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To Reign in Hell

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,903 Ratings  ·  176 Reviews
The time is the Beginning. The place is Heaven. The story is the Revolt of the Angels—a war of magic, corruption and intrigue that could destroy the universe.
To Reign in Hell was Stephen Brust's second novel, and it's a thrilling retelling of the revolt of the angels, through the lens of epic fantasy.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 7th 2000 by Orb Books (first published 1984)
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City of Bones by Cassandra ClareHush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareCity of Ashes by Cassandra ClareFallen by Lauren Kate
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214th out of 1,754 books — 2,774 voters
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Sympathy for the Devil
41st out of 176 books — 309 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 31, 2013 Jon added it
Recommended to Jon by: Beyond Reality Jan 2010 Selection
Nov 08, 2007 Sarah rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People obsessed with The Fall
One of my all-time favorite literary genres/subjects is The Fall from Heaven; I eat that stuff up. So I was really excited about To Reign in Hell. But, honestly, I was disappointed in this book. There is a lot going for it, certainly - it's a very novel approach, and I like how Brust treated a lot of the characters. But, to parrot a review that I read online, I can't stand a plot that hinges on Big Misunderstandings that are based on people not talking to each other. And, yes, that's the root of ...more
Oct 03, 2010 Kathryn rated it liked it
I initially rated this 4 stars but that is not sitting well. I love Brust's originality and his lack of fear to take such a well known story and shape it to his own ideals, which I think I actually agree with. But I thought maybe that was over done. I kept thinking, "really?!, are these characters supposed to be this stupid? Can they really not see what is going on?". The plot moves along due to miscommunications and near misses, by deceit and sheer ignorance. I guess that might have been intent ...more
Dec 16, 2015 Becky rated it it was ok
Oh, where to start? I have to say that I was expecting more out of this one. It just didn't really do it for me. The introduction by Zelazny only raised my expectations too, I must say. For him to say that he doubted that Brust could pull off what he set out to do, but found that he was wrong to doubt, and then decided it was good enough for him to write an intro for the story rather than just some cliched blurb for the back cover, that made a change to my expectations.

The beginning started out
Aug 07, 2012 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Milton's "Paradise Lost"
Recommended to Eric by: Mike Reineke
Shelves: fantasy, religion
Before you pick this up, you should know that it's blasphemous. Seriously blasphemous. Personally, I loved that about it, but you might not (I'm looking at you, people that picketed Dogma, and you, people that think Harry Potter is the work of the devil). You've been warned.

In general, I enjoy different takes on creation and theology, from classics like John Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante Aligheri's Inferno to contemporary works such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, Christopher
4.0 to 4.5 stars. A fantastic retelling of the "Fall" of Lucifer from his point of view. An original, intelligent, and very enjoyable novel.
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile
Feb 12, 2010 colleen the fabulous fabulaphile rated it it was ok
Recommended to colleen the fabulous fabulaphile by: Beyond Reality book group
Shelves: dark-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 23, 2015 Chris rated it really liked it
I thought about 3-stars for this, but it honestly had me too captivated for that. TRIH was well written, but not deeply written. The story never really reached its full potential to me. It could have been truly epic in scope, with the material Brust had to write from.

This seemed more like a social comedy. It wasn't slapstick silly humor, though there was the occasional subtle joke that had me laughing. It was written to be very dialogue-heavy, and the shifting scenes made it a quick read.

I wasn'
Gloss on Milton demonstrates that Hell, contra Sartre, is a self-inflicted wound.

Setting is the formless chaos of Genesis 1, wherein cacoastrum, the toxic stuff of formless chaos is transformed into illiaster. Unchaotic, however, our ability to trace this name through its etymology, which might well be ‘shit of the stars,’ or so. Paracelsus otherwise derived the term ‘yliaster’ from hyle, matter, and astrum--for alchemists in search of the philosopher’s stone, this is prima materia.

“The flux cr
Apr 14, 2016 David rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
Boring, juvenile, prurient, unimaginative, flat characters, predictable plotting, lifeless prose.

But, on the other hand, this work is stacked up against Dante, Goethe, Milton, Blake, and a galaxy of lesser writers that have all taken Xtian myth into new and interesting environments. To even try your hand at this takes moxie.

That it fails miserably is almost to be expected...but then it is just genre fiction...which is never meant to be literary or thought provoking in any significant manner.

No stars for this one.

Occasionally I run across a book I dislike so much it goes into the recycled paper bin instead of to a friend or to a secondhand bookstore.

This is odd, because I've really enjoyed several other books by Stephen Brust. Additionally, I loved "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelazny, who wrote an enthusiastic review of this book and whose work it occasionally resembles.

