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 a disappointment. The romance was dull and not very believable because of how instantaneous it was. Another complaint I have is the same thing I complained about in my review of the first book, Jhereg: Vlad solves crimes or mysteries by using convoluted suppositions that just happen to be right and there’s no way the reader could have figured out what was going on. This is disappointing because I’ve learned that it’s not much use to try to use my brain to remember clues or reason out a conclusion — I’ll never work it out on my own.
This sense of feeling slightly lost is part of Steven Brust’s unique style. He drops you right into his complex world, but only gives cursory explanations of the characters, politics and history as he goes along. Generally I like this technique because it doesn’t interrupt the plot, but there were several times while reading Yendi that I wasn’t certain that I understood the implications or all the nuances of what was happening. I was reading the audio version, so I’m not sure if I missed a glossary in the back, but fortunately there are plenty of resources on the internet for those seeking to study more of Brust’s world.
Even though I don’t fully understand Brust’s world yet, I like it. I like Brust’s sense of humor (very dry) and I like Vlad Taltos and his turf war. I’m going to keep reading this series for these reasons and because I have friends whose opinions I trust who love this series. I expect that the more I learn, the more I’ll like it, too.
I read the audio version which was recently produced by Audible Frontiers and read by Bernard Setaro Clark who is excellent in every way. Yendi is less than 7 hours long.