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Steven Brust

Steven Brust fantasy author(1955- )
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and raised in a family of Hungarian labor organizers, Steven Brust worked as a musician and a computer programmer before coming to prominence as a writer in 1983 with Jhereg, the first of his novels about Vlad Taltos, a human professional assassin in a world dominated by long-lived, magically-empowered human-like “Dragaerans.” While writing, Brust has continued to work as a musician, playing drums for the legendary band Cats Laughing and recording an album of his own work, A Rose for Iconoclastes. He lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where he pursues an ongoing interest in stochastics.
Click here for more stories by Steven Brust.

Vlad Taltos

Vlad Taltos — (1983-2017) These take place in the same universe as the The Khaavren Romances and have some overlapping characters. Nineteen novels are planned. Omnibus and audio editions are available. Publisher: Quick with both sword and wit, Vlad Taltos makes his way through the world of Dragaera as an assassin, aided by a small talent for magic and a lizard-like jhereg companion.

Steven Brust Vlad Taltos 1. Jhereg 2. YendiSteven Brust Vlad Taltos 1. Jhereg 2. YendiSteven Brust Vlad Taltos 1. Jhereg 2. Yendi 3. Teckla 4. Taltos fantasy book reviewsSteven Brust Vlad Taltos 1. Jhereg 2. Yendi 3. Teckla 4. TaltosSteven Brust Vlad Taltos 5. Phoenix 6. Athyra 7. Orca fantasy book reviewsSteven Brust Vlad Taltos 5. Phoenix 6. Athyra 7. Orca fantasy book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSteven Brust Vlad Taltos The Book of Jhereg, Taltos, Athyra, Dragon, Issola, Dzur, JhegaalaSteven Brust Vlad Taltos The Book of Jhereg, Taltos, Athyra, Dragon, Issola, Dzur, JhegaalaSteven Brust Vlad 11. Jhegaala 12. Iorich Steven Brust Vlad 11. Jhegaala 12. Iorich Steven Brust Vlad 13. Tiassa fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Jhereg: Appealing and now on audio

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Jhereg by Steven Brust

Audio readers, rejoice! Finally, Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS novels have been produced in audio by Audible Frontiers. For years I’ve been planning to read this long series and have only been waiting for this moment.

The VLAD TALTOS novels follow Vlad Taltos, a well-known and highly successful human assassin living on the planet Dragaera. The native species, the Dragaerans, are a tall long-lived race created by sorcerers who cross-bred humans and certain animals. The characteristics of the animals give each clan, or “House,” its name, physical features, and personality traits. The exception is the house of Jhereg (named after a small dragon-like creature) which is a low-class conglomerate of outcasts from other clans and also any true humans who can buy their way in, which is what Vlad Taltos’ father did. Each of Brusts’ ... Read More

Yendi: A prequel to Jhereg

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Yendi by Steven Brust

Loveable assassin Vlad Taltos is back in Yendi, the second in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. Yendi is actually a prequel to the first novel, Jhereg which introduced us to Vlad, his wife Cawti, his familiar, and several of his friends and enemies. Vlad is a new mob boss who is trying to protect his territory from the encroachment of neighboring mob bosses. When one of them sets up a racket in Vlad’s territory, Vlad has to take him on. As usual, he’ll need all his wits and all his friends just to stay alive.

In Yendi we learn a little more about the Dragaeran Empire, the Dragon Lords, and the activities of Vlad and the other bosses, but for some readers the most significant event is the story of how Vlad met Cawti, how she killed him, and how they fell in love. I was looking forward to this story, but it was... Read More

Teckla: In which Vlad Taltos broods

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Teckla by Steven Brust

Teckla is the third novel in Steven Brust’s series about Vlad Taltos, a human assassin who lives in the empire of Dragaera which is populated mostly by a species of long-lived tall humanoids who were genetically engineered by sorcerers and divide themselves into clans depending on their specific traits. In the first VLAD TALTOS novel, Jhereg, we met Vlad, an Easterner whose father bought the family into the nobility of the lowly house of Jhereg. Vlad, like many of the Jhereg, is a crime boss and controls a portion of the city of Adrilankha. In the second book, Yendi, we learned how Vlad met his wife Cawti when she was sent to assassinate him. He died but was revivified by his minions and married Cawti.

