by Steven Brust

Cover image

Series: Vlad Taltos #10
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: August 2006
Printing: November 2007
ISBN: 0-7653-4154-9
Format: Mass market
Pages: 285

Buy at Powell's Books

This is the tenth book of the Vlad Taltos series, and unlike many of them, really can't be read out of order. Vlad's first-person narration tries to set the scene sufficiently, but Dzur opens immediately after the end of Issola and directly continues the main plot arc of the series, started in Teckla. You want to read this section of the series in order.

Vlad has finally returned to Adrilankha, still hunted but a bit more secure after the conclusion of Issola, and has decided that what he wants more than anything else is a dinner at Valabar's. He's joined there by a Dzur, a young and rather naive apprentice to Sethra Lavode. Their dinner conversation, mixed with a detailed and loving description of each course of the meal, forms the chapter introductions of the book. It's one of the best descriptions of food I've seen in fiction, all the more since Vlad uses it as a jumping-off point for philosophy and analysis of the mindset of a Dzur.

The House of Dzur is the branch of Dragaerans who love battle, particularly against overwhelming odds. That characterizes Vlad's ongoing situation here, although the events of Issola have changed the balance a bit. There is some further exploration of that balance shift, and it's just as good as the end of Issola, but there aren't any major discoveries. Instead, the plot centers around Vlad back to doing investigative and negotiation work for the first time since Orca. The topic isn't quite as much fun, but it's great to see a return to this sort of plot, with Vlad calling on his varied friends and dealing with overwhelming odds in his own, non-Dzur way (as much as he's tempted otherwise). My favorite parts of the book were his exchanges with Sethra, in which Vlad entertains himself with his own inimitable brand of needling. I'm enjoying watching Vlad's friendships change and grow over the course of the series as he finds ways of testing them and ways of strengthening them (generally without admitting what he's doing even to himself).

I think one of the reasons why Brust has been able to keep this series going for as long as he has is that he tells a lot of stories in great detail without advancing the overall plot by that much. The same is alas true here: we end the book in mostly the same holding pattern we were in when we started it. But the story is great fun: not quite at the level of Orca but my favorite Vlad novel since then.

Definitely recommended to those who have been following the series. Brust is maintaining a consistent tone while still varying matters enough between books to keep me interested.

Followed by Jhegaala.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2008-10-31

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