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Five Hundred Years After    by Steven Brust order for
Five Hundred Years After
by Steven Brust
Order:  USA  Can
Orb, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Steven Brust's Five Hundred Years After is a sequel to The Phoenix Guards (which reminded me in many ways of Dumas' The Three Musketeers). In the first book, Khaavren befriended Pel, Aerich and Tazendra, all of them members of the Phoenix Guards, and they were embroiled in complex Imperial politics, in which most parties wanted them out of the way. After many hair-raising adventures, they survived - and even did some good - but went their separate ways at the end of the book.

Early in Five Hundred Years After, Khaavren is appointed Captain of the Guard and is a target of repeated assassination attempts. The Empire (ruled by weak Tortaalik I of the House of the Phoenix, who is overly influenced by his Consort) is not in good shape - drought has led to economic problems and uprisings, and the great Houses are holding back badly needed tax payments. An old enemy of Khaavren's (who now calls himself Greycat) foments trouble, planning to exploit it in order to earn imperial favor and rise up in the world once more.

In addition to this old enemy, an old friend of Khaavren's is soon at the center of events - Adron e'Kieron, Duke of Eastmanswatch and Dragon Heir. His daughter Aliera accompanies him to court where she quickly befriends (in the adversial manner of Dragons) Sethra Lavode, the infamous and undead Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, and just as quickly arouses the Consort's jealousy. Naturally, with Khaavren in danger, his old friends ride hard to the rescue. Pel, Aerich and Tazendra soon fight - and banter - by his side.

After the Emperor (prompted by the Consort) insults Aliera, her enraged father gets ready to unleash both his Breath of Fire Battalion - and terrible elder sorcery - against the ruler, leaving Khaavren and fellows in the unpleasant position of having to fight against an old and valued friend. Along the way, Khaavren takes the time to fall in love with brave and honorable Daro, Countess of Whitecrest, who was exiled from court for vehemently objecting to the Consort's actions.

Five Hundred Years After is another great Dragaeran romp, in the tradition of Dumas' Twenty Years After. Brust has fun introducing many characters who play roles in his Jhereg novels - from Sethra Lavode to legendary assassin Mario. The author aptly summarizes his history as 'The greatest evil, the greatest heroism, the greatest disaster, the greatest triumph, the greatest horror, the greatest love'. Don't miss it.

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