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The Baron of Magister Valley Hardcover – 16 October 2020
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- Publisher : Tor Books (16 October 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250311470
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250311474
- Dimensions : 16.21 x 3.81 x 24.33 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 191,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Praise for Steven Brust
Surprisingly resonant...another solid entry in the series. --RT Review, 4 stars, on Vallista
Clever....Brust's signature wit and narrative voice keep the action flowing and entertaining. --Publishers Weekly on Vallista
"Brust is one of those natural caper writers, a pulp writer in the Hammett tradition, someone with what William Gibson calls 'wheels on his tractor'.... A writer who can spin a yarn that keeps you guessing until the end." --Cory Doctorow on Hawk
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It is in many ways the best of all the two dozen or so Steven Brust books I have read, but also in some ways the most infuriating.
Unlike most of the stories in the Vlad Taltos/Khaavren universe, this one is a stand-alone novel and there is no reason you could not start with this book whether or not you may wish to read any of the other novels set in this universe.
Should you wish to read about the other characters Stephen Brust has created in the same universe as "The Baron of Magister Valley, they comprise two series. The first is about an "Easterner" (e.g. human) assassin called Vlad Taltos, and the best place to start reading about Vlad is either the first published book in his series, " Jhereg ", or the chronologically first one, " Taltos ."
The hero of the other series set in this world, Khaavren, is an approximate contemporary of Eremit, as the hero of this book is initially known.
The best to place to start reading about Khaavren is in Brust's first book about him, which is not at all a parody of Dumas's The Three Musketeers , called " The Phoenix Guards "
Well Ok, actually "The Phoenix Guards IS a parody of "The Three Musketeers," with Khaavren as D'Artagnan, and it is set in a timeframe which overlaps "The Baron of Magister Valley." Although Khaavren himself does not appear in "The Baron of Magister Valley," his love interest and later wife Daro, Countess of Whitecrest, does have an important role in this book.
I don't think it is a spoiler to add that at the very end of "The Baron of Magister Valley" the central character adopts yet another new name: he is known by about five different ones in the course of the book. The final name he adopts at the very end is also the name of a major character in the Vlad Taltos novel "Hawk" set many years later.
There is good reason to think we are meant to assume that Eremit, "The Baron of Magister Valley" and the main adversary of Vlad Taltos in "Hawk" are one and the same.
In the world of "The Baron of Magister Valley" there are quite a few intelligent species including two types of men and women.
Eremit and all the characters of this book, though they call themselves human beings, belong to a race whose normal life span is thousands of years. They refer to the kind of human who lives on Sol III and may be reading this review (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) as "Easterners" while our kind of human refer to Eremit and his race as Dragaerans or occasionally as elves.
Dragaerans are taller than homo sapiens sapiens, live much longer (two to four thousand years or so), and then after death are eligible for reincarnation if they have not annoyed a God too much or had their soul destroyed by a "Morganti" weapon or a "Great Weapon."
All Dragaerans belong to one of seventeen "Great Houses" named after animals of the fantasy world in which the novels are set.
Each of the animals for which the great houses are named epitomises two characteristics, and the houses tend to have a preferred occupation to which those characteristics are relevant. For examples Dragons symbolise war and conquest, Dzur (which look a bit like tigers) represent heroism and honor, hence Dragaeran members of House Dragon and House Dzur (known as Dragonlords and Dzurlords) tend to be soldiers. "Tecla" look like mice and symbolise cowardice and fertility: members of House Tecla are peasants. "Chreotha" represent forethought and ensnarement, and members of that house are merchants. The Hawk symbolises Observation and Perception, and at least some Hawklords are powerful sorcerers.
Most of the characters in "The Baron of Magister Valley" are members of the houses of the Iorich, Orca, or Jhereg.
"Iorich" epitomise justice and retribution, and members of that house, including several of the main characters of this book, tend to be judges or lawyers. The Orca (Killer Whale) represents brutality and mercantilism: members of that house are sailors, pirates or bankers, and "Jhereg" representing Greed and Corruption are gangsters or assassins.
Like all the "Khaavren Romances," "The Baron of Magister Valley" is supposedly written by "Paarfi of Roundwood" whose style and plots are definately not a parody of those of Alexandre Dumas.
Well, OK, yes they are. And this one is "The Count of Monte Cristo."
It is a story of betrayal and revenge.
Possible mild spoiler alert: if you are even slightly familiar with the story of the Count of Monte Cristo, the next two paragraphs of this review won't tell you anything about the plot which you won't already have guessed. If you're not, they will give away the opening.
At the start of this book the hero, Eremit, proposes marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Livosha. Both are young adult Iorich (e.g. about a hundred years old,) studying for careers in the legal profession, and belong to the provincial nobility.
Within 24 hours of Eremit proposing to Livosha all their plans are dashed by a vile conspiracy against their families, most of the people both of them love have been murdered, and Eremit finds himself in the most secure prison in the universe, one which it takes hundreds of years of dedicated effort to escape from.
The writing style, a parody of Dumas, which often meanders all over the most extraordinary side-tracks to get to the point, can be quite entertaining at times and at others absolutely infuriating. So much so that I agonised over whether to give this book the fifth star. But it's strengths - it can be very funny, I found it hugely exciting and absorbing - persuaded me to do so.
To list the other books in this universe:
The chronological sequence of the "Vlad Taltos" series jumps about all over the place, both between books and within most of the books. I personally think it is best to read these stories in the order they were published.
Here is the list of Vlad Taltos novels in publication order, with the chronological place of the main action of each book in brackets after:
1) Jhereg (4th)
2) Yendi (3rd)
3) Tecla (5th)
4) Taltos (1st)
5) Phoenix (6th)
6) Athyra (8th)
7) Orca (9th)
8) Dragon (2nd)
9) Issola (10th)
10) Dzur (11th)
11) Jhegaala (7th)
12) Iorich (12th)
13) Tiassa (13th)
14) Hawk (14th)
15) Vallista (15th)
The five Khaavren romances, in sequence, are
1) "The Phoenix Guards" (equivalent to "The Three Musketeers")
2) "Five Hundred Years After" (equivalent to "Twenty years after")
Then a trilogy "The Viscount of Adrilankha" (equivalent to "The Viscount of Bragelonne") which comprises
3) The Paths of the Dead
4) The Lord of Castle Black
5) Sethra Lavode.
Written in the same style as the Khaavren Romances, by the same supposed author "Paarfi of Roundwood", and set at about the same time as the first of them, is this book, "The Baron of Magister Valley,
Overall I found this very much worth reading and would recommend both the Taltos novels and the Khaavren Romances, and this book.