Review: Jhereg, by Steven Brust

So, I finally got around to starting the Vlad Taltos series:

Some caveats: I actually know the author, as we met through mutual friends. Also, this book probably qualifies as high fantasy, which is a genre I avoid because I rarely enjoy it. Fortunately, this passing level of acquaintance got me to go to one of his readings, and after that, I was hooked.

Vlad Taltos is an assassin plying his trade amongst the long-lived denizens of a magical, foreign land. What makes the assassination game a little different than in our world is the relative ease of resurrection as well as the option of killing someone’s soul. So, you end up with three forms of assassination: reversible death, permanent death, and soul death. Each comes with its own prices and challenges.

It’s also a world of long-standing Houses, something between families and syndicates. Vlad has been working his way up through House Jherig for a number of years when he’s offered a contract that’s too good to pass up. At least, it’s too good until he finds out what’s involved, but by then it’s too late.

The two things I enjoyed most about this book were the narrative voice (it’s told in first person) and the complexity of the problem Vlad is faced with. I’d put it on the order of planning a locked room mystery, but bumped up a notch to where the room has no doors.

All in all, a lot of fun, and I wish I hadn’t waited as long as I did. My only excuse for that was trying to get a good answer on what order I should read them, since they were not written in chronological order. (I finally settled on publication order.)

Though I confess, part of me wishes I’d waited a little longer so that I could read it on my Kindle. Alas, this series isn’t out in e-book yet, but Steven says it’s in the works. Instead of my handy Kindle, I ended up reading it as part of a 3-book compendium, which unfortunately gave it the heft of a hardcover but not the stiffness. The combination made it almost impossible to read while lying down, so it did not make for good bedtime reading, purely because of the physical manifestation. The book is available as a single, but you have to buy it used.

So, while I’m eager to progress on to the next one, I may just wait to see when the e-book versions are coming out. I’m still not a fan of high fantasy, but the narrative voice of Vlad Taltos kept this one from wafting upwards into the rarified air that triggers my distaste of high fantasy.