Wednesday, October 25, 2006

JD's Take: Vlad Taltos Series (Steven Brust)

Allow to preface this "review" by saying that this ongoing series of novels are some of my absolute favorite fantasy books. Ergo, I won't even pretend to be objective or fairhanded. Furthermore, there are around 10 of them out so far (with a grand total of 19 planned) so rather than give a full review of each of them (how many times can I say "this book rocks ass. Read it right now" before it loses its charm?) I'm going to post a mini review of each. Furthermore, it's been a little while since I read them and I have forgotten most everything that takes place in them (in fact, my poor memory about this series is one of the major reasons I wanted a blog like this one) so I am rereading the entire series. This time, I am reading it in the approximate chronological order of the stories (no mean feat, Brust plays fast and loose with time) rather than the accepted publication order or my original ass-random order.

So. Let me start with a meta-review of the series. These books take place in a land called Dragaerea, and follow the antics of an assassin named Vlad Taltos (pronounced Tal-Tosh). Dragarea is inhabited primarily by Dragaereans (though they call themselves human), who are significantly taller than humans (7-8 feet), have pointed ears, no facial hair, and don't get fat. If they sound a lot like fairies, you aren't alone. Vlad is not a Dragaerean, he is an Easterner (read: human) who grew up in the Dragaerean Empire. The Empire consists of 17 houses each of which takes the name of an animal (dragon, dzur, jhereg, yendi, etc) and each house does its best to live up to a certain ideal, usually based around the animal. For instance, dzurs are suicidally brave and don't consider a fight fair unless it is them against an army. Each house takes turns controlling the empire in a fixed cycle. Vlad belongs to the house of Jhereg (his father bought the title of baronet), a group very much akin to the real-world mafia. He starts as an enforcer, and when the stories begin he is an established assasin.

Enough background. How about the actual writing? Almost every book is told in a different way, but some things hold fairly constant. Brust is a witty bastard, and it shows in these books. You'll be chuckling through most of the books, so avoid reading them at funerals. The stories read fast, fun, and entertaining throughout the series, and while the content shifts pretty dramatically about half way through, I've thoroughly enjoyed every one. Well, except for Teckla, but that's a special case. These books rock ass, read the right now.

Readers Note: Brust recommends reading the books in publication order, I am deliberatly reading them chronologically out of spite. I'll list the year-of-publication with each book-entry.

Readers Note: These entries will contain spoilers, and are primarily to job my memory at a later date. I wouldn't recommend reading them unless you have read the books. Which you should do. Right now. They rock ass.

Taltos (1988)

Yendi (1984)

Dragon (1998)

No comments: