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To Reign in Hell: A Novel Paperback – July 7, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 117 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Consummate grace and genuine artistry” ―Roger Zelazny

“Steven Brust just might be America's best fantasy writer.” ―Tad Williams

About the Author

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in a family of Hungarian labor organizers, Steven Brust worked as a musician and a computer programmer before coming to prominence as a writer in 1983 with Jhereg, the first of his novels about Vlad Taltos, a human professional assassin in a world dominated by long-lived, magically-empowered human-like "Dragaerans."

Over the next several years, several more "Taltos" novels followed, interspersed with other work, including To Reign in Hell, a fantasy re-working of Milton's war in Heaven; The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, a contemporary fantasy based on Hungarian folktales; and a science fiction novel, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille. The most recent "Taltos" novels are Dragon and Issola. In 1991, with The Phoenix Guards, Brust began another series, set a thousand years earlier than the Taltos books; its sequels are Five Hundred Years After and the three volumes of "The Viscount of Adrilankha": The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, and Sethra Lavode.

While writing, Brust has continued to work as a musician, playing drums for the legendary band Cats Laughing and recording an album of his own work, A Rose for Iconoclastes. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where he pursues an ongoing interest in stochastics.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; 1st edition (July 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312870493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312870492
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #864,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jack Holcomb on September 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
As usual, at least for fantasy novels, the reactions to this book seem to range from "The best I ever read!" to "Complete drivel!" with little space between (unless you count "Satanism! Burn! Burn!"). The fact is that this is NOT Brust's best work. The strong characterization in the Vlad Taltos books are less strong here. The plotting is at once more convoluted than strictly necessary and not terribly interesting to untangle. The dialogue is good, but not his best. Et cetera. It's a solid book and a fun read, in the Zelazny/Gaiman let's-mess-with-God(s) mode, but it's not as strong as either of those notables in, say, Lord of Light, Sandman, Good Omens, or the first Amber chronicles. It does, however, compare favorably with Piers Anthony's execrable Incarnations of Immortality.
Given the title, I'm surprised none of the reviewers I've read have noticed that this is not so much a prequel to Genesis as to Paradise Lost. FYI, the title is a direct quote from Milton, and the events of the book lead up to the events (and to the odd slant on Satan)in Paradise Lost. It has about the same relationship to scripture as Niven and Pournelle's Inferno; it's based on a text that's based on the Bible.
But then, who in his right mind reads Milton anymore?
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Format: Paperback
Admittedly, I'll give Stephen Brust kudos for tackling an ambitious project: a telling of the Angelic Fall that is both novel and original. I also found it mildly ironic that the most sympathetic characters in this book are the ones traditionally considered "bad" - Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, etc. - and the characters traditionally considered good" - Yahweh, etc. - come off poorly. That alone should tell you if this book is for you, and I suspect accounts for much of the 1-star reviews: there is a high probability that TRIH will offend the religiously sensible/closed minded. Of course, there are other reasons not to like it, which is where my griping comes in.

For starters, I didn't care for Brust's prose at all. I found his writing style dry, repetitive, and descriptively spartain. His dialogue seemed especially weak: characters speak in almost monosyllable sentences, and again there is a heavy redundancy. For some reason, Beelzebub spoke Shakespearian English, which especially grated on me.

Of course, one can dislike an author's prose yet still like his plots - several of my favorite authors actually fall into this category! Unfortunately, his handling of the plot was my other major stumbling block. To justify that would require my delving into spoilers - something I refuse to do in a review - so please pardon my vagueness. Suffice it to say that key aspects (such as the nature of creation, Waves, etc.) struck me as internally inconsistent. Maybe I missed something, but there is just too much in this novel that is left unexplained. This left me feeling disenfranchised at first, and cheated by the end.

My other main problem was that much of the plot conflict relied on one conniving angel whose motives I never did fully grasp.
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Format: Paperback
Steven Brust is a phenomenal writer and if you have not read any of the Vlad Taltos series, I cannot recommend them highly enough to you. They are swashbuckling character studies of the finest regards. That said, "To Reign In Hell" is a fantastic story about the War in Heaven seen with a non-judgmental point of view. Devout Christians and Catholics may have some troubles, as to understand the text, a reader should put aside all preconcieved notions of the concepts of Good and Evil, God and the Devil and other Christian mythos. I am very glad to see "To Reign In Hell" brought back into print. I bought my copy, used, in a Minneapolis bookstore and found out a few months later that the scrawl in the front of it was an autograph from Brust. I am picking up another copy soon so I can afford to lend it out to friends. "To Reign In Hell" isn't Brust's best work by far, but it's also a marvelous read and well-worth your time if you can go into it with an open mind. If your concepts of religion are inflexible, read some of Brust's other material (I recommend starting with "The Book of Jhereg," a reprint of the first three Vlad Taltos books in one volume), but do not miss this terrific author. Brust is one of the greatest writers working today.
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How to possibly describe this book. If you have not read it, I have to strongly urge you to get it. It is literaly one of the best books I have ever read. If you have read some of the other books written by Mr. Brust, then you know he is something of a talented story teller. But if you are expecting something similar to his Vlad series, or other fantasy, prepare to be amazed. The story is about the events prior to the creation of the Earth. The creation of the Angels, and the fall of Satan. Mr. Brust does an outstanding job of portraying all of the characters. After all, Satan was an Angel....there is no reason to suppose that he was born Evil, or in opposition to God. How did it happen. This book really makes you empathize with the various characters. I can not stress it enough, if you have not read this book....you are missing out on a wonderful experience.
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