Archives For December 2016

Review: Yendi

JasonC —  December 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

Yendi by Steven Brust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first time I read this one, 20 or so years ago, I don’t think I truly realized how good a book this is. On second reading, it is absolutely fantastic. This book is also a reasonable choice for a starting point for the Vlad Taltos series of books as the events in the book actually occur chronologically prior to the first published book, Jhereg. (Personally, I’d say read Jhereg first, but they’re written in such a way that you can start almost anywhere and pick right up. There is a combination tome – The Book of Jhereg which collects the first three books by publishing order. Definitely go with that if you’re just getting started).

Yendi is a very early story in the Vlad Taltos series, covering several very momentous events that set the tone for events later in the series. In this novel, Vlad fights a territory war against a competing Jhereg named Laris. Both sides are supported by unseen patrons, and the events become bad enough that the Empress even notices and feels the need to intervene.

Along the way, Vlad is assassinated, meets his wife and uncovers a plot that spans hundreds of years and ultimately determines the Dragon heir to the empire.

As with all of the Vlad Taltos books, this is a fast-paced fun read. Brust writes with a very humorous style that I always find brings me several laugh out loud moments per book. While the book is quite action-packed, the backbone of the book is really a sleuthing tale wherein Vlad tries to figure out what is going on and then sets things up to try and win his war against Laris. As always, it’s a fun, engaging read and the details are what ends up making it. All of the usual characters are here – Morrolan, Aliera, Kragar. Cawti and Norathar also show up in dramatic fashion.

Definitely worth the read.

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Review: Jhereg

JasonC —  December 27, 2016 — Leave a comment

Jhereg by Steven Brust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it if you want a fun read that doesn’t constantly regurgitate the standard fantasy tropes.

The series is very well done and still continues to have solid additions. I originally read this book while I was in med school (borrowed it and a couple of the others in the series from a friend who recommended it) about 20 years ago. I’ve started re-reading the series recently and it’s standing up well to the re-read. It’s also useful because it’s helping me to recall some details I’ve long forgotten. Also, in the re-read, there are a TON of inside jokes that hit me harder now that I know the characters well.

This is the first book in the series and should be read first, in my opinion. It is NOT chronologically the first in the series. In fact, there’s a fair amount of chronological jumping in the series, so you might as well get used to that.

Jhereg introduces the reader to Vlad Taltos, who is the primary “protagonist” through all of these books. Vlad is an “Easterner” (an Earth-style human) living in the land of Dragaera amongst another humanoid species he calls “elves” and whom the author calls Dragaerans (they call themselves “humans.”) In Dragaeran society, there are 17 “houses” each with it’s own characteristics. Vlad’s father bought his way into the Jhereg, which is thought of as the house of criminals and is therefore a lower house. Dragaerans typically live hundreds to thousands of years, are 6.5 feet tall or taller and are typically thinly built.

Vlad himself runs a smallish territory in the town of Adrilanka. He also occasionally takes work as an assassin to supplement his income. He has some skill in the eastern arts of witchcraft along with Dragaeran sorcery. He also has some extremely powerful friends and acquaintances. It all makes for some interesting storylines throughout the series.

In this particular book, in addition to meeting the “cast” as it were, the main story involves a leader of house Jhereg hiring Vlad to assassinate another high-ranking member who has pulled a “fast one” on the house itself. As the story unfolds, you find out it’s deeper and then deeper still than anyone knew. As is pretty common with the series, most of Vlad’s time is spent trying to figure things out with frequent flurries of action along the way. There are twists, turns and surprises. I won’t spoil the surprises for you, but I will say it is a convoluted but enjoyable ride the whole way. A great deal of the fun in reading these books is getting to see how Vlad figures things out and how he figures out how to get out of his tight spots.

As a final comment: Steven Brust has built an excellent world in this series. It’s different, but exceptionally well thought-out. In addition to the Vlad Taltos books, there are several other books (6-7) that take place in the same world and focus on other characters who figure prominently through all of the series. Those are worthwhile reads as well. I’m continually surprised that Brust (and these books, in particular) isn’t a much more prominent/popular author amongst those who enjoy the genre. (If you have any insight as to the reason for this, I’d love to hear it. It is mind-boggling to me.)

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