Favourite Authors: Steven Brust

I discovered the novels of Steven Brust about four or five years ago.  The first I found was Dragon, and I found it in an op-shop.  It looked interesting, had a great opening few pages (which I skimmed, of course; knowing, as every good reader knows, Not To Judge A Book By It’s Cover), and was about 10 cents.  I don’t recall how many other books I bought that day, but judging from my usual book-buying habits, I would guess between two and three piles.  I got them home, and Dragon sank into the pile of to-be-read books.

A year later, I was pottering around in the book section of Shiploads, certain (as always) that somewhere in there was a positive treasure trove of good books.  I spotted a familiar author name.  Thought: ‘Oh yes, I meant to read that book Dragon.  Same bloke.  Wonder if it’s good?  Should I buy another when I don’t know if it’s good or not?’  And then, of course, I did buy it.  This one was Dzur, which I took home; and, surprise of all surprises, read immediately.

I’ve read a lot of books.  When I was kid, I read two to three books a day; and although that has slipped now that I’m older (and, *ahem*, more responsible), I still read a great many very good books.  I’m always delighted to read a Diana Wynne-Jones book, for example.  Or Patricia Wrede.  Or Terry Pratchett.  To name just a few.  But when I read Steven Brust’s Dzur, I found myself for the first time delighted with the structure of a book.  I hadn’t come across anything like it.  I hadn’t thought about structure before: I know, I know, I’m a writer.  But until I ready Dzur, the full potential and fascination of a cleverly put together structure just never occurred to me.

The structure is as follows: each chapter begins with a meal, lovingly and knowledgeably written.  Moreover, each chapter preface, despite being almost exclusively based on a meal eaten by Vlad (the main character), also serves to advance the main story.  Not to mention the huge boost it gives to character expansion, getting to know Vlad by his fine dining habits (when he can indulge them.)

The next day I pulled out Dragon.  Again, I was amazed and delighted to follow a story structure that I hadn’t ever seen used with this level of accomplishment and panache.  The chapters begin with an excerpt from the present: and smack-bang!we’re right in the middle of the action.  Then each chapter segues into the past, delving into how and why Vlad ended up where he is.  Ultimately, as you might expect, the two parts meet.  It’s fascinating.  And again, it’s something that I’ve never seen before.

Now, with all this talk about wonderful story structure, you might think that structure is all this author has going for him.  Not at all.  He’s also written two of the most enjoyable and compelling characters that I’ve read in quite some time: Vlad Taltos (an ex-assassin, though sometimes not quite so ex-) and his loyal but wisecracking familiar, Loiosh.  I can’t say how much I enjoy the humour and personality that these two exude.  Nor can I over-emphasise how well Steven Brust draws a plotline through his wonderful structures.  I do love a good story.

 

I had to scour the internets for more of Steven Brust’s books.  Those two lucky finds were my last luck as far as he was concerned.  Still, Amazon’s second-hand books proved fruitful, and I discovered to my delight that this newly favourite author of mine was not dead (as too many of my favourite authors are); and was, in fact, still writing!  It was nice to find that I could order quite a few of his titles on my Kindle.  I love my older covers of Teckla and Phoenix and all the rest of them, but it’s kinda nice to have Tiassa on my kindle, too.  And now there’s a new one coming out, so excuse me while I go and wait expectantly with my Kindle . . .

Seriously, guys.  If you’re in the mood for something new, try Steven Brust.  You won’t be sorry.

 

(Addendum: I have to modify my raptures slightly to mention that although I loved the idea of Steven Brust’s Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille, I had to stop reading it on account of the insanely high amount of bad language.  So if, like me, you don’t care to read the f-word five or six times per page, every page, stick to his Vlad Taltos novels.  There’s plenty there to enjoy.)

 

16 thought on “Favourite Authors: Steven Brust”

  1. james1gal May 1, 2014 at 4:38 pmEditReply

    I am lucky that my father had almost all of his earlier books already. They are really good but can be a pain to find sometimes, although hopefully this will change as more of his books are made into e-books.

  2. wgingell May 1, 2014 at 7:46 pmEditReply

    Wow! Lucky you! I had to source most from the USA, have them sent to my sister who lives in the USA (they wouldn’t ship to Australia, anyone would think we had a rep as convicts or summink) and then sent on to me from there. I love having real paper books, but I’ve never been more excited over something than I was about the arrival of the e-reader.

