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The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust

Review by Liara

This is a standalone book set in the same world as the Vlad Taltos books (which I have not read). The world is the Dragaeran Empire, where the people live thousands of years and are born into caste-like Houses that each have different characteristics. Each house is named after an animal, but I would have liked to know just what some of the animals were. Dragon and Phoenix were obvious, but what's an Issola? A Teckla? A Dzur? The world was interesting enough, but only the bare outlines were explained. The plot centers on Khaavren and his friends, young nobles who sign up to serve in the royal guards. We follow their Three Musketeers-like escapades through duels, battles and imperial politics. The story is simple, and it would have been more interesting if it had been a bit more detailed and dramatic. But instead of embellishing the plot, the characters and the setting so that I cared about the outcomes, the book dwelled far too much on creating an amusing, melodramatic banter between the characters. Again, it was supposed to be like the Three Musketeers. It probably was, and the sheer silliness of the dialogue (not to mention the narration, the kind where the narrator speaks directly to the reader) was funny to a certain extent, but occasionally it was so over-the-top that it ceased to be funny. If the point was to be silly, it definitely was, but I found it a bit lacking in substance. To be fair, Chris enjoyed it more than I did, and he's read other books in this world and said it helped fill in the back story. So perhaps it's just not a good book to start with. However, it was sort of a fun read and it got me interested enough in the world to try Brust's other books. Overall, 3 amulets.

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