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’ novels in this series is named after one of ... Read More
Steven Brust(1955- )
Steven Brust has been nominated for several awards, including a Nebula and several Locus Poll Awards. You can download one of Brust’s novels for free at his website.
Vlad Taltos — (1983-2011) 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.
Jhereg by Steven Brust
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 wine and has a great sarcastic sense of humor.... Read More
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 about those. So there you have it: Vlad as Matl... Read More
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 newcomers: while I think Tiassa is a wonderful addition to the series, I disagr... Read More
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 by Steven Brust
The brief review: I had a slight smile on my face the entire time I read this book. 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 breakneck speed, as the dialogue must be savored and as there are plot details that could otherwise be... Read More
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 fine, fine work. The swashbuckling spirit of Read More
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 but none for any of THE VISCOUNT OF ... Read More
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 history have succeeded when touchi... Read More
Brokedown 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.
The 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.
Cowboy 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.
Agyar — (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.
Freedom 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…
The Gypsy — (1992) Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm. Publisher: Cigany is the gypsy, stalking the city in a cloud of magic. Stepovich is the seasoned cop, who keeps finding dead bodies in the gypsy’s wake. The Fair Lady is Queen of the Underworld, drawing them both into her murderous web… until only the gypsy’s broken memories stand between Stepovich’s beloved city and the Lady’s dark designs.
The Incrementalists — (2013) 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.