The Teckla of the title of this third book are the peasant clan of Dragaera. For generations they’ve been the down-trodden m... Read More

Taltos: Lots of backstory about Vlad

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Taltos by Steven Brust

Taltos is the fourth novel in Steven Brust’s series about Vlad Taltos, a human crime boss in the fantasy world of Dragaera, where humans are short of stature and lifespan compared to the species that rule the world. Taltos is actually a prequel to the previous novels (Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla) in which Vlad tells us about an incident that happened years ago while he was solidifying his reputation as a new crime lord. One of his lackeys tried to cheat him, so Vlad went after him instead of letting the guy get away because he didn’t want to seem weak to his rivals. The man fled to Castle Black, an elusive floating castle owned by the Dragonlord Morrolan. Vlad followed. This is how he met some of the main characters who we already know from the previous ... Read More

Phoenix: A turning point in Vlad’s story

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Phoenix by Steven Brust

Phoenix, the fifth novel in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, is a turning point in Vlad’s story. By the end of this book, his life will have changed drastically. The story begins as Vlad is stuck in a situation that he might not be able to get out of alive. In desperation, he calls on Verra, his patron goddess, for help. She saves him (or so it appears), and in return she demands that he sail to the island kingdom of Greenaere and assassinate its king. Vlad can’t refuse, and so he goes. This sets off a series of events that eventually lead to a Teckla revolution in Adrilankha. During all the turmoil, both Vlad and his wife Cawti, a member of a rebel group, are captured and rescued more than once, and both have reason to believe they don’t have much longer to live. The usual crew is there to help, though, including Kragar (Vlad... Read More

Athyra: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

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Athyra by Steven Brust

Athyra is the sixth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you should probably skip this review until you’ve read Phoenix so that I don’t spoil its plot for you. I’m listening to Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration of the audio versions (Audible Studios) of VLAD TALTOS. Athyra is 8.5 hours long on audio, though I increased the playback speed, as I always do, so it was shorter than that for me. Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration continues to be excellent and I recommend the audio format for this series.

I mentioned in my review of Phoenix that Vlad had come to a turning place in his life. Because of what he did in t... Read More

Orca: Brust is still playing around with voice and structure

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Orca by Steven Brust

Orca is the seventh book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. It’d be best to stop here if you haven’t read the previous books. We don’t want to spoil anything, do we?

Okay, so you should recall that Vlad Taltos, everyone’s favorite Jhereg assassin, is wanted by his organization because he betrayed them in order to save his wife from the executioner’s ax (or whatever implement the executioners in Dragaera use). Vlad has given up his territory and is on the run. In the last book, Athyra, he met a boy named Savn who helped him defeat a necromancer. Because Savn used a Morganti weapon to kill the bad guy, Savn is now witless, and he’s been that way for a year. Feeling responsible for Savn’s condition, Vlad finds a woman who may be able to heal him. In return, Vlad will try to find and ... Read More

Dragon: In which Vlad Taltos is a soldier

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Dragon by Steven Brust

Dragon is the eighth novel in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. As you’re reading the series, it probably doesn’t matter when you read Dragon since it’s really a stand-alone story which tells of a battle that occurred earlier in the series’ chronology, just after the events of Taltos, which was a prequel to the first three VLAD TALTOS novels. (As you can see, the books jump around in time). But Dragon is not one of the better volumes, so I wouldn’t recommend, say, reading it first and basing your judgment of the entire series on this novel. Read Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla and Taltos first.

Most of the VLAD TALTO... Read More

Issola: Vlad is back!

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Issola by Steven Brust

I miss the days when I used to be nostalgic.” ~Vlad Taltos

I’ve been slightly disappointed with the last few novels in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, but with Issola, book 9, Brust returns to what I liked about the earlier books. While I admired Brust’s willingness to experiment with his world, his characters, and especially the narrative structure of his novels, I think he’s best when the overall plot is moving forward and Vlad is using his assassin skills to solve mysteries and help his powerful Dragonlord friends.