Right in the face of all that, 'To Reign in Hell' was awesomely awful.

So...very...much of it was consumed with chara
Sep 03, 2010 Christina rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Anyone who loved "Paradise Lost"
Recommended to Christina by: sci-fi book club
"To Reign in Hell" is like the movie "Jawbreaker" - or even better, "Saved" with Mandy Moore - in heaven.

Heaven is apparently a great big box floating in space with "cacoastrum" (choas, though I can't ignore how much the first part of that word sounds like "caca") all around it - sort of what high school feels like when you're 15 or 16. Occasionally the cacoastrum breaks in, and some angels die and some new angels are created.

Yaweh, Satan, Lucifer and Lilith are the cool student council kids of
Apr 16, 2010 Ron rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, maps
Trite, sophomoric. It's been done and by better authors.

Good premise: new twist on a (very) old story--you know, turn everything in the original on its head--but it didn't work. Folks who like turning classics inside out (almost a modern genre in itself) may like it. Trades on a well-known "cast" but bends the characters in totally new--and unlikely--directions. Milton ought to feel ripped off.

Technically, it's hard to understand what Zelazny found as "consummate grace and genuine artistry." Is
Oct 28, 2014 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
What do they say - history is written by the winners.

I loved loved loved this book about the battle in heaven. We've got it all - Mephistophles, Lucifer, Satan, Yahweh, Michael etc. etc. and if you're not pulling for the devil to kick gods ass by the end of this book then I don't what book you're reading.

Steven Brust writes an amazing story with larger than life characters that you care about - it's a surprisingly short book that feels like the best of a 1000 page epic fantasy.

Highest possible r
Michael Battaglia
Jul 16, 2015 Michael Battaglia rated it it was amazing
It's a bit of a cliche to point out that in retellings of the fall of Lucifer, the great Lord of Hell and Heavy Metal often comes across as the far more interesting character compared to He Who Was Rebelled Against, since while Satan can be charismatic and charming and devious, most of the Almighty's motivations come down to variations on "Because I said so." Which basically turns him into your mom. And while a book about your mom might be fascinating, without the influence of the one causing al ...more
Duffy Pratt
May 30, 2015 Duffy Pratt rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A re-imagining of the fall, but Brust paints Yaweh as Stalin, while Satan is more like Trotsky. And given Brust's politics, that makes Satan the doomed hero. There's much that is clever and likable here, but it wasn't profound, nor (and much worse) was it a lot of fun. There were some wonderful moments, and Brust leans very heavily on history having been written by the side of the winners.

The main problem I had is that none of the characters were very interesting. But I think that's also a probl
Feb 05, 2013 Jesse rated it it was amazing
Rating: 5 stars

Why? It made me think. Seldom do I find a book that makes me think, and allows me to picture heaven in the following way:


(Pictured center: Yaweh)

To Reign in Hell took a fictional story we thought we knew, and turned it on its head.

Err... wait, you're saying the bible wasn't fictional? Excuse me then while I go part that ocean over there so that talking, burning bush can get to the other side without getting its leaves wet--whereupon it will still be held in higher esteem than any
May 25, 2011 Eveningstar2 rated it really liked it
Frustrating and brilliant.

Like Zelazny, who wrote the foreword to this book, I didn't think Brust could handle it. A story about Satan's rebellion against God? There were so many ways this book could fail. It didn't. It held together with a kind of chaotic intricacy, a huge mess of a plot that somehow holds itself together by virtue of its author's skill and ends with a gratifying finale.

Brust doesn't take any sides here. This book is not a thinly veiled postmodernist attempt to destabilize Chri
Greg Heath
Nov 02, 2010 Greg Heath rated it it was amazing
Perhaps my favorite novel of all time, Steven Brust's "To Reign in Hell" is a novel that humanizes what is quite possibly the most reviled figure in literary and popular history - the Devil, himself. Set just prior to the events that will lead to the war in heaven and subsequent fall of Satan, the story opens with an ominous tone: there is a wave of flux energy coming soon, dubbed the Fourth Wave, that will tear down the walls of heaven and simultaneously create and destroy life indiscriminately ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christians and atheists alike
This book influenced me so strongly as a teenager that decades later i'm obliged to retain the 5 star rating even though it's nowhere near as great a book as the others i've rated 5 stars. I've probably read it 4 times in my life, but i might never read it again.

I think i identified most with the Mephistopheles character, but boy did i get irritated at multiple instances with various major characters. If we can infer from Brust's characters what he thinks about human character, then we're mostly
Feb 11, 2012 John rated it did not like it
Shelves: sf, utter-crap
When I saw this book, I immediately bought it because the concept seem like a "can't lose" proposition. It started OK, but then just got slower and slower. I kept thinking, "Put this turkey down. But no, what if it gets better?" So I kept reading. Well, guess what? It never gets better.

