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Showing 1-10 of 15 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 30 reviews
on March 28, 2013
I like the whole world of the series , the idea of Elves thinking of themselves as Humans and the Humans as Easteners makes great sense . The laws of sorcery in this world of Brust also make good sense . Sorcery here is not a catch-all solution , it requires work and study . The use of the Orb is a find and the social organization is very well done . Each caste with it's animal DNA mixed with the Human DNA , the hints that another race of scientists tinkered with the people of that planet , leads to total new ideas in fantasy . The style of writing , the slow conversations and the old-fashioned manners ( yet fast-packed actions ) are very Elf-like in my mind . The characters are interesting , sometimes mysterious . However , you get enough characters that are understandable , funny and fascinating so you never get bored with any of the people of this world .
You need a bit of time to read the books but it is time well spend . Anyone who likes fantasy with a touch of reality and social criticism will like this series .
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on August 11, 2003
Steven Brust's _The Lord of Castle Black_ is, I can now say, the second part of the longer work _The Viscount of Adrilankha_, rather than the second book in a trilogy. Why can I now say this? Because in the Preface, Paarfi (our historian narrator) informs us that "As for the entire question of splitting the book into several volumes, the author will not pretend to more knowledge than he has; if it is the custom of those who publish such works to make such mutilations, for whatever reason, then so be it. Nevertheless, it *is* a single work, and the suggestions that there may be some who possess only a part of it strikes the author as creating an intolerable situation for the reader." (The *reader*, note.)
Paarfi, in his inimitable style, goes on to explain at length why he abhors the idea of writing a summary of the previous volume; however, since his publishers haven't listened to him, well, here it is.
I've missed Paarfi.
I've also missed our friends, the protagonists of this series (I've spent enough time with them, over the four thick volumes to date, that I do think of them this way). When we left them at the end of _The Paths of the Dead_, Zerika had brought the Orb out of the Paths, but most of the characters were scattered. The titles of the two books comprising this volume summarize the general plot arc admirably: "In Which the Forces Are Brought Together That Lead Up to the Ninth (or Tenth) Battle of Dzur Mountain," and "In Which the Ninth (or Tenth) Battle of Dzur Mountain Is Fought, With Some Discussion of Its Results."
Battles of Dzur Mountain or no, the characters don't get lost in the shuffle. As the title of this volume suggests, we see a considerable amount of Morrolan's development in this volume, which seems largely consistent with what we know from the Vlad books (lest readers unfamiliar with the series think I'm accusing Brust of being prone to inconsistency--not in the least. It's *Paarfi* (and Vlad, for that matter) whose accuracy is often open to question.). I shall particularly treasure the chapter where he goes to Dzur Mountain seeking tribute; that neither Morrolan nor Sethra would have told Paarfi the details of this, makes it no less amusing.
Speaking of titular characters, unexpected developments are afoot for Piro, the Viscount of Adrilankha, and his friends; I look forward to seeing how these play out in the forthcoming final volume, _Sethra Lavode_. And there appear a number of characters from Khaavren books prior to _Paths_, or from the Vlad books, whose presences are certain to provoke much speculation. The four characters who began the series, Khaavren, Aerich, Tazendra, and Pel, are not neglected, as they all meet again for the first time in hundreds of years, with results that I shall leave it to you to read about. I must, however, note that I remain very fond of Tazendra and am always pleased when she gets a good moment; she has several in this volume.
[ Speaking of Khaavren, I am unable to resist quoting this bit of dialogue, which made me laugh out loud:
"They spoke of us."
"Did they?" said Khaavren. "I am not startled. I ought to have noticed the back of my neck itching. My mother always said that if the back of your neck itches, someone is speaking ill of you."
"Yes? I had not heard this. What if the back of your neck, rather than itching, hurts?"
"That means someone has stuck a knife into your neck."
(I've elided the name of the second speaker; it's probably not a spoiler, but I hesitated to say even as much about the plot as I have, so . . . ) ]
The story moves along smoothly, and even during the period where the forces are being brought together, it's quite clear where everyone is and what everyone is doing; for someone as spatially disoriented as I, that's saying something. And while we know that eventually the Empire is restored, we know so little *else* about Dragaeran history immediately after the Interregnum, that there's plenty of suspense as to how we're going to get there. There are hints dropped at the end of this volume that very different kinds of struggles may be at hand in volume three; I'm not sure what's in store, but I'm very eager to find out.
As a final note--the jacket copy quoted here ("Journeys! Intrigues! Sword Fights!" etc.) is perfect for the book. If it sounds at all interesting to you, you really want this book. Actually, you really want at least _Paths of the Dead_ first, but you do want this book immediately thereafter. Wonderful swashbuckling, character-centered fun and highly recommended.
[Adapted from a post at my book log, Outside of a Dog.]
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on March 23, 2016
Like all his books
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on November 4, 2004
As others have mentioned, this may be Book 2 of the Viscount trilogy, but it's actually book 4 of a series, and you DO need to read the previous 3 in order to appreciate this one.

