My rating: 3.7
This is the 3rd book of the Vlad Taltos series and follows pretty closely after the second time-wise. For some reason, this is one of my least favorite Taltos books.
The story, without giving away too much of the entirety of the plot and/or spoilers involves Vlad caught in a tight spot, which is fairly typical. In this case, he’s stuck in the middle of a 2 way power struggle. Only in this case it’s not just from a professional standpoint – he’s stuck from a personal standpoint as well as his wife, Cawti has become involved on one side.
Of course, in typical Brustian style, Vlad gets stuck deeply in a jam and is able to figure out a plan that is ultimately still pretty satisfying from this reader’s standpoint (YMMV).
No, really, read with caution if you don’t want to get to the heart of this one.
This book is, I think, supposed to be very introspective. Vlad is put in a place where Cawti and everyone else in the book is asking him to choose sides. Easterner vs Dragerean. Peasantry vs nobility. Love vs business. Family vs aspirations.
That’s all fine and it definitely comes through. The problem is that I don’t think Brust was successful at making me care. Cawti goes from being Vlad’s heart to someone who has essentially chosen revolution over Vlad. She has essentially gone through all the same decision-making process as Vlad and the end result is she didn’t choose Vlad. And she’s mad at him about it. And somehow as a reader, we’re supposed to be gut-wrenched about that? This is the thing that I find hardest to swallow. It’s a sucker punch, both to Vlad and the reader. The whole novel the tension and angst between those two just made me angry at her for putting him in that position. And so quickly. It speaks pretty poorly of how emotionally committed Cawti is to Vlad. Others may find this to be fantastically done, but I didn’t enjoy or get anything out of that.
The rest of the conflict issues made more sense. Vlad’s internal struggle between being an Easterner and his newly-learned preincarnation history makes sense. And his war with Herth and even with the Easterner organization. The way he handles all of that seems very true to character. As does his decision not to choose a side in the end.
Overall, it’s an essential story in the series. But not one of my favorites. Still a 3.7, which isn’t bad. Have to round up and give 4 stars, though.