In Issola, we’re back to a present timeline. Vlad and Cawti are separated but Vlad is starting to recover from the funk he’s been in for quite a while now. He’s been run out of his organization and is hiding from them in the woods. Then L... Read More

Dzur: In which Vlad Taltos eats a lot

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Dzur by Steven Brust

In Dzur, the tenth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, Vlad is finally back in the city of Adrilankha. I suspect that most fans will be thrilled to return to that decadent cosmopolitan city; it’s just so much more interesting than watching Vlad roam around the countryside. Fittingly, each of the chapters in Dzur is named for one of the items Vlad is served at his favorite restaurant during a gourmet meal that runs parallel to the main plot of Dzur. (Vlad, an assassin by trade, is quite the foodie and, while he dines, he often points out the analogies between preparing a gourmet dinner and preparing to make a hit.)

So, he’s back in Adrilankha eating with a new Dzurlord in his favorite restaurant and telling us what happened just after the events of the last book... Read More

Jhegaala: Vlad is one of the most entertaining protagonists

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Jhegaala by Steven Brust

Jhegaala is the 11th novel in the excellent VLAD TALTOS series by Steven Brust. In case you're not familiar with the series, Vlad Taltos is a human assassin living in the Dragaeran empire. Dragaerans are human-like, but live for 1000 years or more and have a complex society divided into 17 Great Houses which all bear some resemblance to a real or mythical animal. So we have the Houses of the Orca and the Hawk, but also the Houses of the Dzur, Dragon, and Jhegaala. Since humans are not part of the Empire, Vlad's father bought his son a title in the House of Jhereg — which is named after a reptilian scavenger and is basically the crime syndicate of the Empire.

Vlad is one of the most fascinating and entertaining protagonists in current fantasy: a smart-ass, bon-vivant assassin who enjoys good food and wi... Read More

Iorich: A blast for Vlad Taltos fans (if you’re not one, you should be)

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Iorich by Steven Brust

Remember those episodes of Matlock in which someone is arrested for a crime, but during the investigation it turns out that the arrest was really just a front for a much larger intrigue? Steven Brust's newest VLAD TALTOS novel Iorich is sort of like that — except the person who is arrested is Aliera e'Kieron, and the larger intrigue involves Empress Zerika of the Dragaeran Empire. Oh, and Matlock's role is played by Vlad Taltos, human assassin and bon-vivant, who is still on the run from the Jhereg but has returned to Adrilankha to help out his friend Aliera. (Disclaimer: I actually don't know if there are episodes of Matlock like that, but it seems likely. Also, I realize I should probably have used a more current legal show like Law & Order, but I know even less abo... Read More

Tiassa: Some of the smartest and most entertaining fantasy around

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Tiassa by Steven Brust

Tiassa is the thirteenth Vlad Taltos novel by Steven Brust, and counting Brokedown Palace and The Khaavren Romances, the nineteenth book to date set in Dragaera. Over on tor.com (where this review was also published), Jo Walton has written an excellent series of blog posts about the series so far so I won’t waste your time trying to summarize this amazing series and instead direct you to Jo’s spoiler-free introduction just in case you’re new to Dragaera.

Speaking of newcome... Read More

Hawk: Feels more like the earlier novels

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Hawk by Steven Brust

"My heart gave a thump. It had been doing that a lot lately. I wished it would stop. I mean stop giving random thumps, not, you know, stop." ~Vlad Taltos

Note: This review contains spoilers for previous novels in the series.

Hawk is Steven Brust’s fourteenth (and latest) novel about Vlad Taltos, a charming assassin living in Dragaera. Over the past 31 years, fans of this series have been through a lot with Vlad and Loiosh, Vlad’s flying reptilian familiar.

We first met Vlad when he was at the top of his game, running the Jhereg criminal organization of Adrilankha. Then he married Cawti, who also used to be an assassin but later became a social revolutionary. The change in her worldview was too much for the marriage to handle and they separated, but that didn’t stop Vlad from betraying the Jhereg i... Read More

The Khaavren Romances

The Khaavren Romances: Two prequels and The Viscount of Adrilankha Trilogy — (1991-2004) Publisher: The Dragaeran Empire is a hotbed of intrigue, sorcery, intrigue, swashbuckling adventure, and intrigue. For those who would be heroes, it is a delightful time to be alive — and an easy place to die. Khaavren of the House of Tiassa is a son of landless nobility, possessor of a good sword and “tolerably well acquainted with its use.” Along with three loyal friends, he enthusiastically seeks out danger and excitement. But in a realm renowned for repartee and betrayals, where power is as mutable as magic, a young man like Khaavren, newly come from the countryside, had best be wary. His life depends on it. And so does the future of Dragaera. When swordplay beckons, it’s all for one — and one for… The Phoenix Guards.

