recommend this or any Taltos book to anyone - regardless of if you read SciFi/Fantasy or not (I usually don't...)His local color is amazing - refined to the level of Twain or O Henry.The only downside is Brust clear obsession with hungarian cooking, as he pretty much lists each and every meal the charcters have in minute detail. This part gets on my nerves, but I'm not a foodie, so that's a big reason - but regardless, it's not annoying enough to spoil the yarn Brust spins.

This book would make a GREAT movie.

3-0 out of 5 stars Jammin' Down the Space-Time Continuum
Brust is justly known for his Vlad Taltos fantasy series, and he has written several other books outside of that series that are well worth reading. This book is somewhat of a departure for him, being more science fiction oriented than fantasy.

The main building block of this book is a rather unique restaurant that moves itself through space and time whenever a nuclear weapon is exploded in its near vicinity.Inside the restaurant is an Irish folk-song band that accidentally was caught up during the restaurant's first move. As the plot develops and the restaurant makes several moves through time and to other planets, the band begins to realize that they are part of an attempt to change future history by opposing a group that keeps going around starting nuclear wars. Not a bad concept, but it does lead to somewhat episodic patches, rather than being a linear whole.

Much of the characterization comes through as individual flash-backs to defining events in their lives; present time dialogue and interaction with others is somewhat flimsy, but overall there is certainly enough `reality' to these characters to carry the story. Of course, as a band, their music intrudes in several places, which certainly provides some atmosphere, but I found Brust's description of some of this quite a bit over my head, not being a musician myself. I've run into this same problem with Emma Bull (who was a member of the same band as Brust) and Spider Robinson - it is simply very difficult to describe in written language what is almost totally an aural experience, but I'll give him good marks for a decent stab at trying.

While the final resolution of the story made sense and was satisfying, I found that the basic motivation/rationale behind the war starting group just did not seem adequate justification for their actions. As this is central to the basic story, this is a fairly major flaw.

Still, it's an enjoyable read, though not up to the standards he set in the Taltos set.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)

4-0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly sweet and moving story.
An unexpectedly sweet and moving examination of folk-music, young love, life on the road, and the Meaning of Life inside a standard, rather pro-forma sci-fi time-travel adventure. I liked it quite a bit. FENG is a pleasant and entertaining way to pass a few hours. "B+"

Note that the very cool cover (by James Gurney) is a bit misleading as to the actual *contents* (revealing why would be a spoiler), but it did induce me to pick up the book, and it's really neat art, so Gurney (& Tor) get points for doing their jobs right.Whoever is the art director there gets a vote of thanks from me, as even minor Tor authors usually get tasteful, attractive, relevant covers. Not to mention clean and attractive interior layouts. Bravo!

Brust's comment on FENG: "Not one of my better efforts, I think, but there are bits of it I like. It started out to be funny, developed a serious side, and I was never able to get the elements to blend the way I wanted them to. Grumble grumble. It's always pleasent to run into someone who liked this book; it means that I can still do all right when I'm not on my game." --from dreamcafe.com

Happy reading!
Pete Tillman ... Read more

19. The Phoenix Guards
by Steven Brust
Paperback: 352 Pages (2008-10-14)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$4.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: B003NHR73K
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Khaavren of the House of Tiassa is a son of landless nobility, possessor of a good sword and “tolerably well-acquainted with its use.” Along with three loyal friends, he enthusiastically seeks out danger and excitement. But in a realm renowned for repartee and betrayals, where power is as mutable as magic, a young man like Khaavren, newly come from the countryside, had best be wary. His life depends on it. And so does the future of Draegara.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (44)

5-0 out of 5 stars Not quite the Vlad series but still fun
The entire writing style for this book is very different from the Taltos books, but I like it!I'm very excited to see what happens, and how this history is related to the rest of Dragera.

1-0 out of 5 stars In What Alternate Reality is This a Good Book???
I have never written a negative book review. I love reading, read a book a week and can safely say I have never read something so pretentious.I couldn't make it past 40 pages (made me break my 'give a book 50 pages' rule).Imagine a stuffy old college English professor, someone who loves nothing more than the sound of his own voice, then imagine said professor writing an epic Fantasy and that is what you have here.The narration reads like bad stage directions to the reader.Seriously, how in god's name did the editor sign off on this narrative voice???"Hey, I have an idea, write in a narrative style that is as slow and dry as possible with plenty of invisible wall references to the story, our story so far, the reader, readers of the story, etc. etc."

