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Steven Brust


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I like almost everything Brust's written--I was never able to get through Gypsy, which he wrote with (I believe) Megan Lindholm, or To Reign in Hell. The remainder I have mostly liked quite a lot, and have read many of them aloud to Jane. Most of his books concern one Vlad Taltos, assassin, organized crime boss, and generally nice guy (no, really). Vlad is a member of House Jhereg, one of the 17 houses comprising the Dragaeran Empire. He is, however, not Dragaeran, but human--or "Easterner" as the Dragaerans would call him. Easterners living outside of the Dragaeran Empire think of the Dragaerans as elves, but you'd have to search quite a long way to find anything more different than Tolkien's elves. Dragaerans do, however, live for many hundred years, and tend to scorn Easterners as subhuman. Each of the Dragaeran houses has its own distinct character and physical characteristics; House Jhereg specializes in underhandedness, dirty dealing, and organized crime, and is not above selling titles of nobility. That's how Vlad got in; his father was a social climber.

Despite Vlad's profession, the series is quite enjoyable, and often funny. The first book is Jhereg, followed by Yendi, and Taltos, among others. Ultimately there should be eighteen, one for each of the Dragaeran houses, and one for Easterners (Taltos). Most of the books are told in first person, from Vlad's point of view, which adds a little spice once you realize that Vlad's not necessarily completely reliable.

A related series, the Khaavren novels, also takes place in Dragaera, though over a much longer span of time. The first is entitled The Phoenix Guards, and concerns a young Tiassa named Khaavren who is coming to Dragaera City to seek his fortune as a member of the Emperor's elite Phoenix Guards. He is joined by three brave companions, Aerich, who is always honorable and just, Tazendra, who is perhaps a little slow, and Pel, who is devious. The series continues in Five Hundred Years After, and in the as yet unpublished Viscount of Adrilankha, which will be published in three volumes. If it is not already obvious, the Khaavren novels are an homage to Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers, and are intentionally written to have the same feel. Although the characters are similar, however, the plots are entirely different.

Brust rarely writes without some kind of strong narrator, such as Vlad himself in the Vlad Taltos books. The Khaavren books are meant to be historical romances written around Vlad's own time, and the supposed author is one Sir Paarfi of Roundwood, a long-winded, exasperating, but ultimately amusing individual who is very present throughout.

I've read all of Brust's Vlad Taltos novels (Jhereg, Yendi, Taltos, etc.) and Khaavren novels (The Phoenix Guards, 500 Years After) aloud to Jane, along with Cowboy Feng's Space Bar-and-Grill. Brust likes to experiment with different styles, though, and his other books haven't worked as well (though they've been enjoyable enough). Brokedown Palace, for example, seems like it should work out loud, but it doesn't.

The Vlad Taltos Series

Jhereg
Reviews: 1 March 2000, 1 January 2004
Yendi
Reviews: 1 March 1998, 1 March 2000, 1 January 2004
Taltos
Reviews: 1 March 2000, 1 January 2004
Teckla
Reviews: 1 January 2004
Phoenix
Reviews: 1 January 2004, 1 April 2004
Athyra
Reviews: 1 February 2004
Orca
Reviews: 1 February 2004
Dragon
Reviews: 1 January 1999, 1 February 2004
Issola
Reviews: 1 August 2001, 1 February 2004

The Khaavren Romances

The Phoenix Guards
Reviews: 1 May 1998, 1 June 2004
Five Hundred Years After
Reviews: 1 May 1998
The Paths of the Dead
Volume I of "The Viscount of Adhrilankha". Reviews: 1 February 2003
The Lord of Castle Black
Volume II of "The Viscount of Adhrilankha". Reviews: 1 October 2003
Sethra Lavode
Volume III of "The Viscount of Adhrilankha". Reviews: 1 May 2004

Other Titles

Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill
Brokedown Palace
The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars
Freedom and Necessity
With Emma Bull. Reviews: 1 April 1997


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