May 24, 2004

The Phoenix Guards, by Steven Brust

It took me several tries to get past the first 100 pages of this book. I picked it up thinking it was similar to the Vlad Taltos series and got mired down in the language and details of the story. Will gave me words of encouragement so I went back to it and started over, mentally shunting aside any thoughts about Vlad and enjoying it for what it is on it's own.

On it's own, it's really good. One of the first things I noticed is that Brust has total control over his narrator. The book operates on two levels. There is the general story of Khaavren and his fellow Guardsmen and the intrigues of the Court and the Empire. There is also the story that the narrator, Sir Paarfi of Roundwood, is telling. The narrator's voice is as much a character in the story as the actual participants in the events that he is telling about.

Brust is writing a blatant ripoff of the style and some of the plot elements in Alexander Dumas' Three Musketeer books. (Click the link, if you aren't familiar with them.) The best known is The Three Musketeers but Dumas went on to continue the story in 4 more volumes, three of which are actually subdivisions of one book. So, like Dumas' books, this book is a historical romance, a swashbuckling tale of sword fighting and dueling with a love interest and court intrigues. It's wordy and has long, complex sentences and takes forever to get to the point. And that is what is so fun about it.

One suggestion I would make to any reader coming to this series after reading the Vlad Taltos series is to read the Author's preface and the two About the Author sections at the end before beginning the book proper. It will clue you into the narrator's voice and how it relates to the action of the story.

Posted by Deb English at May 24, 2004 07:55 PM

Jaquandor said:

Do I have to read all the Vlad Taltos books before reading this?

Will Duquette said:

No, not at all--they are (mostly) unrelated tales taking place in the same world (though at different times).

Deb said:

I agree with Will. In fact, if you read this series first, the Vlad books make a bit more sense and you will catch references to them.