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 masses. But now they have a charismatic leader who is stirring them up and fomenting revolution. The Easterners have joined them and so has Cawti, Vlad’s ultra-competent wife. The revolution is causing some difficulties for Herth, one of the other Jhereg bosses and Vlad learns that Herth plans to murder the leaders of the revolution, including Cawti. Vlad is being pulled in multiple directions. He wants to please and protect his wife, and his heritage is Easterner, but he’s now a noble in one of the Dragaeran houses. What is a cold-hearted crime lord assassin to do? Kill people, of course.
For such a short book, there’s plenty of plot in Teckla — assassinations, investigations, revolutionary rallies, break-ins, kidnapping, torture, rescues. To emphasize the action, Brust titles each chapter with a snippet from the laundry list that Vlad Taltos must have compiled at the end of the adventure — “Chapter 3: And repair cut in right cuff,” “Chapter 4: One pair gray trousers: remove blood stain from upper right leg.” These cute chapter titles foreshadow the events in the chapter.
But the main focus of Teckla is Vlad’s insecurities about his own profession and lifestyle and his relationship with Cawti. Cawti wants to live her own life, but she’s heading into trouble. Vlad just wants to protect her, but she doesn’t want his protection. Vlad also doesn’t want to cause more tension between himself and the other nobility of Dragaera. The couple find themselves being pulled in opposite directions and starting to wonder how well they actually know and love each other.
I like the VLAD TALTOS series mainly because I like Vlad Taltos. I like his competence, his breezy but philosophical style, his thoughtful analysis of himself and others, and the amusing way he looks at life. In Teckla, Vlad is mostly feeling insecure and depressed, which is unusual for him (or so it seems to me after reading the previous two books). I enjoyed how he began to question his place in Dragaera and his thoughts about social status, the government’s role in society, the worship of causes and ideas, and the need for revolution. But because of his failing marriage, Vlad does a lot of brooding in this book. While it makes him feel human and sensitive (which is kind of nice for an assassin, I suppose), it’s not the Vlad Taltos we know and love and, frankly, it gets tiresome, and even annoying, after a while. I hope that Vlad will be back to himself in the next novel, Taltos.
I’m listening to Bernard Setaro Clark’s excellent narration of Audible Frontier’s audio version.