The Book of Jhereg (Vlad Taltos #1-3) by Steven Brust

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Jhereg: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Yendi: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Teckla: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: December 16, 2016 to April 30, 2017

Amazing books. Amazing journey. Very memorable characters. I love Vlad and this world of dragons and dragon people and their layered politics, and I can’t wait to get started on the second omnibus.

I have a thing about reading series in order, and it was with a lot of reluctance and much hand-wringing that I read this series out of chronological order. I had gotten almost the whole series in these omnibus editions that “organized” the books in publication order (i.e. definitely not chronological order), and figuring out where to start or jump in took up too much time. So I just started with the first book of the first omnibus, which was Jhereg, and soon found that the order was not that big a deal for this series, as many people have told me before.

The order in which you read doesn’t affect your enjoyment that much because each book could be read as a standalone–sort of, “technically.” I could explain further now that I’ve read the first three books, set in three different points of Vlad Taltos’ life and career, but the explanation is… gonna get complicated, more complicated.

Suffice it to say I really enjoyed all three books, maybe the third one a little less than the previous two, but that’s only because it contained too many real life implications that mirrored some of my own and reading about those things are never fun.

The writing is great, however, and I never felt it faltering once. This doesn’t mean much unless or until you take into account the series’ complete timeline and you see where each book falls (how years apart they are, how much happens in between). Only Then you would realize the depth and complexity of this world and how writing a series out of order like this is unbelievably difficult. Steven Brust did this all the while maintaining continuity and coherence AND not letting the overarching story line falter, not even once.

It’s amazing, and I’m nothing short of impressed.

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Teckla (Vlad Taltos #3) by Steven Brust

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: January 31 to February 15, 2017

I read this book a year ago and I still haven’t gotten over it yet. It’s the book I like least in the series, but it’s the only one that I remember most vividly.

The most frustrating thing about this book is experiencing the end of Vlad and Cawti’s marriage through Vlad’s eyes. Well, everything is experienced through Vlad’s eyes since he is the only narrator, but with this book, you feel the limited first-person narration the most and you see all the ways in which it lacks finesse. But then again, this is how we all experience the end of a relationship, right? One-sided and most of the time without closure or answers.

The end of the book once again mimics real life in that there are no resolutions. Things are still tense between Vlad and Cawti, and they are still drifting apart, pulled by different ideals, and you don’t know what the future holds. You don’t even get to know whether or not they separate or stay together, and these books being written out of order makes it all the more frustrating.

In the last book Yendi, we see when Vlad first met Cawti, back when he was a burgeoning crime lord with lofty ideas and she was hired by one of his rivals to assassinate him, and she almost succeeded. They somehow managed to hit it off and got along well together. That led to the beginning of a quick romance, one of the more realistic portrayals that I’ve seen in these kind of fantasies. So it was endearing to see that.

(It’s like everything was going so well. What happened??? Life happened. Of course. Too much realism bleeding in my fantasy. Can all of this just go away or not? Because I don’t read fantasy for the realism. This seems repetitive and unnecessary to say at this point, but I thought it was obvious. I don’t read fantasy for the realism. Please bring back convoluted political intrigue and add more dragons and flying castles. No more relationships falling apart gradually over time. Ok thnx.)

When we get to this book though, Vlad and Cawti have been married for some years, they’ve risen through the ranks of the Jhereg, made a name for themselves, and are very well off and comfortable (for Easterners). But they are drifting apart. We don’t know why or what led them to this point. We just know Cawti was drawn to the uprisings in the Eastern quarters of the city, and Vlad wouldn’t or maybe couldn’t see the point of this movement. He saw it as futile, but she had hope. This was just one more thing piled on top on an already strained relationship.

So to go from Yendi to Teckla, from the beginning of a relationship to its unexpected end in such a short amount of time, is… sad. I’m sure some of the later books will focus on the marriage some more, but I just didn’t expect to read the beginning and the end back-to-back like this. It was unsettling and left me feeling conflicted. That’s my main problem with this book anyway. Everything else though–the writing, the plotting, the intrigue, the scheming–is still good and very much the same as the 2 previous books.

Yendi (Vlad Taltos #2) by Steven Brust

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date Read: January 17 to 31, 2017

Imagine The Godfather, but told from the perspective of a young snarky Vito Corleone who’s all alone and setting out on his own. He’s fighting to make a name for himself as an assassin and mob boss in the Dragarean underworld. He’s got a small network of semi-legitimate businesses and a corner of the city to himself. He’s trying to establish his territory while fighting off stronger, wealthier, more experienced neighbors who are moving in on his turf. He’s fighting on multiple fronts, all the while trying to stay on top of Dragarean politics.

This book has a lot of things going on and the action never stops. Just when you think it can’t get anymore twisty, it gets one more twist in. Turn the page and something new is happening to Vlad. In the midst of all this mess though, Vlad is still an engaging, funny storyteller, and I can listen to him talk all day long.

Like Jhereg, this book is out of order, but unlike Jhereg, it’s near the beginning of Vlad’s tale. So it’s a good place to start the series. You get to know Vlad on his way up the social ladder, but you also get to a glimpse of the things he’s been through that have made him who he is today. He’s still got that optimistic (but also realistic) outlook on life and his place in the world about him that I like. The tone is light and funny and a stark contrast to the story he’s telling, which has a variety of people out to kill him including his future wife… which makes it a little bit funnier because he’s so matter-of-fact about it.

Notes for future reference:
when Vlad first met Cawti and she was paid to kill him

Jhereg (Vlad Taltos #1) by Steven Brust

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date Read: November 23 to December 9, 2015

Surprisingly good and satisfyingly good. The kind of good that makes you anxious to get to the next book. The kind of good that makes you glad there are over ten books in the series. The kind of good that makes me not care about book orders. Maybe it’s a good thing these books are written out of order?–is a thing I never thought I’d say. But I have a good feeling about Steven Brust and I trust he’ll deliver.

It’s been awhile since high fantasy has been this good for me, and it’s been even longer since I liked a POV main character in high fantasy enough to know that I’ll like whatever trials and tribulations he’s put through. And I like Vlad Taltos. Thus far, he’s already shown himself to be a multifaceted character full of nuance, and I can only imagine he’ll get more complex with each book.

Plus, there are dragons everywhere.

* * * * *

Trying to figure out the order of this series is giving me a serious case of involuntary twitching. So far from what I’ve gleaned on various forums and reviews, the publication order is completely different from the chronological order.

*more twitching*

But the order in which you read these books does not matter. At all. Because they were purposely written out of order.

*bangs head on desk*

Why.

(I have a thing for publication order)

* * * * *

Publication order goes like this:
Jhereg
Yendi
Teckla
Taltos
Phoenix
Athyra
Orca
Dragon
Issola
Dzur
Jhegaala
Iorich
Tiassa
Hawk

But chronological order goes like this:
Taltos
Dragon
Yendi
Jhereg
Teckla
Phoenix
Jhegaala
Athyra
Orca
Issola
Dzur
Iorich
Tiassa
Hawk

The only book I have is Jhereg, so I’m gonna start there.