The Phoenix Guards prequels            The Viscount of Adrilankha Trilogy
Stephen Brust The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years AfterStephen Brust The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After        Steven Brust The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, Sethra LavodeSteven Brust The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, Sethra LavodeSteven Brust The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black, Sethra Lavode

The Phoenix Guards: Very nice change of pace

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The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust

The brief review: I had a slight smile on my face the entire time I read The Phoenix Guards. It is, as a reviewer of The Three Musketeers might have once said, "charming."

To elaborate: Steven Brust is very well (some might say "over") educated and knows how to turn a phrase. The plot moves along briskly; the characters, while not fleshed out too thoroughly, do have distinct and effective personalities. I was, at first, a bit lost about the world's/realm's infrastructure of Houses and about the characteristics of each (and what animals the fantasy names correlate to). However, I've not read the Vlad Taltos series, which apparently sheds some light on those matters.

This is not a book to be read at breaknec... Read More

Five Hundred Years After: Brust is brilliant

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Five Hundred Years After by Steven Brust

If there were justice in the literary world, you'd think Steven Brust would have received more acclaim and notice, as Brust's writing is crisp and lively, his pacing excellent.

As explained in an "interview" with the book's pompous narrator, Brust writes for those who love to read, i.e. those who enjoy a good vocabulary, good grammar, good phrasing, and (indeed) a good story. This is not some "page-turner" to be engulfed at one-sitting; if you did that with a box of Godiva chocolates, you'd become ill and lose the appreciation for each one. Just so with each of the book's chapters. The plot does slow a little too much in places — often due the musings of the intruding, over-erudite narrator — but there are worthy adages, tales and metaphors therein; don't miss them.

This is a fi... Read More

The Paths of the Dead: Irksome, but I want to read more Brust

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The Paths of the Dead by Steven Brust

The Paths of the Dead is the first book in Steven Brust’s THE VISCOUNT OF ADRILANKHA trilogy, which is a sequel to The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years. Each of these books is an installment in Brust’s KHAAVREN ROMANCES and they’re all related to his VLAD TALTOS books which, at this moment, consist of 13 novels. All of these books have just been released in audio format by Audible Frontiers. I picked up The Paths of the Dead after reading that it can stand alone. You might wonder why I started here and, honestly, it’s because we already had reviews for some of the VLAD TALTOS novels and for The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years ... Read More

The Incrementalists (by Steven Brust & Skyler White)

The Incrementalists — (2013-2017) Publisher: The Incrementalists — a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories. Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste — and argued with her — for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules — not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSteven Brust & Skyler White The Skill Of Our Hands

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fantasy and science fiction book reviews

The Incrementalists: An ambitious collaboration

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The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skyler White

The Incrementalists is collaboration between authors Steven Brust and Skyler White. I was more familiar with White going in, having enjoyed her trippy novels and Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin. My experience with Brust’s vast catalogue was sadly limited to having read The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars many years ago while obsessively collecting the FAIRY TALE SERIES. In The Incrementalists, Brust and White team up to create a millennia-old secret society dedicated to making the world better... incrementally.

The novel follows two points of view: Phil, a longtime Incrementalist, and Renee (called Ren), whom Phil has selected as a new re... Read More

To Reign in Hell: Fantastic accomplishment

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To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust

The accomplishments here are nothing short of spectacular. Imagine writing a book populated with some of the most well known characters in Western history: Yahweh, Jesus, Satan, Lucifer (yes, they are separate), and the archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel. They all need unique personalities. If they're not, if they're retreads of biblical, Dante, Milton, or others, then the book fails.

