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August 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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The Lord of Castle Black - Book Two of the Viscount of Adrilankha by Steven Brust
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0312855826 PubDate: 08/01/03
Review by Edward Carmien

560 pgs. List price $27.95
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The Viscount Of Adrilahkha, despite the machinations of Glorious Mountain Press, is truly but one novel, despite its having been parted (or twained) into The Paths Of The Dead and The Lord Of Castle Black for purposes of commerce, coinage, and profit. This simple reviewer can withhold no favor from the theory of profit from the writing of such historical romances, and one hopes Paarfi finds his wallet well-stuffed at the table of skill and chance he favors.
That being said one trusts readers of The Lord Of Castle Black will hold back their fingers from the pages of said tome until they have digested the fine meal that is The Paths Of The Dead (available soon in what is vulgarly known as ďtrade paperbackĒ), for while Paarfi sustains the myth these texts can be enjoyed separately no true Paarfi adherent would read them so, no more than adherents of fine cooking would separate the garlic from the onions in a sizzling hot frying pan; truly one must come first, but it must be the right ingredient, followed by what is inevitably the next.

But I digress.

In this tome the Viscountís adventures continue apace. Our friend Khaavren, the Viscountís father, having prepared himself to participate in the great events of this time, begins his journey, and it is with some nostalgia one reads of his reunion with his compatriots of The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After, for they, too, play a role in the lifting of the Interregnum and the restoration of the Orb to its place in the world, circling the head of the rightful Empress.

While we see this play through the fresh eyes of the Viscount, the unavoidable truth of the matter is this romance is about the Great Events of that era, of the Pretenderís struggle to declare himself Emperor, a laudable aim given the chaos weighing heavily upon all in the land until the time the Pretender strove to keep Zerika, of the House properly due the honor in the cycle, from first retrieving then retaining the Imperial Orb. To add salt to the stew, pepper to the plate, and lemon to the fish consider the case of Grita, she who seeks revenge upon the older players for slights delivered prior to the fall of the Empire. Though at first they work singly soon they are shown to have joined forces and together they plot against the success of Zerikaís return to power.

Our Viscount is of course in the thick of the fray and meets the many powers who fight on the side of the Empire, including the Enchantress herself, Sethra Lavode the Younger, a power from the land of the Gods who is a necromancer, and of course the man of Castle Black himself, Morrolan. His companions are several and as skilled at repartee as ever the older generation showed themselves to be. The Viscountís romance proves scandalous, though not nearly as scandalous as Paarfiís revelations about the Empress herself. If the Viscountís road takes a sudden turn after the Empress meets and overbears the first true challenge to her power, one cannot blame him, if one is of the sort who appreciates the true nature of Romantic Historical Literature.

Readers of Paarfi will delight in this story as much as they have delighted in his other Historical Romances. Readers ignorant of Paarfi (what few) should immediately acquaint themselves with his novels. They excite with the rhythm of a drum played betimes fast, betimes slow, but always in a way that draws out a sympathetic drumming from the listener, who now you understand I mean to represent the reader. One must say that each minute the good Paarfi plays at his favorite game of skill and chance is a minute not spent serving his adoring public in the production of further tales of Action, History, and Romance. One hopes that the recent fire at the warehouse of Glorious Mountain Press will not delay that fine publishing house by one day in their mission to bring the public yet another volume of The Viscount Of Adrilankha. What with the recent flood in the warehouse of Zerran and Bolis (Publishers), it is a wonder our cityís fine purveyors of books have any stock to offer to a public greedy for the newest and best Historical Romances.

In short, this reviewer believes there is no coin better spent than in the purchase of this new work by Paarfi (and of any of his books). Should you seek his work, be sure to look also under the name of Brust, his translator.

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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