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Jhereg by Steven Brust
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    The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (thegryph)
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    Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick (ow1goddess)
    ow1goddess: Some similarity in basic plot elements and the tone of the first-person narrator.

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3.5 s stars
Originally posted (with links) at FanLit.

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 the Dragaeran houses.

In this first installment, Jhereg, we meet Vlad Taltos and his familiar, Loiosh, the jhereg who can communicate with him through mind-speech. Vlad has been hired to kill a councilman named Mellar who has embezzled a huge sum of money from the Jhereg council. When Vlad catches up with Mellar, he discovers him hiding out in Castle Black, the floating mansion of Vlad’s friend, the Dragonlord Morrolan. Castle Black’s rule of hospitality is that anyone who has been invited to stay at the castle cannot be touched and nobody wants to violate this law because it would ignite another Dragon-Jhereg war. The last war devastated both houses. Vlad and Loiosh must flush out Mellar without offending a Dragonlord or starting a war. This is not an easy task and Vlad will need to solve a mystery and get a little help from his friends.

Jhereg is appealing for several reasons. Vlad Taltos is a great character — the sort of honorable criminal that you can’t help but like. It helps that in Brust’s world, an assassination isn’t necessarily permanent. People can be revivified if their body is still mostly intact and they haven’t had their soul destroyed by a Morganti weapon (somewhat like Elric’s sword). Vlad is clever and must use his brain, not just his weapons or witchcraft, to solve his dilemma (though I thought he solved the convoluted mystery a little too easily). Vlad’s friends are also likeable, especially Loiosh the familiar, Vlad’s wife (who he met when she tried to kill him), and a female Dragonlord. Brust’s female characters are strong, smart, and competent.

Steven Brust’s writing style, sense of humor, and dialogue are also pleasant, and the story moves quickly. There’s a lot to learn in the first novel of a huge epic, but Brust does this so well. We learn a little about Vlad’s childhood, the planet of Dragaera, the origin and structure of the houses (this was fascinating), and anything else we need to know. Brust gives us just enough extra to make us curious about his world, but not enough to make the plot slow down while we learn the entire history of Dragaera and its residents. (Yet, Brust’s world is so complex and detailed that some readers may wish for an online resource such as this helpful Wikipedia entry, and several fan-made Dragaera sites that you can easily find with a Google search.)

Audible Frontiers’ version was narrated by Bernard Setaro Clark. He was terrific, speaking with a lively manner and giving each character a pleasant and distinct voice. As usual, I had to speed up the narration a bit (I’m beginning to suspect that Audible has purposely slowed down their narrators). I’m pleased to see that Bernard Setaro Clark has also narrated the sequels and I’ll be picking up book 2, Yendi, which is actually a prequel to Jhereg, very soon. I look forward to spending more time with Vlad Taltos. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Wow. I don't recall how this author came across my radar, but now that he has, I don't know how I had missed his writing for so many years!

It fits with my favorite reading "topics" perfectly:
a) a main character who has a moral compass, but where the morals aren't stogged down our throats
b) vigilante-style justice where the bad guys get what they deserve
c) a dark world where the norms of behavior might be altered, but where justice still wins
d) an author who provides a reasonable "mystery" and an interesting world without having to lecture us on its origins.

I have already bought the next book in the series. ( )
  crazybatcow | Dec 15, 2013 |
Really wish there was a 1/2 star option. Liked the book quite a bit, but I have a hard time giving it 4 stars. Main character took a long time to figure out what was happening, which was a bit annoying, but it was an enjoyable little jaunt into a different sort of fantasy world. ( )
  marti.booker | Dec 2, 2013 |
The first in a series in a world where humans and reptilian'ish humaniforms coexist, but not peacefully.

Vlad Taltos is a human who lives among the Draegon. He becomes an assassin and works his way up the ranks, basically being a mob boss. This reminded me of a murder mystery in a fantasy setting from the Mafia's point of view. Interesting. ( )
  Bookstooge | Sep 26, 2013 |
Guess this is what you'd call an oldie but a goodie. I can't believe I hadn't heard of Steven Brust until a few weeks ago, but he was recommended to me by a gaming friend of mine, and then another good friend jumped into the Twitter conversation to second the recommendation. So, that's two shoutouts from a couple of people whose opinions I highly value, and that's when I knew I had to get my hands on this book, posthaste!

Jhereg is the beginning of a whole bunch of books set in Brust's Dragaera world. It is the first novel to be published in the Vlad Taltos series, even though its place is actually fourth or so in its timeline. It introduces us to Vladimir Taltos, an Easterner (human) working as a killer-for-hire in the House of Jhereg in a setting where his kind are barely tolerated by a race of long-lived, statuesque sorcerers called the Dragaerans (or, as my friend told me, just think of them as "elves"!) Being a Jhereg doesn't help either, since their faction is like the mafia of the Dragaeran world.

One day, a powerful Jhereg boss offers Vlad a lucrative contract to track down and assassinate a council member who stole millions of gold from the house. It is discovered, unfortunately, that this thief has fled to Castle Black, home of the Dragonlord Morrolan who is also Vlad's good friend. Now Vlad has to try and figure out a way to fulfill his contract without royally pissing off Morrolan, whose strict rule against the killing of anyone on his premises while they are under his protection is proving to be more than just a minor inconvenience.

At just 200-something pages, this was a very quick read. Despite the volume's relative thinness, however, there is a lot information crammed in here. You'll immediately get the sense of hugeness from the world of Dragaera, and I admit I spent much of the first half of this book feeling like I was missing something, because not everything about the setting is explained right away. There will be names of people, animals, factions, cultural traditions, events in history, etc. that are alluded to, but won't mean anything to you until you get further into the book (or even the series). Even now, I wish I had more room in this review to give examples of all the strange magical spells, weapons, creatures, lore and customs that are in this book, but there's just too damn much. The good news is, everything you need know in order to understand and follow the story will be there, and it will come in time.

I also really liked the writing style, the fast pace and the lightness of it. Normally when you get high fantasy featuring a world full of magic and so much history, along with noble sorcerers and lords and ladies and such and such, you'd expect the writing style and dialogue to be somewhat serious and austere. Not so much with this book, which includes instances of modern day habits or colloquialisms, and that played a part in making Jhereg easy to get into and reading it so much fun.

It's got a great story overall, involving a plot about an assassination, but which almost reads more like story about a heist. It has elements of mystery in it too, as Vlad likes to conduct investigations and figure out the solutions from the clues he finds. He as much as admits that he prefers the process of planning an assassination to the actual assassinating, and events in the story reflect that. It just struck me as interesting especially when compared to more recent fantasy novels about assassins, which tend to be darker and more action-oriented, and Jhereg was published before I was even born.

The series is still going on today, with book 14 expected to come out later this year. So glad I discovered these books, thanks to my friends. I've got a lot of books in my to-be-read pile, but since all the Vlad novels seem to be such quick reads, there might actually be hope of me finishing up to Tiassa before Hawk comes out. Maybe. ( )
  stefferoo | Jun 6, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steven Brustprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clark, Bernard SetaroNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hickman, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There are many ways to advance in the world. Vlad Taltos chose the route of assassin. His qualifications:quick wits & sword, a smattering of witchcraft & his constant companion- a young jhereg, its leathery wings and poisonous teeth always at Vlad's command, its alien mind psionically linked with his own. . .
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Collects the first three adventures of the swashbuckling assassin Vlad Taltos and his smart-mouthed reptile familiar Loiosh.

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