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Frank Burns Locked account

Joined 3 months, 4 weeks ago

Mostly Sci-Fi with some fantasy and non-fiction thrown in. I would describe my tastes as eclectic.

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Iorich (Paperback, 2011, Tor Books, Brand: Tor Books) 4 stars

Legal shenanigans in the fantasy world.

4 stars

A friend gets into some legal trouble and this calls our protagonist back to the city. Of course, the fantasy mafia haven't given up on killing him. This book is largely a discourse on justice. On it's uneven application and how it is often subservient to politics. Brust spares no blushes here and it is hard for even the protagonist's armour of cynicism to insulate him from these things. Despite the weighty considerations this is a book that skips along. It has some deft plotting and some nice snarky humour about a variety of things (both trademarks of this series). I have always felt (this is a re-read, remember) that this is a 4.5 book and as such I am happy to recommend.

Jhegaala (Vlad) (Hardcover, 2008, Tor Books) 4 stars

This one is a slow burner.

4 stars

Our protagonist decides to return to his homeland to find out more about his mother. He is still being chased by the fantasy mafia so it is something to do. Of course, he runs right into a nasty little situation. At heart this is a book about ignorance. It also wants to talk about the tension between peasantry and early industrialisation. As I say, this is a slow burner. It takes a while to get going but when it does, Brust has your head spinning trying to figure out what's going on. I particularly enjoyed the resolution on this one which I won't spoiler by explaining why. Another quality installment in the series. Recommended.

Dzur (2006, Tor) 5 stars

A masterpiece.

5 stars

This simply is a masterpiece. I took a few days with this one because I was savouring it. Unusually for these books, this follows straight on from the events in the previous. After all that cosmic powers guff and having been stuck in the wilderness for years, Vlad decides to go for a good meal. That, is the framing device for this novel and it is absolute genius. You are as interested in Brust's descriptions of the food and the tastes as of that meal you are about the fantasy mafia shenanigans that Vlad's ex-wife draws him in to. The beats of the meal become the beats of the story. Under all that is a disquisition about heroism and it's ramifications. I swear on this re-read (and I have read this book a few times) I still didn't know how it was all going to come together. Not through forgetting …

Issola (Paperback, 2002, Tor Fantasy) 4 stars

A book mostly about, courtesy, of all things.

4 stars

We are now in a run on these books where the quality just does not dip until Vallista. This, like the book before, is another strong 4.5. Ostensibly this should be the most straightforward 'big fantasy' book of the series. Vlad is still running around in the wilderness avoiding the fantasy mafia, two of his powerful friends go missing and the most unlikely minor character comes to get him to help. Cosmic powers type shenanigans ensue. Gods and monsters battle for the fate of the world. Except, Brust skips by that lot as if to say, boring (because with Fantasy as a whole, it has largely become boring). I mean there's also a locked room thing going on with various Zelazny/Dumas type theatrics there but that's still just a side issue. That minor character that comes to the fore? She is all about courtesy, and courtesy is the meat of …

Dragon (Paperback, 2006, Tor Fantasy) 4 stars

Vlad goes to war.

4 stars

One thing I have always liked about these books is, while there is a place the author wants to get to, he's not afraid to just let a whole novel happen out of a minor side plot point. This is a strong zinger of a novel that has some shenanigans around a stolen magical artifact that end up with our assassin on the front lines. There is a nice bit about how sorcery (technology) has become so arcane and advanced that warfare has resorted back to gangs of people hitting each other with things. Brust does well here exploring what it would be like to be a soldier in what is effectively a pre-firearms setting and the value that a well, special operative, can bring to such a situation. This is 4.5 material and I went through this re-read in near enough one sitting, One of the better Taltos novels …

Orca (1996, Ace Books) 4 stars

4.5 for a strong tale of capitalism run amok in a fantasy world.

4 stars

Here, in 1996, Brust uses his fantasy world to foreshadow the financial crash of 2008. This book is eerily prescient on the details of this. The protagonists involvement in the financial shenanigans begins because he needs to help a widow keep her home so that she can cure the peasant boy who suffered in killing the undead sorcerer in the last book. So, small beginnings. The delight of this book is how these ostensibly small beginnings keep expanding into a plot that threatens to shake the financial foundations of the fantasy Empire of these books. As usual, Brust uses an interesting framing device to tell his tale and this one keeps you gripped from start to finish. A definite recommend.

Athyra (1993, Ace Books) 4 stars

Vlad on the run.

4 stars

After the events in Phoenix, Vlad is out and about in the wider world. This one is told largely from the perspective of an adolescent peasant that lives on the land of an undead sorcerer that Vlad had a run in with before. Brust clearly wanted to try a different pov and discourse upon the life of a rural peasant (as opposed to the urban take in Teckla). However, I find these child perspectives limiting and I am not a fan. Thus, this is one of the lesser Taltos books in my opinion. However it is still quality 4 star entertainment and gets a recommend.

Season of Skulls (2022, Little, Brown Book Group Limited) 4 stars

Laundry Files meets Regency Gothic with a side order of Romance.

4 stars

Whilst I appreciate Stross' desire to stretch himself as a writer, neither of those settings particularly resonate with me. One thing I have always liked about the Laundry Files is that it is steeped in a modern (for the time of writing of the book) setting. That being said, this actually worked for me. Hence the 4 stars. I did get a giggle out of him dropping the Prisoner into this but there is a bit too much re-statement that the Regency period was bad (for women in particular) that had the odd section dragging, for me. Still this fair rattled along entertainingly and provided a satisfactory resolution for these characters in this arc. Recommended.

Lords of Uncreation (EBook, 2023, Orbit) 5 stars

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us the third and …

4.5 stars for the finale to an enjoyable series

4 stars

Tchaikovsky brings his 'straight' Space Opera series to an end with a flourish. Real 4.5 stars territory here. This pulled me along nicely. Which is always something I look for in a book, I want to be pulled to find out what is coming next. Not pushing myself to see. That pull made it a pleasure to read and the entertainment was certainly delivered. Satisfactory resolutions all round and nothing really left dangling. Fine work and a definite recommend.

Phoenix (1990, Ace Books) 4 stars

4.5 here with strong themes about change

4 stars

A very strong 4.5 here as Brust finishes the changing of his protagonist from mafioso boss/assassin. In this one Taltos is summoned by his goddess and given a mission to go kill a king. Which he does and then chaos ensues. This book has a lot of fun with unintended consequences. Firstly, it makes the points that even gods get it wrong (this is undeniable, have you seen the state of the world?). Secondly, he continues with the themes of development and change that were strongly began in Teckla. Finally, there is an acceptance that change means sacrifice, something has to give. This is a very adult, and in places a little sad, book that still delivers as a bit of a thriller. Recommended.

Taltos (1988, Ace Books) 5 stars

Another solid entry in this series

4 stars

Continuing the Vlad Taltos re-read, here we have what is probably the earliest book in the series timeline. This is an intricate weaving of three different stories from the protagonist's life that come together at the end. This is definitely a 'world building' book. This explores the cosmology of the world Brust has created and we get to meet some gods. The book provides some back story on some characters that have already figured in the first 3 books and will be mainstays throughout the series. This is told with the usual swashbuckling flair and continues the socialist themes, using the fact that the afterworld contains the same discrimination as the 'real' world as the engine to drive this. Solid entertainment to be sure, another recommend.

Teckla (Paperback, 1987, Ace) 5 stars

A masterful switch up

5 stars

I find it interesting that the aggregated review scores I see for this book are somewhat lower than for the first two. I suspect this is because this is where Brust pulls the rug out from under you to a degree. In this book, Brust makes his protagonist look at his life as a mafioso boss and assassin and find he doesn't like what he sees. It's masterful in that way and why I have given it 5 stars. The lower score from others is going to be because he did that, they just wanted more of the same. There's also going to be a degree of pushback on the politics but as I, myself, am an unrepentant old lefty the political angle here is a positive for me. My previous recollection of this one is as a 'difficult' book, I realise on this re-read that's because it challenges your …

reviewed Yendi. by Steven Brust

Yendi. (Paperback, 1984, Klett-Cotta) 4 stars

Twisty but very good

4 stars

The second in the series in publishing order. I should be clear about this, like the works of CJ Cherry (for example) Brust kind of jumps all over his timeline and publishing order is not chronological order for the characters. This is actually quite deliberate given some of the reveals in later books. For this re-read I have chosen to go with publishing order (unlike last year's Cherryh re-read) as there is actually no real consensus on chronological order. Brust himself cheerily admits he has no clue (or particularly cares, I think). This one is set approximately one year before the debut, chronlogically. This one is, twisty. Each novel is named after a 'house' in Brust's fantasy society. Each house has certain characteristics for which they are known. Yendi are known to like elaborate plots. Thus, Brust establishes one of the central pillars of his storytelling. A fondness for baroque …

Jhereg (Paperback, 1983, Ace) 4 stars

40 years of excellence, let's do a re-read

4 stars

1983! Brust has been working on the Taltos books for 40 years. I decided after reading the latest installment to go for a re-read of the whole series because it appears I haven't reviewed them much on here. This is a very strong debut, definitely in the 4.5 range. The main players are introduced well, the basic premise of Dumas/Zelazny (which reminds me to schedule in a re-read of Amber) type shenanigans is established with flair and the outlines of the world building sketched in. All this in a short (300 pages-ish) novel. This is not your typical fantasy doorstop which makes you sigh just at the thought of starting it. Brust goes off on many tangents in these books, its definitely a life's work, but in the debut he wisely keeps the plot tight and to the point. You fair zip through these books as they are delivered with …

Descendant Machine (2023, Titan Books Limited) 4 stars

Excellent entertainment

4 stars

Another Continuance novel from Mr Powell. The nicest sf author around. I thoroughly enjoyed this, devoured in mostly one sitting. Whilst Powell still wears his influences on his sleeve perhaps a tad much, this one definitely channeled the spirit of Banks, he delivered this with vim and brio. He also seems to have gotten over my quibble with 'Stars and Bones' that he was writing a bit much with an eye to Film/TV adaptations. That made this a stronger book and it flowed better, in my opinion. Strong and engaging characters carried the story along with zip and I definitely wanted to know what happened next. I will definitely, give this a recommend.