on 10 October 1997
It seems clear from this book that the author had in mind his own enjoyment as much as that of the reader. This self-contentment is reflected in the intricacies of the characters' interplay and the multi-layered, satisfyingly complex plot. For me, it is the author's best work, although the self-referential mythology may put off the casual reader, as may the romanticised style utilised. It is darker in tone than the previous Phoenix Guards, but the harder edge is matched by the richer flow of emotion from all concerned.
It is an exciting ride, and one on which you feel the author is a fellow traveller rather than leading the way.
on 11 November 1998
Althogh a big Vlad Taltos fan, these fantasies are my favorite Brust novels, and rank among my favorite comic fantasies (including Jack Vance's "Lyonesse" and John Barnes' "One for the Morning Glory," but not including anything by Piers Anthony or Terry Pratchett.) The fictional author Paarfi is supposedly paid by the word (like his alter-ego, Alexandre Dumas) and it shows: this is one of the most verbose, long-winded and pompous novels I have ever read, yet Brust is obviously having such a good time with the language that I was drawn in inexorably and found myself munching through the long book at an incredible pace. Brust can spend ten pages saying absolutely nothing, yet it remains facinating. I dont want to give the impresion that nothing happens: there is lots of action, subterfuge, and plenty of weaves and twists. Longtime Taltos fans will be thrilled to finaly meet the elusive Mario. Yet the fictional author spends plent of time in the detials, in the characters, and in self-absobed preening. If you want a fast, bang-em-up hack and slasher, do not buy this book. If, however, you are a lover of rich, textured language and the ludicrous, then buy this book. Right now.
on 19 May 1996
If you're looking for a Vlad Taltos tale, this is not the one.
If you like Steven Brust's more lucid writings, this is fantastic
and it does nicely set in the slowly emerging world of Taltos the assassin.
It's a nice history/action piece, but it's tough to really get in
to the characters.
on 26 September 1998
This is better than the Phoenix Guards. I don't think the characters are really Brust's strongest, and the Dumas-derived narrative style can be grating, but it's still pretty good. The part when the city's engulfed in Chaos (I'm not giving anything away here; you know it'll happen from the beginning) was particularly chilling.