I literally threw this book across the room.To call this an awful book is disrespectful to all the awful books out there.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Modern Fantasy
Expect talking, florid prose, and narrative digression. What saves the novel from being boring is that at heart, it is an action novel. The majority of the banter is funny rather than tedious, and I can understand why it's been compared with Dumas and the Three Musketeers.This is NOT like Brust's Vlad Taltos books, which are written much like modern urban fantasy.If you've read Taltos and want more, this isn't what you want!

The main characters are four soldier-companions who join the elite Phoenix Guards together and proceed to have a grand adventure. They are all quite good at sword-fighting, and the little magic in the book is limited to 'flash stones' (think magical grenade) and a couple constructed devices. (A magic radio and a magic lie detector.)

What is amusing is the dry, polite style in which the main character engage their opponents in duels. Observing wittily the proper forms of etiquette as they try and skewer each other. If that appeals to you, this is a great book. If however, extended digression bores you, then the book itself will not be your style. Additionally, this is the first book in a series of five (more than that if you count the Vlad novels which also occur in the world), and an earlier novel by Brust. Later books in the series increase in quality, and while this one could have been better, it wasn't terrible either. Five Hundred Years After (Phoenix Guards) comes next.

4-0 out of 5 stars Phoenix Guards-a good beginning
Stephen Brust is a remarkable writer.His novels have entertained readers for well over a decade already and his Vlad Taltos saga is addicting.

The Phoenix Guards occurs a 1000 years before Vlad, and the Dragaeran Empire is rife with strife.Dying is easy, it's survival that tough.Khaavren is a son of landless nobility, but good with his sword.His adventures with his two compatriots are instrumental in setting up his later works.

Originally published in 1991, Phoenix Guards is worthy of a re-read or read for the first time.The trade edition has a great cover by Rakeland and Berry.

Highly recommended by a long time reader of fantasy.


TIm Lasiuta

5-0 out of 5 stars This is a reprint of an early 1990s tale that obviously pays homage to Alexandre Dumas
In the Dragaeran Empire, the swordsman Khaavren tries to become a member of the Imperial Guard whose mission is to protect the new Phoenix Emperor.On his trek to the capital, he meets three other somewhat wary travelers (Aerich, Tazendra and Pel) also seeking positions with the Imperial Guard.The foursome becomes friends vowing to be there for one another.

They become Imperial Guards, but soon know their pledge to one another is critical if they are to achieve and survive their mission to protect the royals.They soon uncover seditious plots against the Emperor and the Empire and Khaavren, which require them to make bold intelligent decisions to stay alive and keep Dragaera and their royal charges safe.

This is a reprint of an early 1990s tale that obviously pays homage to Alexandre Dumas.The saga occurs about a millennium before the time that Vlad Taltos roamed Dragaera.The adventures of the four musketeers are fun to follow though none come across as more than courageous, loyal, but somewhat superficially charming rogues who lack depth.Still THE PHOENIX GUARDS is an engaging swashbuckling sword and sorcery fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

... Read more

20. The Lord of Castle Black: Book Two of the Viscount of Adrilankha
by Steven Brust
Kindle Edition: 416 Pages (2010-01-18)
list price: US$7.99
Asin: B003H4I4W2
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description

Continuing the swashbuckling epic begun in The Paths of the Dead

Journeys! Intrigues! Sword fights! Young persons having adventures! Beloved older characters having adventures, too! Quests! Battles! Romance! Snappy dialogue!Extravagant food! And the missing heir to the Imperial Throne!
In the swashbuckling, extravagant manner of The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and The Paths of the Dead, this is an old-fashioned adventure--moving at a twenty-first-century pace.

The Interregnum is over. To everyone's astonishment, Zerika, a very young Phoenix, has coolly emerged from the Paths of the Dead, carrying with her the Orb, which everyone had thought was lost in Adron's Disaster. The Orb is the heart of the Dragaeran Empire, the source of all its magic--and the infallible sign that Zerika is the new Empress.

