Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

The Paths of the Dead

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Paths of the Dead (2002) Steven Brust

For me, Steven Brust books are like potato chips; I can’t read just one.

And so, having recently finished all the Vlad Taltos book, The Phoenix Guards, and Five Hundred Years After, there was nothing to do but read The Viscount of Adrilankha.

The Paths of the Dead starts 156 years after Adron’s Disaster, and the events of Five Hundred Years After. It is still the Interregnum. Sorcery either does not work, or is strongly limited, travel is dangerous, and various lords are attempting to consolidate power and reform the Empire with themselves at the helm.

It also follows the histories of several individuals, some of whom we already have the pleasure of knowing. We meet Morrolan as a youth, and witness the events to which we have read allusions in the various Vlad Taltos books. We meet Zerika, whom we have met in passing in other books, but here we learn of how she regained the Orb. And we have some small dealings with our friends from previous books: Khaavren, Tazendra, Aerich, and Pel; however, we spend more time with the son of Khaavren and Daro: Piro, the Viscount of Adrilankha for whom the series is named.

Plus Sethra Lavode. And The Necromancer. And various Gods.

The main focus, however, switches between Morrolan, Piro, and towards the end, Zerika. We spend some time with the other characters, but the focus is primarily upon Morrolan and Piro.

I have to admit that as much as I like Khaavren, I prefer Morrolan to Piro. And I can also read about Tazendra. Not that there’s anything wrong with Piro, I just don’t care about him quite as much as I do his father, his father’s friends, and Morrolan. This could, however, just be a quirk on my part.

The style in Paths of the Dead is that of the Khaavren Romances, the over the top style of Paarfi of Roundwood, historian and romantic. Although the writing style is far different from the Vlad books, and the dialog is commensurately changed as well, I still have a strong sense of Morrolan in his speech, even if it reads quite differently than his speech in the Vlad books. So kudos to Steven Brust, that he can completely switch styles of writing and still keep the sense of Morrolan that I love so much.

Consider the following:

“It has come to my thoughts that if we should continue warning their victims of impending raids, (the raiders) may take it ill.”
“That is possible, my lord. As I consider it, I think it is very possible.”
“So I had thought.”
“Do you thin, well–do you think we ought to stop giving these warnings?”
“Oh no!” said Morrolan. “I certainly would suggest nothing as drastic as that!”

That passage (and the bit that follows) amuses me to no end.

Another positive is that I really like the cover of this book. Despite the fact that the man on the cover doesn’t at all like I imagine Piro to look, I still find the whole thing fascinating, and love looking at it. There’s something about the way he’s crouching down, holding his sword, and looking straight at you, that seems to be perfect.

If you have not yet read any of Steven Brust’s Dragaera novels, this is an excellent place to start. Although you might not take the same joy out of coming across favorite characters that long time readers have, you will have a pleasure denied to us, which is not knowing how things will turn out in the end, and getting to be surprised at the turn of events.
Rating: 8/10

Categories: 8/10, Fantasy, Paper, Sword & Sorcery

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