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The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
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This is an omnibus collection of the first three books -- by publication date, not by internal chronology -- in Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series. Vlad is a human living in a society controlled by the vaguely elf-like Dragaerans. Opportunities in that society are limited for people like him, but he's managed to do well for himself as an assassin and a crime lord. (Well, I'm not sure "crime lord" is how he would think of it. But that's basically what he is.)

This was actually a re-read for me. I first read these about ten years ago, enjoyed them, and had every intention of continuing on with the series, but for some reason I never did. Well, I've decided to go back to it now, and I figured a refresher on the first three books was in order. Although it may not have been strictly necessary, as they're largely designed to all stand alone.

The three short novels included here are:

Jhereg: In this one, Vlad is hired to kill a very important target on a very strict time schedule, but the person has holed up somewhere where he can't be taken out without dire consequences. The plot is rather slight, and I'm not sure the gimmick used to resolve things is set up quite as well as it could be. But it's entertaining enough. And it does a good job of introducing the series. Both the character and the world are decently interesting, and right from the beginning it feel like they both have a full-fledged history behind them. Brust also uses some common fantasy tropes in ways that don't feel at all cliched, and makes a character who could be very flat and/or unlikable quite sympathetic and human.

Yendi: This is a prequel to the first book, and features a mob war that turns out to have connections to something bigger, as well as the story of how Vlad met his wife. Again, it's an entertaining enough read, although the plot (convoluted as it is) didn't hold my attention quite as well as I might have hoped. I think that might be an artifact of it being a re-read for me, though, meaning that even if I didn't remember any of the details, it still felt a little too familiar. Although maybe it's more because it is a prequel, so you kind of know how things are going to come out for Vlad in the end. I also found the love story part of things a little annoying; it's one of those cases where it feels like the characters fall for each other solely because the author pointed at them and ordered them to. Which is especially disappointing because the characters have enough in common that it would have been easy to believe in their relationship if they'd, y'know, been allowed to have an actual conversation before falling in love. Despite all that, it's not bad, but I think it's the weakest of the three.

Teckla: And this one goes back and picks up shortly after the first book left off. This time, Vlad's wife has gotten involved with a group of revolutionaries, and Vlad is not happy about it. This was definitely my favorite of the three. There's a lot of political discussions, which I'm sure is not for everybody, but I was impressed with the nuanced way Brust handles it all. Plus, it's nice to see a fantasy series that doesn't act like only the aristocrats exist or matter, but rather is willing to acknowledge that there's a lot of exploited underclasses making all those aristocratic doings possible. And the complexity of the political situation is reflected in the complexity of Vlad's character, as he's forced to question his own identity and actions a little, in a way that feels very realistic. There are no instantly life-changing personal epiphanies here, just a lot of thoughts and doubts that get stirred up but not resolved. All of which is perhaps a bit of a surprise in the third book of a series which, up to this point, could probably be fairly described as simple escapist fun. But I think it works. ( )
  bragan | Dec 24, 2016 |
Excellent series. Each story is stand alone, but the more you read, the more the background of the world and the recurring characters develops. Well written, funny and highly recommended ( )
  Archmage | Apr 6, 2016 |
Mostly enjoyable collection of stories about a human assassin on a planet where humans are definitely second class rubbish. Vlad is a wise-cracking, mobster type, but basically good-hearted. Heck, even his poisonous dragon companion is wise-cracking.
The stories are not in order, which kind of lets the cat out of the bag as to what's supposed to happen plot-wise later in the book. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
Obviously this is a classic fantasy novel and the series has been around forever but for some reason I never got around to it. I knew the main character was an assassin so I thought this was going to be really dark. It wasn't at all. It was just kind of normal with a faint sprinkle of kinda lame humor. I almost stopped reading it about 50 pages in but then the plot got interesting and kept getting more interesting. It was a short book so I stuck it out and actually enjoyed it.

There seems to be some question about the order of the books in this series and the author says himself that he tried to write them independently of each other but this one definitely seemed to have a lot of background going on and revelations about the main character's past so it seems like you would definitely want to start here.

I don't think I'll be reading the other books in this series. I just don't have time to spend on books that I think I'll be giving 3 stars, I'm holding out trying to read stuff I'm hoping I'll want to give 5 stars. ( )
  ragwaine | Nov 20, 2014 |
Contains Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla. Brust reveals bits and pieces of his complicated and fascinating world as you go which may be frustrating to those uninterested in detailed settings or frames. Vlad Taltos, assasin and sort-of mob middleman, has a dry sense of humor and lots of fun even when he's in mortal danger and suspense is high. Since most of the plot revolves around Vlad investigating either his target or some circumstance that has occured in his life, these might appeal to mystery fans as well as fantasy fans. A warning note: Teckla is very different in tone from the other two as it delves more deeply into Vlad's relationship with his wife, Cawti, and Vlad's own morality and feelings about being an assasin. Teckla is more philosophical and less of a caper. ( )
  JenJ. | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Epigraph
Jhereg
Let the winds of jungle's night Stay the hunter in her flight. Evening's breath to witch'c mind; Let our fates be intertwined. Jhereg! Do not pass me by. Show me where thine egg doth lie.
Dedication
This one's for Liz.
First words
Jhereg
There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife's blade, as either is laid across the back of the neck.
Yendi
Kragar says that life is like an onion, but he doesn't mean the same thing by it that I do.
Teckla
I found an oracle about three blocks down on Undauntra, a little out of my area.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This omnibus work, The Book of Jhereg, contains the book Jhereg but also contains the 2nd and 3rd books in the series. Please do not combine them.
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Book description
Collects these books:
Jhereg
Yendi
Teckla
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441006159, Paperback)

A welcome addition to any fantasy fan's library, The Book of Jhereg follows the antics of the wise-cracking assassin Vlad Taltos and his dragon-like companion through their first three adventures?Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla. From his rookie assassin days to his selfless feats of heroism, the dauntless Vlad will hold readers spellbound?and The Book of Jhereg will take its place among the classic compilations in fantasy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Collects the first three adventures of the swashbuckling assassin Vlad Taltos and his smart-mouthed reptile familiar Loiosh.

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