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To Reign in Hell

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,505 ratings  ·  222 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 St. Martins Press-3PL (first published May 1st 1984)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  3,505 ratings  ·  222 reviews

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Aug 11, 2008 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
Jun 05, 2007 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
Dec 10, 2008 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
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
Oct 25, 2009 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
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. ...more
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommended to colleen the convivial curmudgeon by: Beyond Reality book group
Shelves: dark-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 03, 2009 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'
Sep 05, 2010 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.

Jul 24, 2012 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 know 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 possi
The story here is too thin to do much to shroud the scaffolding of Brust's politics. Add a pile of misunderstandings grown from people failing to speak with each other (my least favorite kind of plot) and a focus on Christian mythology (a subject of no interest to me), and you get a book that just doesn't do much for me, however smooth the writing. ...more
J.W. Griebel
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
Sep 30, 2007 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. ...more
Mar 12, 2008 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
Keary Birch
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
It took a while to get going but eventually a good read. What really happened in Heaven and how Yahweh and Satan ended up toe to toe.
Greg Heath
Sep 06, 2010 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 31, 2010 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
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
Duffy Pratt
Jan 04, 2012 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 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: maps, fantasy
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
Feb 11, 2012 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
Matthew Bates II
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on the christian creation myth and the war in heaven. One trivial thing that bothered me was that Satan and Lucifer were 2 different beings.
Michael Battaglia
Jul 08, 2015 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
Apr 03, 2011 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
May 31, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
Abandoned at 30%. Naïve and silly. I simply don't understand the plot and motivations of the major characters and how anyone could be quite this obtuse. Maybe angels hadn't invented problem solving or critical thinking skills quite yet?

(view spoiler)
D. Logan
Apr 15, 2009 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. ...more
Jun 12, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Disappointing. The heavy use of simplistic dialogue really irked me. It made the "war in heaven" seem like a case of telephone gone awry. The setting was practically nonexistent. The characters all seemed to be naive, like children. ...more
Kevin Dobill
Jan 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Gilbert Stack
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a story of crisis and betrayal, miscommunication and lies, and a brewing civil war. The characters are vivid and the action is filled with tension and quite enjoyable. Written in a different context it would have been a four-star novel. Unfortunately, To Reign in Hell is an effort to retell the story of the war between God (called Yahweh in this novel) and Satan but it accomplishes this by flipping the expectations of who is good and who is evil. Yahweh is described as a dimwitted, small ...more
Tracy Poff
Jan 31, 2020 added it
Shelves: fantasy
A reimagining of the revolt of Satan and the creation of the Earth.

In the beginning was chaos--cacoastrum--from which was formed the first Angel, Yahweh. As he fought for his existence, Satan was formed, then five other angels--the Firstborn. The seven built themselves a fortress against the cacoastrum--Heaven. And this was the First Wave.

As the cacoastrum surged, the walls of Heaven could not hold it back, and the angels were once again forced to fight for their lives. Heaven was expanded, and
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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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