1. Brust, Steven. Brokedown Palace (269 p.)
2. Pratchett, Terry. Jingo (Discworld) (437 p.)
3. Brust, Steven. The Phoenix Guards (Khaavren Romances) (331 p.)
4. Brust, Steven. Five Hundred Years After (Khaavren Romances) (443 p.)
January total: 1,480 pages
2013 YTD total: 1,480 pages
Jingo is a fairly severe--yet, in true Pratchett style, also lighthearted--indictment of war mongering and the mass hysteria that is often described by the participants as "patriotism" but is better described by everyone else as "jingoism". This is one of the "Guards" Discworld books, and the main hero of this one is Sam Vimes, who through no fault of his own goes from police commander to military commander to duke, all while waging & preventing war between Ankh-Morpork & Klatch over an island with Cthulhoid architecture that suddenly rises in the sea between the two nations. Like most Discworld books, thoroughly recommended.
Brokedown Palace is is something of an homage to the "national origin" style of fairy tale, except with several of the stock elements turned on their head. It's related to the Vlad Taltos books in that it is set in the distant past of the land of Fenario (Brust's analogue of Hungary, the country in the East where Vlad's family came from), and one of the characters crosses the mountains to visit "Elfland" (in other words, Dragaera). Four princes, brothers, live in a rambling castle that has also fallen into severe disrepair. The eldest of them is king, and increasingly paranoid about trying to retain the status quo at all costs, while the youngest (it's always the youngest) gets chased out, goes on a knowledge quest, and returns home to shake up the status quo. Along the way there's a princess, a talking horse, a Demon Goddess, and a tree that starts growing indoors from a drop of blood. The pacing felt a little uneven to me, but the quality of the authorial craft that went into this was still obvious. Recommended.
The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years After are the first two volumes of Brust's homage to Dumas' d'Artagnan Romances series (specifically, The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After). The narration and action is done in an overblown, swashbuckling style that is more typical of Dumas than that of the Vlad Taltos books, and while it was well-done, it got on my nerves more than immersing me in the story--it often takes characters two full pages of witty repartee just to announce, "I have something I have to tell you", and by the end of the conversation, everyone else in the room--including the reader--is yelling, "Get on with it, already!" The second book also depicts the origin of the Lesser Sea of Amorphia that is mentioned in some of the later Vlad Taltos books, a.k.a. "Adron's Disaster", sets up the Interregnum and what happened to Lady Aliera before it, the aftermath of which are, respectively, retold & depicted in the earlier Taltos novels. And both books set up the character of Khaavren, who is featured so prominently in the Taltos book Tiassa. I found the second book more readable than the first due to including more action and less of the overblown talky-talk (in part because the main character has become a bit more experienced & jaded between the two books), but I found the adventure of the first more interesting than the second, in large part because of the tragic nature of the second book.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf