- Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (April 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812534190
- ISBN-13: 978-0812534191
- Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 2.8 x 2.8 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,319,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Lord of Castle Black Mass Market Paperback – Apr 2004
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More About the Author
"Delightful, exciting, and sometimes brilliant, Steven Brust is the latest in a line of great Hungarian writers, which (I have no doubt) includes Alexandre Dumas, C. S. Forester, Mark Twain, and the author of the juiciest bits of the Old Testament." -Neil Gaiman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There is one thing you must know about this book: it is incomplete. If you buy this thinking it is one book of a trilogy, you will find it disappointing. Dozens of characters are brought in unintroduced and then left unresolved, and almost all of the plot threads are left hanging.
But ... if you get the whole VofA series and read it as though it is one novel, you will probably not mind any of this. Because all the flaws have to do with this book being nothing but the middle section of a single story. And if you actually get the full story by reading the other books, that works.
No one would read "The Two Towers" and attempt to treat it as a work in isolation from rest of The Lord Of The Rings. The same should be true of this book.
This part of the full novel deals mainly with the the reunion of the four guardsmen and the backstory of Morrolan (who comes off as much more complex than the inscrutable and testy warrior-wizard of the Vlad books).
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.
I have been a huge fan of Brust since To Reign in Hell, and find his Paarfi novels as good as any of the Vlad series. I enjoy the sheer wordplay involved in the descriptions of both scene and action, and find the dialogue to be laugh-out-loud funny in parts. The Lord of Castle Black is a veritable feast of amusing asides, gripping action, and wonderful dialogue-all hallmarks of The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After. I do not wish to give any of the plot away, so I will merely say that it performs satisfactory twists throughout, and the end of the book finds the Viscount and the rest of the remarkable cast in situations that have me eagerly awaiting the next installment.
I am sure that it would be a bit confusing to be thrown into the maelstrom of intrigues and power struggles contained in Lord without having read Paths. However, for those who wish to read a top-notch fantasy novelist at the top of his form, I can make no higher recommendation than The Lord of Castle Black.
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.
Taltos' is not really a teller of tales. His style was (actually will be) matter of fact, pithy, and the stories relied on their unusual plots and interesting characters more than their prose. Paarfi however writes in a style that combines courtly with tongue in check. He frequently uses paragraphs that are single sentences of close to 100 words. Brust pulls this off beautifully, but, unless you are a fan of twisted language (like me), it can be a bit off-putting to the reader lately arrived on the scene. For me, just reading Paarfi's ornate sentences is a pleasure all on it's own.
Don't get me wrong. There may be several thousand extra words and continuous displays of oblique irony, but the plot is as busy as can be. The Lord of Castle Black places all of the players on the stage and sets them to their tasks. Zerika returns from the Paths of the Dead with the orb, Morrolan re-establishes his family estates. Piro, Kytraan, Ibronka, and Roaana join forces with their older predecessors Khaavren, Tazendra, Pel and Aerich. And all are arrayed against the pretenter Kana. Behind everything, Sethra Lavode, the sorceress, weaves her plans. Soon the 9th (or, maybe, 10th) battle of Dzur Mountain will take place and we will discover, to our delight, that more volumes are planned.
Thus, something dramatic happens with regularity. Our heroes banter and go to battle with both swords and frying pans. Even the villains of the piece are worthy. Those who have come to love Steven Brust's curious world where elves are the common folk and us humans are Easterners, and viewed with suspicion. I'm not sure if it's absolutely necessary to start out by reading the Taltos books (Jhereg, etc.), but starting with The Phoenix Guards might be the best plan. It's available in paperback and will either win you over or convince you to read elsewhere.