by Steven Brust

Cover image

Series: Vlad Taltos #13
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: April 2011
ISBN: 0-7653-1209-3
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 335

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This is the thirteenth book in the Vlad Taltos series, and definitely not the place to start. It would be close to incomprehensible except on a very surface level without having read the previous books in the series. It's also a cross-over of sorts with the Khaavren Romances, so reading that series first is also recommended, although not required. (But it's a great series and worth reading anyway.)

With all that background, though, we unfortunately don't get a significant advancement of the main plot arc of the series. Those of you who, like me, have been waiting for more news on Lady Teldra and the various things that have been hinted at won't get much more to chew on. What's here instead is three loosely-coupled adventures in Brust's great style. The first is a Vlad Taltos story from back when he was running a territory for the Jhereg. The second features Cawti and Norathar working together, which is a delightful return to the early days of the series. And the third is a particular treat: a new Khaavren story with Vlad involved, told by Paarfi of Roundwood and hence in the same style as the Khaavren Romances. The last also provides some hints of what Vlad is up to. And if that isn't enough, we also get some of Devera mixed in via some interludes between the stories, told from her point of view.

All three of the stories concern a magical artifact: a silver Tiassa. The Tiassa house is renowned for thinking and planning, and all three stories involve fairly elaborate schemes with layers of indirection, usually around finding, stealing, or otherwise gaining possession of this Tiassa statue. The first story, the classic Vlad story, walks through the steps of a con, mixed with Vlad figuring things out and letting the readers and the other characters know about it at the same time. All of the stories have the fun intellectual pace of this whole series, where Brust never writes down to the reader but provides just enough explanation that you're caught up with the twists to that point just in time for him to add another one.

That said, it's also on the light side as a series entry. The capers and investigations are a lot of fun, but they're not that long on lasting significance, which I found just slightly disappointing. The third story will probably have the most lasting implications, but even those are only a few tidbits at the end (although very welcome tidbits). This is not a world-building entry, or even a book that adds much to Vlad's characterization or character growth. That made it somewhat less fun for me than Iorich, which had the same pacing and many of the same features but also had series plot advancement and world-building. But it was nice to see the heroes of the Khaavren Romances again, and to read another bit of Paarfi's writing.

I think those who like the early Vlad stories are the ones who will enjoy this book the most, since it has more of that Jhereg flavor than the more recent books. It will also be a treat for those who wanted more of the Khaavren Romances. Those, like me, who look for the world-building and overall plot development may be a bit more disappointed. But either way, it's still a good book and a lot of fun to read, and if you're this far into the series, you'll definitely want to read it.

Recommended along with the rest of the series (and if you've not started on this series yet, do!).

Followed by Hawk.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2011-05-20

Last modified and spun 2022-08-14