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The Phoenix Guards Mass Market Paperback – June 15, 1992

4.2 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Brust's ( Phoenix ) latest does not involve the hero of his ongoing Vlad Taltos series, but it is set in the same world, Dragaera, 1000 years earlier, and shares the wit and exhuberance of the Taltos books. Khaavren, a young swordsman, sets out to join the Imperial Guards under the recently ascended Phoenix Emperor. On the way to the capital, he falls in with three other aspiring Guards, and they form an inseparable quartet of flashing blades and impeccable manners. Unwittingly, Khaavren and company are soon enmeshed in secret plots reaching from the Imperial Palace to the far borders of the empire, with only their skill, wits and blind luck to see them through. In self-conscious homage to the works of Alexandre Dumas and Raphael Sabatini, Brust blends snappy, playful dialogue with circuitous narrative passages. Although the plot's naked contrivance verges on parody, Khaavren and his friends are charming, albeit shallow, heroes whose adventure should win Brust more readers, if his adopted style does not throw them off.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Fantasy set on the world Dragaera (like Brust's paperback ``Vlad Taltos'' yarns), consciously modeled on Dumas, Sabatini, et al., complete with an irritatingly intrusive author, thudding bodies on every page, and chunks of impenetrable description like those William Goldman happily omitted from The Princess Bride. Four young noble warriors--Khaavren, Aerich, Tazendra, Pel- -meet and, united in their resolve to join the Emperor's elite Guards, become fast friends. In a plot of inordinate convolutions, including a surprise addendum where they are faced with summary execution, the swashbuckling quartet becomes involved in an attempt to overthrow the weak but good-hearted Emperor, though they are never sure whose side they or anyone else is on. The Dumas imitation isn't nearly as appealing as Brust seems to think: where light brushstrokes are required, he lays it on with a trowel. Still, the dialogue is snappy and amusing, the scenario holds many attractions (a preponderance of sword over sorcery; warriors are female as often as male, and attack the opposite sex without a qualm; the survivors live for thousands of years), and a certain charm shines through despite Brust's efforts to pretend that he's really someone else. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Guards (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 491 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (June 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812506898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812506891
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,175,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
The brief review: I had a slight smile on my face the entire time I read this book. It is, as a reviewer of the Three Muskateers might have once said, "charming."
To elaborate: Brust is very well (some might say "over") educated and knows how to turn a phrase. The plot moves along briskly; the characters, while not fleshed out too thoroughly, do have distinct and effective personalities. I was, at first, a bit lost about the world's/realm's infrastructure of Houses and about the characteristics of each (and what animals the fantasy names correlate to). However, I've not read the Vlad Taltos series, which apparently sheds some light on those matters.
This is not a book to be read at breakneck speed, as the dialogue must be savored and as there are plot details that could otherwise be missed. That said, even if one does commit to reading each excruciatingly polite phrase that the characters utter, there are still times when one wants to throttle them for not getting to the point. Brust plays this game nicely, but he perhaps goes to the well one too many times. Nevertheless, in two words, as the wonderfully pompous narrator might say, this is an amiable sabre-and-sorcery frolick, and I plan to check out Five Hundred Years After, the next book, very soon. (Closer to 3-1/2 or 3-3/4 stars, but 4 is certainly not a stretch.)
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As others have noted, the Khaavren Romances, the series of five Brust novels that begins with "The Phoenix Guards," is in some senses an homage to Alexander Dumas and his series that began with "The Three Musketeers." It is also an homage to the late Roger Zelazny, an author Brust admired very much. But it mostly Brust having fun. He wrote on his website, "I wrote it for the sheer joy of writing it--I giggled all the way through. No one was more surprised than me that, not only was it published, but a lot of other people seem to like it. Cool." Cool, indeed.

One of the conceits of the Khaavren Romances is that they are written by a contemporary of Khaavren, the protagonist, one Paarfi of Roundwood. Paarfi redefines "prolix" with each page he writes. Like Dumas, Paarfi is paid by the word. Like Dumas, Paarfi writes with hyperformality, wild circumlocutions, and a willingness to break from the narrative thread at any time to chase down almost any distraction. As just one example, at one important juncture Paarfi spends a few pages establishing that a long place name, de-constructed through half a dozen languages, translates as "wood wood wood wood." It's a sly send-up of Dumas; Paarfi out does Dumas, to wonderful effect.

At a time when fantasy literature has deteriorated to clichés and worse, when authors like Diane Wynne Jones can write a "Tough Guide to Fantasyland" and skewer nine-tenths of the genre, it is a sheer delight to find a fantasy writer who can write, who loves to write and who can communicate that delight to his readers.

Like Dumas' Musketeers, this story follows the careers of four young minor nobles, who come to the capital to enlist in the king's special regiment.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Steven Brust is an unabashed fan of Alexander Dumas, and "The Phoenix Guards" is his attempt to both emulate and exceed the swashbuckling master of such classics as "The Man in the Iron Mask" and "Count of Monte Cristo." And if one begins this work understanding that this tale is a simulacrum of "The Three Musketeers," then you shall have a far better chance of enjoying the book.

Like Dumas, Brust opens this work by stating that it is based upon a manuscript by another author. Here that book is a "notebook" created by one Paarfi of Roundwood; a historian who has done extensive research concerning the events preceding the fall of the Dragaeran Empire and the Interregnum, which followed. Unfortunately, for Paarfi, his work titled "Toward Beginning a Survey of Some Events Contributing To The Fall of the Empire" was rejected for publication, and so, in an effort to inform people of the important events of this time and put to use his extensive research, he has developed this story we are about to enjoy.

Paarfi thereafter spins a yarn centered on one Khaavren (D'Artagnan), an impoverished country noble, and though the point of view in the story does shift occasionally, the majority of the events in the story are told through his eyes. In any event, our young swashbuckler is a young, naive Dragaera, and though he has - as you would expect - a sword which he is "tolerably well-acquainted with," he also has lots to learn about the world. Thus, he finds himself pointed toward Dragaera City to make a name for himself.

Quite early on into Khaavren's journey, he stumbles into a Lyorn and Dzur, who befriend him; their names are Aerich (Athos) and Tazendra(a female Aramis.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are those who are disturbed by Brust's practice of twisting classic works through several alternate dimensions; I am always amazed at how well he does it. The rhythms of the dialogue, the descriptions, the characters -- they are similar but not the same, as though viewed through a glass that distorts and reveals simultaneously. It is a walk along a very cunning tightrope -- not alienating those who love the classic while satisfying those who love the fantasy. As one who has adored the unabridged Dumas since childhood, I confess myself well satisfied. As a reader of fantasy for several decades, I find myself, again, amazed.
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