But not everyone is happy to hear the news. It's been 250 years since Adron's Disaster, and power vacuums never stay that way for long. Kâna, a Dragonlord, has been expanding his holdings. He now controls almost half the area that was once the Empire -- in effect, the Empire re-created, with himself on the throne.

Among those opposing him is a young Dragonlord named Morrolan - the same Morrolan familiar to every reader of the Vlad Taltos adventures. Until recently, Morrolan was an orphan raised among Easterners, unaware of his lineage, but it has belatedly come to his attention that he's a high-ranking Dragonlord, and now he means to act like one. And from Sethra Lavode he has received a gift of immense significance and power: Blackwand, a magical artifact in the form of a sword.

He'll find plenty to do with it.
... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars Well Paced and Action Packed
Out of all the books written by Paarfi-as-Brust, this is the best.It's got battles, plot movement, action, sorcery, and empire building.It doesn't have hundreds of pages where nothing happens like The Paths of the Dead (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Book 1).The style remains similar, but plot happens!While the entire Viscount of Adrilankha Trilogy is basically one book (volume one ended at chapter 34 and volume two starts at chapter 35), I personally believe this volume is where the story actually gets good.After suffering through the first book, I really liked the second.It leaves off with a romantic cliffhanger, but given what has been already resolved, I don't think Sethra Lavode (The Viscount of Adrilankha), the last volume, will be as good.(I'll soon find out.)If you read the first book, you owe to yourself to read the second one.It's got the characters from the first book, but they actually accomplish things... so much better!

5-0 out of 5 stars second in the trilogy
Some books I love for the characters, some I love for the plots, some for the premise. This series I love for the writing, the sheer joy of playing with words that is evident on every page. I'd probably have given it 5 stars even if nothing happened, just because I had so much fun reading it.

The Lord of Castle Black is volume 2 of the third book in the series that starts with The Phoenix Guards. It takes place in the same universe as his Vlad Taltos series, but is written in a completely different style.

In this volume, Zerika has brought the Orb out of the Paths of the Dead, but only a few people know this--most everyone else thinks she died there. There are several factions fighting for control, including a pretender to the throne; Zerika's small band, including our old pals Khaavren, Pel, Aerich, & Tazendra; and Morrolan, who's just taken over his estates. There's action and intrigue as they maneuver and fight each other.

There's also the story of how Morrolan develops magic and how he comes to have a floating castle (the Castle Black of the title), as well as his introduction to and subsequent alliance with Sethra Lavode, the enchantress of Dzur Mountain.

And there's Khaavren's son Piro, the Viscount of Adrilankha, with an ill-fated love affair and a reunion with his father.

So there's action, romance, intrigue, and magic--plenty to keep the story moving. But if the writing doesn't grab you, I'd think it would drive you nuts. This is definitely one of those YMMV series. If you're not fond of, say, first person narratives, you can often make an exception if the story's really good. I'm not sure that would be the case with this series, because the writing is so distinctive, it's almost a character in itself. Here's a sample:

..."you must understand that this answer, laconic as it is, only produces more questions."
"How, does it?"
"I promise you it does."
"Well, I cannot help that."
"But can you answer them?
"My dear sir, should you but ask, I will turn my entire attention to doing so."
"Very well, let me begin then."
"You perceive that I am listening."

If that makes you want to smack one of the speakers, the series probably isn't for you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted fantasy
This is a great light hearted read.The characters are real characters, and a lot of the comedy is slap stick, but when you need a light read to get your mind of things, Steven Brust's work is wonderful.

4-0 out of 5 stars Super Reader
As well as following the adventures of the intrepid club of youth, The Lord of Castle Black takes an enjoyable detour into the history of the young dragonlord Morrolan, and how he became involved with witchcraft, a floating castle, and obtained a great weapon from Sethra Lavode.

Throw in a war, the Necromancer and plenty of other shenanigans and a good time is had.

2-0 out of 5 stars Succeeds at mimicing a scholarly dissertation
This purports to be a scholarly dissertation about an imaginary world. Unfortunately, it succeeds. There is a reason that dissertations are not published in mass media. They are boring and overly wordy. I love Steven Brust books and the fact he will try new things, but this just couldn't hold my interest. It is still better than a lot of books out there, but it isn't great and that is what I have come to expect from Brust. ... Read more

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