I have noticed, as time goes by, that there is a pattern to opinions about the Khaavren series: those who started reading Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series first, and bought one of the Khaavren books because it was by Brust, don't seem to appreciate the Khaavren books as much. Those of us, on the other hand, who started on Brust with this series, or with some of Brust's other fantasies entirely, seem to enjoy the Khaavren books more. I believe it's a question both of writing style, and of one's definition of action. Thus, if you really, really like the Vlad Taltos books, and you expect these to be similar, it may be that you will be less than enchanted with these.

I believe that those who have read a lot of older literature - Dumas, as many have mentioned, and definitely Shakespeare - will enjoy this book, and the Khaavren series, more than the Vlad Taltos fans will, on average. (Of course, every reader has a unique background and a unique perspective - don't let me stop you from reading!!) Certainly a background of the Three Musketeers (and not the movie, people!) helps one appreciate what's going on here - but a knowledge of, say, the battles in Shakespeare's Richard and Henry plays, does not come at all amiss. And a comfort level with the intricate language of Shakespeare, as well as the overwrought prose of Dumas, gives one the stamina to follow Paarfi's extensive perorations.

Let me also mention that there's a dash of Romeo and Juliet in here, with lovers from different houses and their disapproving families. Those who feel that there is not enough action in this book, apparently do not consider a good heartbreaking love story to be action. But it is! So is the evolution of the magic taking place - if moving hundreds of warriors via magic/mental powers, over hundreds of miles, which has never been done before in this world, is not action, then what is? There are no slow moments if one is interested in emotion and magic as well as in swords and battle; there is always something happening between people.

As with previous books in the series, if you do like it, it has an effect on you: you talk funny for days afterward, if not weeks! Hey, if you are planning on taking the GREs or GMATs, this series is a terrific vocabulary builder!! There will be nothing in the verbal section that you can't handle, if you enjoy and appreciate Paarfi!

In short - if you already like this series, this volume is a must; if you like Dumas and Shakespeare, you'll like this; if you like Vlad Taltos, then start in on this series in cautious, easy steps.
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on April 26, 2014
When Steven Brust decided to do a back story on some of the characters featured in the Vlad Taltos novels, I was skeptical. Partly because I like Vlad so much, and partly because the characters seemed too arrogant to be interesting. BUT!! Once you read the novels, you will be hooked on the lives and trials of all the people you had thought you knew!
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on December 4, 2003
Maybe it's the problem that Paarfi describes in the Foreword, when he rants against the publisher for breaking his novel into three parts. Maybe it's the problem faced by any author in the second book of any trilogy: a bridge can only be so exciting. Or maybe it's because we know so much about how it will end; after all, it's Vlad Talos' workaday world. But whatever the reason, this is the weakest of the Dragaera books to date.
Now a weak Brust novel is head and shoulders above most fantasy writers' work. This is a lot of fun to read. But compared to the Machiavellian plot twists of Jhereg and Yendi, or the brilliant writing in The Phoenix Guards, well, this is just slightly pedestrian.
And that's for a Brust fan, familiar with previous (well, and subsequent) events. I think a reader new to Brust, or worse still, new to the Viscount Trilogy, would be completely bewildered. Who are all these people?
Especially compared to the most recent Vlad Taltos novel, Lord of Castle Black is a little weak. The Vlad Taltos series is very nearly as tightly linked as the Khaavren books, of which this is the fourth. In each of the Vlad Taltos books, by contrast, Brust has brought a startling new twist, a new and stunning revelation about the world or about his protagonist. Perhaps Vlad is inherently more interesting than any of the characters in the Khaavren series. Perhaps it's just that I can relate to a human (well, Easterner) better.
Still, as a setup for the third book this is a good read, and there is still a lot of ground to cover. Paarfi's writing is always good for a smile, and Mysteries continue to be Explained. Brust is far from the kind of self-indulgent piffle of, say, Robert Jordan. No, wait, that's too harsh. Brust is the polar opposite of Jordan. Whatever its limitations, it is very hard to put Lord of Castle Black down. Like all Brust books, it's a page turner and worth your time. Recommended.
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on October 19, 2016
This style (that is different from the Taltos novels) grows on you. I like it.
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on August 30, 2016
No as good as the original series but the story is good.
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on December 20, 2016
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on August 29, 2003
Lord of Castle Black is the latest of Brust's Khaavren stories, specifically the second part of Viscount of Adrilankha. Brust does an amazing job of capturing the tone and feel of Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers stories, without the boring bits. Brust's writing is clearly improving from book to book. A very fun read, ending in what is becoming the typical Brust cliff hanger. If he follows the Dumas canon, there should be at least one more in the series.
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