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#89 Steven Brust: The Book of Jhereg

Steven Brust: The Book of Jhereg

Paperback: 471 pages
Publisher: Ace Books (Aug 1999)
ISBN-10: 0441006159
Category(ies): Fantasy

The first three novels in the Vlad Taltos series - Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla - have here been collected together. Since this is a single volume, I will review it once rather than three times, though I had the latter two volumes already.

Brust has invented a world that is remarkably unexplained. The city in which this set of stories most occur is a Dragaeran one. The Dragaera are, in general, taller than humans, much longer lived (thousands of years, mayhap tens or even hundreds of thousands), and split into Houses, named after creatures from which they apparently get their characteristics. In this milieu, Vlad Taltos, and Easterner (read human) is trying to make his way. He's an up-and-coming young assassin and local gang leader, attempting to make a living as part of the House of Jhereg, one of the few houses willing to take in Easterners if enough money is available, and the basic criminal underclass in the Empire.

Oh, and he has a Jhereg - a poisonous flying reptile - as a familiar.

This is not your everyday sort of fantasy. Brust shows us a rather unpleasant character, yet somehow makes us like him. It's clear that Vlad is brave, and loyal to his friends, even though the reader would not want him on the same continent. And this simultaneous attraction and repulsion is well judged - it's only when you stop to think that you realise just how nasty the character is. And yet, Vlad himself sometimes come near to recognising that.

The books herein are ordered by publication date - which is sensible, for even though the events of the second one take place before the first, the first is the better introduction to Vlad. It's in the third that Vlad's refusal to assist the downtrodden Teckla (think peasants and slum dwellers) most makes his moral position untenable. But if you'd not had the first two books to introduce you to him, you might be unwilling to stick with him. This depiction of a morally unsympathetic protagonist is well done, though, and is again Not Your Standard Fantasy™.

The result is good fun, but more than mere brain candy.
Tags: books, reviews

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