The primary action in the story appears to be shrugging. It is by far the most prevalent verb. The word shrug is probably used about 80 times (I'm being conservative in my estimate). And that that about sums it u
Gustavo Lanzas
Sep 09, 2014 Gustavo Lanzas rated it really liked it
Drawing from Milton's Paradise Lost, "To Reign In Hell" tells the story of the first-born in heaven - Yaweh, Satan, Michael, Lucifer, Belial, Raphael, and Leviathan - arising out of the substance of primordial chaos. Fighting against it, they impose order on it, and create Heaven in the process. After a respite, other waves of chaos inevitably break through their walls. But each victory expands Heaven, and increases the heavenly host, as lesser orders of angels are created by imposing order on t ...more
Aug 12, 2014 Faine rated it liked it
The way Brust spins the premise of this novel is quite interesting. The best part of the story is undeniably the beginning, where the angels are united against the "flux" and working to overcome it with the Plan. Those early chapters fly by very quickly. But then the story sort of loses itself in flimsy, unbelievable misunderstandings that escalate into silliness with terrible consequences. It was a little hard to take some of the events in the ending seriously. The characters were very compelli ...more
Apr 19, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Brust is a writer primarily of fantasy and wow is he good. While telling a good story is always foremost, he also seems to enjoy challenging himself and doing things that are interesting. His Vlad Taltos series, about an assassin, is what he's known for, but To Reign in Hell is actually a re-telling of the story of the Fall, of the creation of everything and how Satan got kicked out. Not to give away too much, but in this version it's not really Satan's fault.
Steve Steidle
Jun 24, 2014 Steve Steidle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I haven't enjoyed a book as I did this one in a long time. I will try to do the book justice, but if you really want a compelling review to read the book, read the foreword by Roger Zelazny. This was a weighty topic presented with human (erm...angelic?) characters that were extremely relatable with real emotions, faults and motivations. The writing was engaging, the dialog sharp, and it was surprisingly hilarious (just read the book's opening sentence: "Snow, tenderly caught by eddying breezes, ...more
Carey Hanlin
Jun 15, 2015 Carey Hanlin rated it it was ok
Not uninteresting and definitely imaginative, but the execution was terrible. The entire narrative reads like a play because 80% of the book is fifth grade level dialogue. The lack of detail in the settings and actions of the character might have been intended to create an ethereal feel to heaven, but it really just made the characters and plot difficult to care about or relate to. At times I felt like I was reading the abridged children's version of a more complex and nuanced story. It didn't h ...more
Sep 26, 2014 Cliff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I considered this book quite hesitantly because I had been told many good things about it, so there was the concern of having high expectations. Additionally, Brust's choice of topic to tackle, the War of Heaven, is a story that could use a bit of fleshing out.

And what an interesting take on it. In a way, I'm glad that I have not read Milton's Paradise Lost, because I might be inclined to draw comparisons between them or to consider one view to be more valid than another.

To Reign in Hell was a f
D. Logan
Apr 15, 2009 D. Logan rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This book didn't keep my attention as well as the Taltos Series by this same author, but it was interesting to read. It was definitely a unique take on the war of heaven. All of the ties to what we know where there, but in a unique way that made it into it's own unique story. I imagine there are some who would be offended by the book, but if you read it as the pure fiction it is, it makes for an entertaining read.
Mar 10, 2016 MichaelK rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, fantasy
After enjoying The Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France, I thought I would read some more books that play around with myth of the War in Heaven from Paradise Lost and Judeo-Christian mythology. The Internet recommended To Reign In Hell (1984) by Steven Brust.

Brust's book is a fantasy novel set in Heaven, before the creation of Earth. Brust's Yaweh is not omniscient or omnipotent; he is the first of the Firstborn Angels, not a god. Heaven is a fragile island in a sea of chaos; Heaven's inhabita
Kevin Dobill
Very cool book... Not what you'd expect exactly... like Animal Farm, but with angels. Great creation story, great concept of how all could come into existence.
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Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers' group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, Nate Bucklin, Kara Dalkey, and Patricia Wrede, and also belongs to the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.

(Photo by David Dyer-Bennet)
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“Snow, tenderly caught by eddying breezes, swirled and spun in to and out of bright, lustrous shapes that gleamed against the emerald-blazoned black drape of sky and sparkled there for a moment, hanging, before settling gently to the soft, green-tufted plain with all the sickly sweetness of an over-written sentence.” 3 likes
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