  3. Carl Rigney May 1, 2014 at 9:43 pmEditReply

    I’d also recommend Brust’s other 5 Dragaera novels that don’t involve Vlad, and are written in a very entertaining Dumas-style: The Phoenix Guards, 500 Years After, and the Viscount of Adrilankha trilogy: The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, Sethra Lavode.

    The next book in the Vlad series comes out October 7, 2014: Hawk, and I’m eagerly anticipating it.

    Two other of his books that I enjoyed greatly even though they’re not set in Dragaera: Agyar, and To Reign in Hell. I think Cowboy Feng is an exception in its bad language; I don’t recall any of his other books having much to object to language-wise.

    Jo Walton discussed many of Brust’s Dragaera novels on tor.com very entertainingly, and those essays are collected in her excellent “What Makes This Book So Great.”

  4. wgingell May 1, 2014 at 11:14 pmEditReply

    I have Agyar as well, but haven’t yet been able to get the 5 Dragaera novels or To Reign In Hell. Most of them are on Kindle, though, so I’ll be buying one a week (struggling writer, remember) and settling down in front of the fire with a good cuppa and something chocolate.

    I too am very much looking forward to the release of Hawk. A few of my favourite authors are releasing books in October: haste the day! Sigh. So far away . . .

  5. Corwin May 2, 2014 at 3:14 amEditReply

    I might be able to help with finding books. My email is Corwin AT BRU dot ST which is odd, I know, but does get to me. Anything I can find laying around I’m happy to ship, provided you are willing to prod me a bit should that prove necessary.

  6. wgingell May 2, 2014 at 3:57 amEditReply

    Hi Corwin! Thanks! I’ll definitely be in touch 🙂

  7. Eric May 2, 2014 at 4:47 amEditReply

    My personal favorite of Steven’s is “To Reign In Hell.” A stunning new take on the old myths about the fall of the Angels from heaven (with a great introduction from Roger Zelazny). I am proud to say that Steven is a good friend of mine. He’s also a hoot to talk with, a wise and cunning political debater, and a fine musician. Nice article.

  8. wgingell May 2, 2014 at 5:04 amEditReply

    Thanks, Eric! I haven’t read To Reign In Hell yet, but it’s on the list of kindle titles to buy. I’ve been hoping for the past few years to make it to the 4th Street Fantasy con in order to meet Steven and a few others, so I envy your friendship. I’d gathered he’s pretty much in the know politically from his books: another aspect of his writing that I greatly admire. And as a violinist (well, more of a fiddler, actually) it’s always nice to know there’s more of us out there 🙂

  9. James Zieff May 2, 2014 at 5:40 amEditReply

    you must all get The Brokedown Castle, which deals with the Easterners, and purports to end with…well, i’ll let you try to decide who is who.

  10. James Zieff May 2, 2014 at 5:41 amEditReply

    uh….Brokedown Palace, sorry.

  11. wgingell May 2, 2014 at 5:46 amEditReply

    On order at my local library 🙂

  12. Maghnuis May 2, 2014 at 3:48 pmEditReply

    Brokedown Palace is a gem that stands on its own. The structural, trick, if you will, is, although more obvious, masterfully crafted.
    The entirely unrelated folk tales prefacing each chapter marvelously illustrate a point of the main story line.
    Also, for those who haven’t noticed it yet, The Gypsy is a worthwhile addition to your SZB collection. Although I personally don’t like the book quite as much as most of Steven’s work, it has the delightful advantage of being the only of his books with a published soundtrack. Written by Brust and Adam Stemple it is performed by Boiled in Lead. Although it is not their ‘normal” fair, it is well within their eclectic field of musicianship.

  13. srmcevoy May 10, 2014 at 3:35 amEditReply

    I love Brusts books, I discovered them as they were first coming out. In my last review I mentioned that Jhereg is the first book I ever remember buying myself. http://bit.ly/Tiassa1

  14. wgingell May 10, 2014 at 3:42 amEditReply

    Jhereg is one of my favourites, too. But then, they’re all kinda favourites . . . I do have a preference for Dzur and Dragon though: first books, eh? They always stay with you the longest.

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