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Bryan

Bry's Bountiful Book Blog

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The Book of Jhereg - Steven Brust

I did not expect this to be this good. I mean, Brust came highly recommended. Robin Hobb talked him up on her blog, and China Mieville mentioned favourably a story he co-wrote with Emma Bull(leftists sticking together). Still, I didn't expect what I got out of this book.

I loved the fantasy take on the crime noir novel. I don't think I've ever read it done like this before, and it won me over immediately. It was pretty gritty, yet still very D&D, with all sorts of sentient magic swords, revivifications, teleportations and other magic spells.

The combat was also very well written, which is another thing that wins me over. It's pretty clear from how he writes of Vlad's rapier style that Brust has spent some time with his hand on the pommel of a sword. Also, Vlad and other characters miss their shots, lose their weapons, get overmatched, and generally behave as real people do in real fights, which I don't see enough of in fantasy.

The politics and ethics present in the third tale, Teckla, were also a very pleasant surprise, and kept the character of Vlad Taltos from becoming flat. His moral struggle with being an assassin was something I didn't expect, and Brust handled it with great insight and skill. Also, the fights between Vlad and his wife Cawti were very well portrayed, almost uncomfortable to read about. The whole peasant revolt and moral tale about individualism vs. social justice definitely show Brust's Trotskyist leanings, and yet he's not heavy-handed in his treatment of the politics in the story. It's not a blatant political vehicle, but the politics are there if you look for them, and that's how I think it should be done.

My one complaint about this book would be the rather clumsy humour, and yet it's not consistently clumsy. You can tell that Jhereg was the first novel published in the series, because Brust's application of humour becomes more and more skillful with each book.

I will definitely continue reading this series, and indeed, all this man's work.