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The Book of Jhereg and The Book of Taltos by Steven Brust

I'm not sure why I'm bothering to review these, since everyone and their dog has apparently already read them. But I hadn't, so I'm doing it on the off chance that there is someone else (or their dog) who hasn't read' em, yet.

Besides, since when has being late to the party stopped any of us from voicing off about our opinions? So... onward!

So, these books follow the adventures of Vlad the Merry Assassin in his life and work in Adrilankha (or something like that). Well, except not so merry. But at least not angstier than an emo-kid composing poetry on his MySpace page, so close enough, by assassin standards.

Anyhow, Vlad is accompanied by his various friends, and also his Jhereg familiar, Loiosh. A jhereg being, according to all the book covers, etc., basically a very small dragon-like creature, but just described in the books more or less as a winged reptile (and a carrion-eater). And... they have adventures. Many of them. Which is about as descriptive as I can get without spoilers since the two books in question are actually collecting the first five Vlad Taltos novels.

Anyhow, there are a lot of strengths to this series. The characters are fun, and the worldbuilding is pretty nice. There's different types of magic, witchcraft and sorcery and various raw-er stuff, not to mention psionics which seems to be prevalent throughout. Then there is the whole setup of the races - there are the humans or Easterners, of which Vlad is one, who are in the minority in this location and are pretty oppressed for the most part. Then there are the Dragaerans, and Brust dances around the issue of them nicely enough that even my elf-obsessed little self didn't realize what they were until the main character's grandfather finally flat-out said it. (What was wrong with me? Tall, thin, can't grow beards, use sorcery and swords, etc.?) The Dragaerans themselves are divvied up into seventeen houses, each one with an animal name/emblem, and characteristics that they take after. And the world-building goes on from there, and is pretty deep, and strong. Is fun.

My main quibbles with the books (and these aren't enough, at least so far, to make me not enjoy them or want to stop reading) are that a) it's starting to suffer from the Dragonball Z sort of "I've already met/fought against these very powerful people, so now I must ramp it up a notch and deal with even more powerful people!" syndrome, though I'm thinking more on the front of the people he just deals with and talks to than his enemies(1), and b) I'm getting a bit annoyed because at least some of Vlad's very serious problems are caused by HIS OWN RAMPANT STUPIDITY. Seriously, there are some things he should KNOW not to do, and he goes and does them anyway, all the while I'm practically pulling my hair out yelling "no, stop, you idiot!" And then it causes him Big Problems.(2) Well, duh! Oh and let's not forget c) while I really enjoy most of the characters (even when they're bad and we hate them), some of the character shifts in, er, characterization I just really don't buy much. And are annoying. (3)

So anyhow... In general, definite thumbs up, and if you like fantasy and like or at least don't mind morally ambiguous main characters (that are generally Good Guys with the small character flaw of not minding killing people... sometimes fatally...) then you should really give this series a try. At least the first few books, since I can't speak for the rest of 'em. Yet.

(1) - I mean seriously. Having a powerful lord, a brought-back-from-the-dead cousin of said lord, and an undead enchantress existing for tens of thousands of years isn't enough, so he has to start dealing with *goddesses*? And the getting PISSED OFF at them?

(2) - The one sticking out most in my mind is when Cawti's imprisoned, and he gets all pissed off and decides to threaten the main Jhereg dude? Especially when she had the chance to be freed, and turned it down herself? BWAH? *smacks Vlad for his stupidity*

(3) - *smacks Cawti for turning into a stupid binty bint.* Did I mention stupid? I mean seriously, how does a woman do a 180 from one of the most deadly and skilled (and humor-ful) assassins out there, to a "OMG stop the oppression, let's protest, people!" twit in no time flat? Losing her brains along the way to let her and her friends do Really Stupid Shit themselves?


( 8 Notes — Write a Footnote )
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 3rd, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)
As far as the elves thing goes... I *think* what happened is that I started reading "Dragaeran" and because of all the Jhereg on the various book covers I'd seen, and the similarity between "Dragaeran" and "Dragon," I was thinking of them at first sight of the name as some sort of dragon-men, and even after I'd (very soon) read enough to realize that was wrong, it was still just in the back of my mind enough to prevent the elf-picturing. Or something.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 3rd, 2008 03:28 am (UTC)
Now I'm torn. I mean, desdenova is recommending them, and my tastes often run similar to hers, but on the other hand, you say you love them...

(Deleted comment)
Aug. 3rd, 2008 03:41 am (UTC)
Hah. Or even a broken watch...?
Aug. 3rd, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
No, really. The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, and the Viscount of Adrilahnka trilogy are fucking awesome. I like the Vlad books, but the Khaavren books are far better IMHO.
Aug. 3rd, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)
Well, I'd seen some of the other books and realized they weren't part of the main Vlad series, and was wondering if eventually I should pick them up, or not bother. It's good to know!
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 3rd, 2008 05:05 am (UTC)
Including the chewy nougat center?

Edited at 2008-08-03 05:05 am (UTC)
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(Deleted comment)
Aug. 4th, 2008 05:08 pm (UTC)
3. EXACTLY! That's all pretty much my problems in a nice little bundle, plus a little extra. (Hell, I was almost hoping for the Dragaerans to grind those uppity Easterner/humans into the dirt, just to spite Cawti and crew, by the end.)

And beyond that, there's the fact that she's putting Vlad in danger as well, and doesn't even seem to care (or even realize perhaps, which is just... stupid). I mean, she KNOWS how Jhereg works from being inside it for all those years and working with it, so she should know that what she does will probably eventually have repercussions in the House for Vlad, and yet she can't even be bothered to tell him she's *involved* in this mess until one of the members actually comes to the damn house! Plus she knows damn well (if not before, then after the first few days of Vlad's knowledge of this) that he'll go to any lengths and self-danger to try to keep her from getting killed/getting in trouble, and instead of deciding to either stay with him and make some sort of compromise with her activities, or decide to cut him loose and take all the consequences on herself, she plays the wishy-washy "oh, I don't know if our marriage can be saved, but I'll stay with you and keep doing what the hell I want and let you practically kill yourself trying to pull my fat out of the fire" game.

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