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May 2016
 

The Bellinghman
Date: 2006-12-13 23:47
Subject: #106 Steven Brust : The Book of Athyra
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Tags:books, reviews
Steven Brust : The Book of Athyra

Paperback: 436 pages
Publisher: Ace Books (Feb 2003)
ISBN-10: 0441010105
Category(ies): Fantasy

After the hopping about of The Book of Jhereg and The Book of Taltos, we now revert to chronological order in this third collection. It contains two novels, Athyra and Orca, following Phoenix.

At the end of Phoenix, Vlad has left the city of Adrilankha for the wilderness, being somewhat out of favour with the criminal House of Jhereg. A year or two later, at the start of Athyra, he is surprised to find himself in the lands of an old enemy, one he thought killed. But sometimes the past will come back to bite, and we already know that there are undead walking the Empire, not all unwelcome.

This is a much more small scale story than most of them. It's seen from the point of view of Savn, a peasant-born apprentice healer who first heals Vlad, and then ends up aiding him in other ways. Vlad himself is changing while out in the wilderness, and being in deep cover, is much less arrogant than when younger.

The second volume, Orca, follows. Savn suffered greatly at the end of the previous novel, and Vlad is looking after him, trying to work out some way of bringing him back from a near catatonic post traumatic state. He finds a country sorceress, but she has problems - it seems a Robert Maxwell figure has died, and the banks want to foreclose on her mortgage in the process of liquidating his assets, and ... well, there are some financial shenanigans to be uncovered.

This Vlad is, by now, quite admirable. He gets into the initial situation because of a debt of honour to Savn - a debt only he would know if he left him in the lurch. And when a second person requires help, he does so, even though it puts his life in jeopardy, simply because that second person is helping Savn.

Again, the point of view is not (primarily) that of Vlad. It's that of Kiera the thief, one of his oldest (and most unlikely) friends, and why she befriended him in the first place, being one of the impossibly long-lived elf Dragaera, is also revealed.

The third compilation.
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glinda_w
User: glinda_w
Date: 2006-12-13 23:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's that of Kiera the thief, one of his oldest (and most unlikely) friends, and why she befriended him in the first place, being one of the impossibly long-lived elf Dragaera, is also revealed.

Oh ghods, yes, that. Brust is... [word?] sneaky? something like that. I truly did not see that one coming, at all.

(and I think I managed to not spoiler anything *grin*)

--g, the Brust books stayed out of the locker even when I was in the shelter and in the SRO
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2006-12-14 00:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In Taltos, there is a certain meeting, at which it is intimated. Very loosely, very carefully, a nod to the reader who has read the later novel and is now reading (or rereading) the earlier one.

Brust must know an awful lot more about the backgrounds of almost every character he's used to be able to jump around the chronology in the way he did, without tangling himself up very badly. It does mean that you are never quite sure when you see something referred to whether it'll ever actually get explained.

And that's a virtue in many ways. Chekhov made the adage about the gun above the fireplace in the first act. If there are several score odd items on the mantelpiece, you no longer know which are relevant, so it becomes a proper surprise again when one is.
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Sion: brimham rocks
User: sion_a
Date: 2006-12-14 16:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:brimham rocks
I've often wondered what it would be like to read (for the first time) starting with Athyra then going back to chronological order to find out who Vlad is and how he got there.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2006-12-14 22:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It'd be quite interesting, I think. You'd be starting off knowing the character was already fully formed and had a previous history, so it wouldn't be quite as much of a "Whaaa?" as reading Taltos, then Phoenix.

Short of a selective amnesia treatment, though, it's too late for us.
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