Belated Book Discovery. I don’t know what else to name this dept. But lately I’ve been discovering a lot of good writers who have been around for a while.

This gem was recommended to me by Tor editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden. And boy…after some of the other recent SF/Fantasy offerings I’ve sampled, Steven Brust is a major standout. The Phoenix Guards is not only fun—but like the best writers, Brust will stop you in your tracks now and then with an observation or wry comment so elegant you have to put the book down and grab a high-lighter.The book jacket is frankly vague about his background, but wherever Mr. Brust hails from and what his level of education, it is clear that he loves Alexander Dumas (and probably Jane Austen) and indeed 19th century French literature in general. To say that he imitates Dumas would be misleading. He takes the style, the atmosphere and the entire sensibility and makes it his own. While the fantasy world in which the story takes place is not striking (Brust mercifully spares his readers the obligatory cheesy ‘maps’ that go along with most fantasy novels), and further, his talent for name creation doesn’t exactly result in characternyms that roll off the tongue—you really don’t care because you are so absorbed in his style, the pace and the characters. Even his villains are disarmingly polite. I realize that the self-consciously stylized, often pedantic nature of the dialogue could drive some readers nuts, but I have to say that over 450 plus pages, I never tired of Khaavren, Aerich and their companions–or of the narrator. Brust is a breath of fresh air, especially when compared to the ponderous and heavy-handed narrative styles of the other vaunted fantasy writers working today.

Overall, superb. I’m looking forward to reading the next in line.