cover image Five Hundred Years After

Five Hundred Years After

Steven Brust, Steven Burst. Tor Books, $23.95 (443pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85179-8

This sequel to Brust's The Phoenix Guard comes close to crossing the line into self-indulgence but is saved by ultimately becoming a rollicking good read. Initially, however, the narrative is buried in such a flow of periphrasis that the reader begins to suspect the dialogue is a metaphor for the Dragaeran Empire's decadence. The suspicion is belied, however, when even Khaavren--the supposedly terse guard captain, who with companions Pel, Aerich and Tazendra is a main protagonist--rambles on. The action accelerates when the Emperor Tortaalik I becomes more imperial and several characters fall in love with Aliera, daughter of Lord Adron (who has his eyes on Tortaalik's throne). The dialogue picks up to keep pace with mounting tension. The author's delight in his creation is ultimately contagious and there is certainly enough adventure to satisfy most readers. If these characters often seem more cautious and world-weary than they did in the first volume (excepting the delightful Tazendra), and the novel is occasionally trying, it is nevertheless a first-rank addition to Brust's works. (Apr.)