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The Paths of the Dead (The Viscount of Adrilankha, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – August 18, 2003

3.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his latest chronicle of the Dragaeran Empire, Brust (Issola) conjures the spirit of Dumas (the subtitle evokes the Viscount trilogy that includes The Three Musketeers), though he less successfully captures the panache of those classic swashbucklers. The mock historic narrative follows Khaavren and other heroes from the author's earlier books (The Phoenix Guards; Five Hundred Years After; the Vlad Taltos series) and gives the origins of later ones in the course of the epic restoration of the Dragaeran Empire. Piro, son of Khaavren and heir to his father's role of protector of the Emperor, seeks to help a childhood friend achieve her destiny. With polished manners and courteous speech, he must maneuver his way amid a number of similarly equipped folk to escort his friend to the Paths of the Dead, entryway to the Halls of Judgment (where sit the gods), so that she may retrieve the Imperial Orb, linchpin of empire. After that, the real work begins. Brust strives hard to recreate Dumas's charm, including a mix of humorous and tragic elements, a romantic tone, intersecting plot lines, themes of vengeance and return, slightly effete nobles and somewhat clownish (if sensible) commoners. The author might have done better to ascribe comic verbal ticks to only a few characters. Also, since much of the character interaction depends on knowledge of previous books, casual readers will be occasionally puzzled.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Two centuries after the event known as Adron's Disaster deprived the Dragaeran Empire of its emperor and its stability, the descendants of the Empire's greatest heroes set off on their own voyage of discovery, despite the fact that their diminished world contains little in the way of adventure. Their fortunes change when they encounter Zerika, a young woman who carries the lineage of the Phoenix within her and who provides the impetus for a revival of the old days of glory-provided she survives her journey along the Paths of the Dead. Continuing his swashbuckling epic fantasy (begun with The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After) with a new series and a new generation of heroes, Brust, with his arch humor and quasi-archaic narrative style, pays homage to Dumas, Zola, and other masters of swashbuckling adventure. A good choice for most fantasy collections.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Viscount of Adrilankha (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; 1st edition (August 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812534174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812534177
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,263,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you haven't read The Pheonix Guard and 500 Years After, don't read this one. Brust writes these books in an authorial voice which is, to say the very least, unusual. Paarfi, the narrator, is an overeducated windbag with literary pretentions. He can turn a single sentence into a 500 word treatise, sometimes in a single sentence, and he frequenty starts out such exercises with a disclaimer about brevity or his desire to spare the reader a tedious explaination of the thing he is about to explain. That said, his writing is full of ironic wry humor for the reader willing to dig for it and inclined to appreciate it.
If you have read the previous two books in the series, I don't really have to do too much reviewing here. There's more Paarfi, and it's still just as much fun to read him as it was in the last two books. I could give you the entire plot of the book in two paragraphs, but where's the fun in that? In short, Khaavren is depressed about how well he protected the Emperor in the last book, Khaavren's son seeks adventure, Pel and Tazendra are still having adventures, and Aerich awaits. It may be beneath the notice of a gentleman, however, prudence dictates that we mention Mica's continued presence, not to mention that of his beloved barstool.
Brust gives us a little insight into the origins of Morrolan, Teldra, and the Necromancer. Sethra the Younger and the Sorceress in Green show up as well. The suggestion is that we will see a lot more of these two in the next two books. In fact, this whole book seems like an extended set up for the next one. But that's all fine. I enjoyed it, and I'm sure that doing all this set up will allow for a more complext storyline in the next book.
If I may be permitted two more words, I found the re-emergence of the grudge bearing nemisis to be predictable, and I enjoyed the guide to how to write like Paarfi at the end of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
For the last ten years or so, _The Viscount of Adrilankha_ has been listed as a forthcoming book. Well, here it is, at least in part. In _The Paths of the Dead_ Steven Brust continues his amusing Dumas riff with a parallel to that esteemed author's _The Vicomte de Bragelonne_. Like that work, PotD is the first of a trilogy. Also like that work, PotD is, well, a pale shadow of its very entertaining predecessors.
Essentially, this book is the tale of the end of the Dragearan Interregnum (or the beginning thereof) and the oft mentioned story of how Zerika III traveled the Paths of the Dead to bring back the Orb and restore the Empire. If you don't know what that last sentence meant, you probably do not want to read this book because PotD takes for granted a certain familiarity with Brust's previous work in this particular world. Start with _The Phoenix Guards_ or something in the Vlad Taltos line.
I did not enjoy this book as much as I usually enjoy Brust's work, and especially the volumes in this series. Although the Dragaeran books are numerous and -- I suspect -- encompass a vast, single story, each volume until now has stood alone, telling a complete tale. PotD does not, not really. It does get Zerika through her task, but the vast cast of other characters are merely jockeyed about with very little sense that they have any connection to anything. I particularly could not fathom why Morrolan appeared in this book at all, as he didn't do anything. I would have preferred it if Brust had just left him out of it and brought him in in _The Lord of Castle Black_. I also felt that the coachman could have used more explanation to make him fit into this reality. As it was, he just seemed like an interesting concept from _The Gypsy_ that didn't quite fit.
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Format: Hardcover
The best thing I can say about _The Paths of the Dead_ is that it made me want to go back and read _Taltos_, which I did. Man, that _Taltos_ sure was a good book.
Most of the problems with this book could be summed up by saying "Paarfi", but can we blame an imaginary construct? Okay, there are the two styles of the Dragaera books, the hard-boiled (mainly) first-person Vlad books and the historical, Dumas-inspired Khaavren romances. The later of which is attributed to a Dragearan author named Paarfi, and Brust lists himself as the translator and puts any blame on style, content, etc. on Paarfi. I can accept these differences and feel that they give two distinct flavors to the seperate series in the same universe. "Paarfi's" first two excursions _The Phoenix Guards_ and _500 Years After_ were wonderful, especially _500 Years After_ which gave us an account of one of the most mentioned historical figures from the Vlad books, as well as allowing us to meet the oft-mentioned Adron and Mario. If only _Paths of the Dead_ were anywhere near as good as it's predecessors.
If this book had been a Vlad book, without the flowery writing, it would have been about 50 pages. The writing style, while pleasant in the first two Khaavren, it seemed too much for too little in this one. Secondly, there was too much build up for too little pay off. There were characters who "warranted" their own chapters who were just being introduced in the third-to-last chapter. Zerika's trip in the Paths of the Dead was much less interesting than Vlad and Morollan's and much more poorly written. It seemed like her whole trip was written as it came to mind and went on long enough to fill up a chapter.
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