Working my way through the Bs, after I finished Biography of Barenziah, I felt a great compulsion to immediately read The Real Barenziah. Since I didn't want to drop an R title into the middle of my B list, and I didn't want to wait until I reached the Rs to talk about The Real Barenziah, I decided to pull these two out and treat them together. I'll probably do the same for Biography of the Wolf Queen and The Wolf Queen.
Biography of Barenziah, by Stern Gamboge, Imperial Scribe. (Three volumes.)
Sniff, sniff. What's that smell? It reeks of propaganda. There are two multi-volume sets about the life of Barenziah, and this is the terrible one. It's kind of worth reading as a companion to The Real Barenziah, but on its own . . . it's a little bit awful.
The Real Barenziah, by Anonymous. (Five volumes.)
Unless "Anonymous" is intended to be Barenziah herself, this can't be considered a historical account, but rather historical fiction. There are too many details that only Barenziah herself could have known. (Yes, I know she wasn't a real person. Stay in character here, okay?) That said, the story is very good.
After reading about the "innocent" and "chaste" Barenziah in Biography of Barenziah, I expected The Real Barenziah to present the opposite extreme. I anticipated a tale of a wicked, evil woman. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find her here depicted as a well-rounded character who did some bad things and who also did some good things. She was a thief and a queen and so many other things, and she had to figure out for herself who she really was. Her feelings and deeds were complex, and I found myself liking the character. I have a few quibbles with typos, misused words, and inconsistencies in the spelling of Riften/Rifton (I don't care which, but each author should pick one and be consistent), but overall I can overlook such small flaws in the face of a well-told story.
Biography of Barenziah, as a companion to The Real Barenziah: two and a half stars.
Biography of Barenziah, alone: One star.
The Real Barenziah, with or without the other set: Four stars.
Note: I am not connected to Bethesda in any way, and no one asked me to do these reviews. I am doing this purely for my own fun, as time allows. I don't have an agenda, other than the joy of reading and writing. If I panned your favorite Skyrim book, sorry. If I gave five stars to one you thought was awful, also sorry. These are my opinions and mine alone. You're entitled to your own.