- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (1 Dec. 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312864787
- ISBN-13: 978-0312864781
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.6 x 24.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,358,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Paths of the Dead (Viscount of Adrilankha) Hardcover – 1 Dec 2002
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1st edition 1st printing hardcover , Book fine & fine (as new) dw (dust jacket), In stock shipped from our UK warehouse
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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.
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.
I also have to admit that the Paarfi-speak is wearing a little thin with me. When you have a book where something is actually happening it's an amusing stylistic device. But so little happened in PotD that it felt as though the sole reason for the book was to continue the stylistic exercise; I was keenly aware that the language actually was used to stretch a very brief narrative into 400-odd pages. And I found the treatise on how to write like Paarfi a bit smug, like someone indulging in an in-joke. I've read 3 books in this style now, I don't really need to have the details pointed out to me.
All in all, I think I would have preferred it if Brust (and/or the publisher) had just waited and released _The Viscount of Adrilankha_ as one book, or all at one time. I'd waited ten years for it, I could have waited a couple more. And I don't feel that BRust's style (or Paarfi's) is really suited to a boundaryless story with no clear progression or end.
Brust fans will want to read this one, but if you aren't already a fan, don't start here!
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. Granted, this is supposed to be part of one book broken up into three parts, but it should be able to stand on its own.
The biggest problem I had with this book was the inconsistencies. This book contradicts what Morollan told Vlad in _Taltos_ about events regarding Zerika's regaining the orb. Since _Taltos_ is from Vlad's point of view, there is no reason for Vlad to lie about what Morollan said happened, and no reason for Morollan to lie to Vlad. Therefore, one can chalk it up to "Paarfi". However, if Paarfi has done the interviews that are mentioned in the book, then there should be no reason for this dicrepancy. Since the book was "written" during the reign of Norathar, the only assumption that can be made is that key players, about whom events are incorrect, are dead. That presents some interesting questions, but I don't think they were intentional.
I would say, without question, that this is the worst of the Dragaeran books. If you haven't read ANY of the others, it may stand on its own, I don't know. But the biggest let down for someone who has read all of the others is that it is nowhere-as-good as its predecessors.
Well... perhaps the poor reviews are understandable given that POTD is not meant to stand on its own and depends very much on the "greater myth" being developed between this series and the Vlad Taltos series.
These points have been touched on in other reviews but I will emphasize them again here:
First, POTD does NOT stand on its own. One reviewer said reading POTD alone would be like reading "The Fellowship of the Ring" and expecting a complete self-contained story. I disagree - POTD is more like "The Two Towers", it's neither at the beginning nor at the end. Either way, POTD should not be your first choice as either an introduction to Brust, nor a reacquaintence after a lengthy abstinence. You just miss too much.
Secondly, both the Khaavren Romances (of which POTD is the third) and the Vlad Taltos series are both set in the same world and together tell a much larger epic story. I would add that POTD is the first book in the Khaavren series that really makes this apparent. If you've read the Vlad Taltos books then you will recognize names and events mentioned in "The Phoenix Guards" and "500 Years After" and go "a-ha", but in POTD you are just plain missing out if you haven't read the other series. For instance, the whole conversation between the "gods" makes almost no meaningful sense unless if you've read the Taltos books. I'd seriously recommend reading all the way up to Issola before starting POTD.
As far as the writing style goes, some may not like it but I happen to love it. Brust never ceases to leave me breathless with his writing "agility". He is quite simply the best writer of "conversation" I've yet encountered and the Paarfi style is a lot of fun. Wordy, yes, but not verbose. You have to read it to understand what I mean.
So to summarize, don't read POTD unless and until you've read both "The Phoenix Guards" and "500 Hundred Years After" AND you've also read the Taltos series. You will seriously kill the enjoyment of the book if you do otherwise plus you will miss out on too many of the "inside" jokes. For instance, the whole "elf" thing is not new as the subtitle to chapter 7 should have made clear. If that chapter's revelation tickled you then you'll be even more delighted to know that the Easterners are referred to as "dwarfs" in one of the Taltos books. So there you go, elfs and dwarfs and they all think they're human. Make of it what you will.
The novel opens with the Drageara and the Elves' empire in chaos. The events at the end of "Five Hundred Years After" have destroyed the empire, and in its place brought plagues, squabbling warlords, scheming sorcerors and invading Easterners. Into this stew Brust brings the story of the restoration of sorcery and the Empire, the end of the Interregnum and the prolix writing style of Paarfi of Roundwood, the fictional author of each of these historic romances.
Paarfi should be a Hungarian translation of Dumas. Except that Brust is more ironic and sometimes hysterically funny in his "translation" of Paarfi. Between the hyperformal courtesy of the characters and their circumlocutions, the narrative sometimes takes some wild tangents.
But the narrative thread is never lost, and if you appreciate sheer elegance in writing and wildly imaginative plotting, you will like this book. Old friends from both narrative lines appear, and a selection of new and equally wonderful characters.
This is the first book of a trilogy, and as is the case in any first book of a trilogy a fair amount of time is spent in introducing characters and laying out plot threads. Presumably the second and third books will tell us why Morrolan (well known to readers of the Taltos books) is involved, and the role Ibronka will play.
One of Brust's finest characteristics is his willingness to experiment. In some of the Taltos books, the experiments involved the narrative voice or view, for example. Combining the Dumas-themed romances with a trilogy is another such experiment. Brust is deft and delightful in this first book. I look forward to the next two.
Don't neglect the essay at the end on how to write like Paarfi. On each re-reading, it is more amusing. The essay, like the hysterical "interview" of Paarfi by Brust at the end of "Five Hundred Years After," is very nearly perfectly written.
If you love good writing, even if you have never heard of Duams, you will like this novel.