Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Paths of the Dead
Steven Brust
Tor, 399 pages

Eric Bowman
The Paths of the Dead
Steven Brust
Steven Brust was born in 1955. His writing includes the Vlad Taltos series (others are Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla, Taltos, Phoenix, and Orca), The Phoenix Guards, 500 Years After, To Reign in Hell, Brokedown Palace, The Sun the Moon and the Stars, Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille, The Gypsy (with Megan Lindholm) and Agyar. He also has done some short fiction in the Liavek series edited by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull. He lives in Minneapolis.

Steven Brust Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Book of Taltos
SF Site Review: Issola
Steven Brust Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

It was an innocent experiment, but it destroyed so much. Their Emperor, the Orb of power, and the capital city are all gone, destroyed by a magical mistake. Now people must try and find a new way of life. They are without even the simplest of spells upon which they have depended for so long. When Zerika, the Heir of the Phoenix is discovered, hope for a renewal of this old way of life comes back, bringing together a group of swashbuckling heroes who will gladly risk everything for an adventure.

And that's all I can say to summarize The Paths of the Dead, really. It is definitely a perfect first book for a series. Steven Brust introduces new characters, reintroduces old characters, and brings them all together in such a way as to set these people into context. Long time Brust readers will recognize many of these people. Some of their stories have been mentioned in other books, in passing, including the Vlad Taltos novels. A lot of elements are brought together, a lot of things set up. It is told by Paarfi, a historian whose sometimes long-winded, sometimes odd conversational style borrows a lot from Alexandre Dumas. While this was really charming in other books he narrates such as The Phoenix Guards and The 500 Years After (Dumas fans will notice the second title bows its head to the title of the sequel to The Three Musketeers), sometimes I found it just a tiny bit hard to take. Paarfi is definitely a stylistic taste. It is one that is well done and really does fit with what Brust is trying to do, which is a pastiche of Dumas's works. Despite my problems with it, I love the fact that Brust attempts this. Writing in such a way as to combine a very old style with what we consider the modern way is a considerable job, one that he has pulled off over and over. Such a feat is not one I'd attempt, nor is it one that I think anyone else could succeed so well at.

Even though its main focus is in introduction, it has some wonderfully realized facets. Brust's world is rich; the political machinations, the plotting and cross plotting all create fine webs that seems to color everything. One is constantly wondering the true intent behind a character's words, even as they're enjoying the marvelous and inventive setting.

Also included in this volume are a wonderful introduction by Emma Bull, and some notes by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, both accomplishing another rare feat --adding some illumination while being entertaining too.

The crux of the review is this is not a book for beginners, except for perhaps the most adventurous of heart, but a wonderful book for avid Brust readers. Not only will The Paths of the Dead tie in characters long-liked or wondered over (you will be delighted by who shows up) but it kicks off what promises to be a tale to please even the most dashing of swashbucklers.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide