Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s historical novels of high adventure Steven Brust takes us into the past history of the world he created, called Dragaera..Show More », through the Khaavren series. “The Khaavren series is presented as historical novels written by a fictional character named Paarfi of Roundwood. Paarfi is a Dragaeran presiding in the same time frame as Vlad Taltos. In fact “Tiassa,” the thirteenth book in the Taltos series can be thought of as the sixth book in the Khaavren series. The time frame between the two series is hundreds of years apart but characters can appear in both series since Dragaerans live thousands of years. “The Phoenix Guards” is book one of the Khaavren Romance series which follows Khaavren of Castlerock; a young Dragaeran from the House of the Tiassa. He and his friends join the Phoenix Guards and set off on a high adventure. These series of books should be of special interest to those who follow the Taltos series as it gives more background story to some of the more prominent characters of that series. In “The Phoenix Guards” I was especially interested in learning more about Adron e'Kieron, a prominent Dragonlord and father of Aliera e’Kieron, one of the main characters in the Taltos books. In “The Phoenix Guards,” Steven Brust truly captures the spirit of “The Three Musketeers” written by Alexandre Dumas. Brust ’use of old fashion, intricate, and highly verbose writing is overtly based on Dumas’s style as Steven Brust references in his author’s notes. I found the style of writing a little odd at first, but then really entertaining, if not poetic, once I got used to it. “The Phoenix Guards” is a strong enough story that can be read-listened to as a stand-alone book; but I believe is much more enjoyable if all of the Taltos series is read first. Kevin Stillwell, the narrator gives an outstanding performance.
The Paths of the Dead is the first book in Steven Brust’s THE VISCOUNT OF ADRILANKHA trilogy, which is a sequel to The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred..Show More » Years. Each of these books is an installment in Brust’s KHAAVREN ROMANCES and they’re all related to his VLAD TALTOS books which, at this moment, consist of 13 novels. All of these books have just been released in audio format by Audible Frontiers. I picked up The Paths of the Dead after reading that it can stand alone. You might wonder why I started here and, honestly, it’s because we already had reviews for some of the VLAD TALTOS novels and for The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years but none for any of THE VISCOUNT OF ADRILANKHA books. I now realize that it would have been better to start with the first VLAD TALTOS novel, Jhereg. Our omniscient and intrusive narrator assures us that no history is required to enjoy The Paths of the Dead, but I found that I wished I had the background to more thoroughly relate to our heroes. They’re descendants of the characters in Brust’s previous novels and they’re associated with “houses” which are known by their particular personality traits. While relevant information is occasionally briefly explained in The Paths of the Dead, I felt like I was missing the rich history that would have increased my enjoyment. Nevertheless, I can talk about the plot and the style of this novel.
This is the story of how Zerika, with a little help from her adventurous friends, went to the Paths of the Dead to obtain the Orb which would restore the empire to its former glory — a story referred to in the other Brust books. Most of The Paths of the Dead is set-up for this event which takes relatively few pages at the end. There is also some history on Morrolan and a few other characters that Brust fans are familiar with.
But all of those folks get upstaged by the real main character in The Paths of the Dead: the narrator. If you’ve read the previous KHAAVREN ROMANCES, you know that Brust is parodying Alexandre Dumas. His narrator, a historian named Paarfi, is pompous and wordy, constantly interjecting information, opinions, and explanations about his writing style in his pretentious tone. This is often very funny and I chuckled frequently, especially at the beginning of the story when it was all new to me. However, after a while, it becomes repetitive and tedious. For example, while Paarfi regularly insists that he’s being brief and sparing us unnecessary details, he actually does the opposite which, of course, is meant to be humorously ironic. But it gets irritating when he records numerous conversations that go something like this: