Phoenix: A turning point in Vlad’s story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPhoenix by Steven Brust fantasy book reviewsPhoenix by Steven Brust

Phoenix, the fifth novel in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, is a turning point in Vlad’s story. By the end of this book, his life will have changed drastically. The story begins as Vlad is stuck in a situation that he might not be able to get out of alive. In desperation, he calls on Verra, his patron goddess, for help. She saves him (or so it appears), and in return she demands that he sail to the island kingdom of Greenaere and assassinate its king. Vlad can’t refuse, and so he goes. This sets off a series of events that eventually lead to a Teckla revolution in Adrilankha. During all the turmoil, both Vlad and his wife Cawti, a member of a rebel group, are captured and rescued more than once, and both have reason to believe they don’t have much longer to live. The usual crew is there to help, though, including Kragar (Vlad’s assistant), Loiosh and Rocza (his jhereg familiars), and Morrollan and Aliera (powerful Dragonlords). There are new faces, too, including a spacey drummer from Greenaere. In the end, Vlad pisses off all the wrong people…

The plot of Phoenix is fast moving and fairly exciting, though I didn’t think it always made perfect sense (such as how easy it was to get close to the king — twice —on that island). Adrilankha is a city on the brink of war and Vlad is highly engaged because not only does he suspect that his actions may have caused the conflict, but his wife is a key member of a group that’s fomenting revolution. Vlad realizes that if she’s arrested and executed as a traitor, it might be his fault. The couple was already having marital problems due to Cawti’s growing dislike for Dragaeran society and Vlad’s role in it. The events in this story may push them apart forever. These events also make Vlad step back and take a look at his life. Is this really who he wants to be? A Jhereg crime boss, an assassin, and the lackey of a demon goddess? We see him questioning everything he stands for. Vlad tends to be flippant and snarky, which makes him fun to listen to, but this inner turmoil gives him more depth.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAll of the political mayhem gives Brust a chance to give us a little more information about how his world works (I admit that I’m still shaky on this and not sure that it all fits together very snugly). We learn more of its political history and how its caste society functions. We also learn, along with Vlad, a little more about how the magic works after Vlad makes some discoveries on the island he visits. (Until now, Vlad has known almost nothing about the world outside his own country.) Lastly, there are some revelations about a couple of Vlad’s acquaintances. Two of them are related in a surprising way.

So, at the end of Phoenix, things are different. Will this be good or bad for Vlad? Will this be good or bad for the series? I guess we’ll see…

Audible Studios’ version of Phoenix is 8 hours long and narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark. He’s got Vlad’s cocky voice down perfectly. I love these audio versions of VLAD TALTOS.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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