Dragon

by Steven Brust

Cover image

Series: Vlad Taltos #8
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: November 1998
Printing: November 1999
ISBN: 0-8125-8916-5
Format: Mass market
Pages: 286

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Dragon is the eighth book in the Vlad Taltos series, but as is normal for this series, it skips around. Chronologically, Dragon takes place after Yendi and can be easily read out of order.

With this book, Brust goes back to Vlad's days running a relatively small territory as a Jhereg boss. As is true more often than not, however, his connections with prominent members of House Dragon come in to play early on and get him tangled in what becomes the Battle of Barritt's Tomb, triggered by some intrigue with a Morganti weapon. Much of the book is a relatively detailed, as the Vlad series goes, description of the life of a foot soldier in a Dragon army. The rest is typical Vlad stubbornness, quick thinking, and hints at the larger world background.

The story is told in three threads. Each chapter opens with a scene from the final, climactic battle of the war, and then Vlad digresses and returns to the earlier storyline for the rest of the chapter. This is done in his normal, rich first-person perspective, and is surprisingly more effective than infuriating. Brust makes the timing of the interlocking scenes look effortless, but it's a well-done bit of craft. The details of the final battle only emerge slightly after the background that makes them make sense, and the two threads converge in an exciting final chapter. (The last line of the penultimate chapter, a double meaning that also announced the convergence, is a nice small touch.) The third thread takes place at the time Vlad is recounting this story and is told in interludes and an epilogue, forming a sort of conclusion.

Craft aside, though, the underlying storyline is very linear. Vlad gets entangled in the plot while not being told much about what's going on, gets stubborn and insulted, and then decides to wade in, ending up a foot soldier. He then spends quite a bit of time slogging through a war. It's interesting writing, with all of the normal charm of a Vlad story, but it's not particularly satisfying if you're looking for more world background or for the character development or complex plots featured in some of the earlier novels. It's also a bit unsatisfying to return to a point this early in Vlad's life: he's intimidated by Sethra Lavode, Morrolan won't tell him anything, teleportation is a trial, and he doesn't have the resources or maturity of the later stories. I like the later Vlad better, particularly since he tangles with more interesting bits of Brust's mythology. And, of course, a flashback doesn't advance the general plot of the series.

Dragon is a step down from Orca, which is the best book of the series so far, but it does have its moments. I particularly liked the meeting with a Serioli and some nice foreshadowing about Spellbreaker. The story told in the interludes and epilogue is highly entertaining and a great way of resolving the mystery surrounding the weapon that sets off the action of the novel. It's also interesting to see how Vlad fits in with an army company, despite being a fish out of water, and earns the respect of those he serves with.

This entry is about average for the series: a good story, told well, but without the same punch as the best of Vlad's stories. It's well worth reading if you like the rest of the series, though, and is probably readable immediately after Yendi if you want.

Followed by Issola.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2008-10-20

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21