Then imagine creating a reason for God to create the Cherubs, Seraph, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, etc. Give all of them a purpose. Imagine creating Heaven, giving essence to creation itself — a Big Bang, in effect. Imagine giving reason for the Fall. Not just the reason given in The Revelation, but a rewriting, of sorts, and one that absolutely has to make sense.

This should seem impossible. Only the greatest writers in hi... Read More

The Gypsy: A Brust & Lindholm collaboration

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The Gypsy by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm

Experienced police man Mike Stepovich anf his green partner Durand apprehend a gypsy suspected of murdering a shopkeeper. Stepovich immediately notices something strange about the gypsy and does something he's never done in his long career. He fails to turn in the knife the gypsy is carrying. Somehow he knows the gypsy is not the murderer and the knife is special. Later that night, the gypsy disappears without a trace from the police cell they are holding him in. Murder investigations are not the territory of an ordinary patrol cop but this case does not let him go, especially when the body of an old gypsy woman turns up. Again, the suspect Stepovich and his partner arrested seems to be involved and Stepovich is determined to find him. His search will lead him into a supernatural power struggle the existence of which he never suspected.

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Other books by Steven Brust

book review Steven Brust To Reign in Hell, Brokedown Palace, The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, AgyarBrokedown Palace — (1986) Publisher: Once upon a time there were four brothers who ruled the land of Fenario — along with a goddess, a wizard, an enigmatic talking stallion, and a very hungry dragon — and lived in a crumbling, Brokedown Palace on the banks of the River of Faerie. Beneath the palace the foundations trembled, for something was rotten in Fenario.


book review Steven Brust To Reign in Hell, Brokedown Palace, The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, AgyarThe Sun, the Moon, and the Stars — (1987) Publisher: Once upon a time there was a kingdom that lived in darkness, for the sun, the moon and the stars were hidden in a box, and that box was hidden in a sow’s belly, and that sow was hidden in a troll’s cave, and that cave was hidden at the end of the world. Once upon a time there was a studio of artists who feared they were doomed to obscurity, for though they worked and they worked, no one was interested in the paintings that stood in racks along their studio walls. The Sun, the Moon, & the Stars is a tale of two quests, of two young men who are reaching for the moon. And the sun. And the stars.


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille— (1990) Publisher: Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille serves the best matzoh ball soup in the Galaxy, and hires some of the best musicians you’ll ever hear. It’s a great place to visit, but it tends to move around — just one step ahead of whatever mysterious conspiracy is reducing whole worlds to radioactive ash. And Cowboy Feng’s may be humanity’s last hope for survival. Steven Brust’s time-traveling, science fiction thriller is a rollicking, fun read.


book review Steven Brust To Reign in Hell, Brokedown Palace, The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, AgyarAgyar — (1993) Publisher: A novel of immortality — and its price. Born over a century ago, Agyar was once a frivolous young man, before he found unwanted immortality in a woman’s blood-red lips. Now he goes from woman to woman, and decade to decade, finding himself at last in an Midwestern college town, where he must choose between the seductions of salvation — and of destruction.


By Steven Brust & Emma Bull

Steven Brust Emma Bull Freedom and NecessityFreedom and Necessity — (1997) Steven Brust and Emma Bull. Publisher: It is 1849. Across Europe, the high tide of revolution has crested, leaving recrimination and betrayal in its wake. From the high councils of Prussia to the corridors of Parliament, the powers-that-be breathe sighs of relief. But the powers-that-be are hardly unified among themselves. Far from it… On the south coast of England, London man-about-town James Cobham comes to himself in a country inn, with no idea how he got there. Corresponding with his cousin, he discovers himself to have been presumed drowned in a boating accident. Together they decide that he should stay put for the moment, while they investigate what may have transpired. For James Cobham is a wanted man — wanted by conspiring factions of the government and the Chartists alike, and also the target of a magical conspiracy inside his own family.And so the adventure begins… leading the reader through every corner of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, from the parlors of the elite to the dens of the underclass. Not since Wilkie Collins or Conan Doyle has there been such a profusion of guns, swordfights, family intrigues, women disguised as men, occult societies, philosophical discussions, and, of course, passionate romance.Nor could any writing team but Steven Brust and Emma Bull make it quite so much fun…