The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

These two books (with more possible) form a prequel to Steven Brust’s more conventional Adventures of Vlad Taltos series, begun in 1983. They are set in the kingdom of Dragaera, where the cycle of ruling Houses is strict. Upon the death of a particular emperor or following a successful revolt, the Orb, a magical security data bank, moves to the successor. Recently, the Aethyra have lost power. The arrogant, young Tortaalik has become the first emperor of the Phoenix cycle. Because individuals can live for millennia, the change is profound. Adron eKieron, the Dragon heir, faces a long wait for his succession.

In The Phoenix Guards, Khaavren, a landless young noble, decides to join the Phoenix Guards, whose duty is to protect the emperor. Along the way, he meets some young companions. Tazendra is a fierce Dzurlord, and Aerich is a judicious and secretive Lyorn. Pel, an acquaintance of Aerich, sponsors them into the Guards, and all four settle into a colorful, anarchically run household.

Many intrigues follow the disruption caused by the change of ruling House. These are exacerbated by the emperors weakness: He depends on favorites and his consort. Adron eKieron also has problems, including a murder in his family. The artist Baroness Kaluma killed the Marquis of Pepperfield; the Pepperfields is an important piece of land because it is on the border of barbarian Easterner territory.

Because arresting the baroness seems to be an adventure that will bring credit to themselves and their regiment, the friends set off on a quest to find her. Khaavren already has doubts, because a woman he loves asked instead that they provide aid to the baroness. The friends become embroiled in a conspiracy by the emperors advisers Lord Shaltre and the sorceress Seodra, who are aided by former favorite Lord Garland and by Khaavren’s inamorata. The advisers hope to wrest control of the Pepperfields from the Dragons and exploit its secret diamond mines.

Because of the power of their adversaries, the friends are nearly forced into fighting the...

(The entire section is 850 words.)