And so, continuing on with the "Dying Earth" series, this time following in the footsteps of Cugel (the "clever"), a conniving and amoral rogue as he attempts to fulfil a quest he is unwillingly enrolled on by a wizard.
Cugel is an interesting character, an anti-hero and unusual protagonist for a fantasy novel. He is not especially well endowed with any particular skills or abilities (he's not even particularly clever). He is opportunistic and cowardly, quite willing to sacrifice his friends and acquaintances in order to protect his own skin, puffed up with his own sense of worth and just generally not a very nice fellow. Then again, he's not excessively cruel, sadistic or malicious. He only does what he needs to do but he won't let any scruples get in his way.
Throughout the story, one feels alternately unsympathetic one minute and then quietly hoping for him to succeed the next. Sometimes one feels that he gets dealt an impossibly harsh hand in life but at other times it seems that it is his own stupidity or greed that got him into a sticky situation.
Pervading the narrative was Vance's distinctive style and humour but again, as I did with the previous volume, felt that his prose style matured and improved somewhat later on in his career. But all in all a good and enjoyable read marred only by sometimes finding the prose style not as engaging as I would have liked (and I know Vance often capable of).