I've loved the series since I bought the just published "Jhereg" ages ago. I've done the ups and downs as we rode the roller coaster as the morality changed after Brust's own personal experiences with killings. So I guess this shouldn't be too much of a shocker, but it is a bit of a disappointment...
We spent years with the buildup of spellbreaker, and finally the great weapon is created... and then....
I keep waiting for more about the *after*, because I've been so curious. But this one again jumps in time, forwards, backwards, forwards... Pre marriage, post marriage.
And while the parts written from Vlad's point of view are as enjoyable as ever, as others have mentioned, there's not a lot of that...
We get to learn a little more about Devera, but beyond that, there just didn't seem that much here that moved the story forward at all, nor did it really fill in any big questions anywhere else.
I'm beginning to feel like I did mid way through the sword of truth series, where things just stalled so horribly and we had to wade through the morass in fear we might miss the couple good pages in a book... I'm NOT saying that this is at that point, but it's certainly nearing it...
Steven Brust is one of the four or five authors I ever recommend to others, but I'm getting to the point now where I feel I need to specify certain books so that people don't get the wrong impression. I'd rather have them learn about the author from the incomparable Jhereg than thinking this is the epitome of his writing...
So let's hope that we get back on track with the engaging stories again, because when he's hot, no other author compares...
on April 1, 2011
Tiassa, Brust's thirteenth novel, is one of the most ambitious to date. It incorporates a myriad of writing styles from his past Dragaera works; the typical Vlad first-person, the third-person character-per-chapter narrative used in Brokedown Palace, and as much of the book focuses on Khaavren and his family, a bit more of Paarfi. This book is by no means a stylistic exercise, however; it has a focal point that stays very focused on the plot, and the way the story is presented actually gives a new way of looking at things. It was especially interesting to see, during the course of an investigation, the way Khaavren and a number of those in his employ measured Vlad's worth with a sense of begrudging respect, or the way Norathar and Cawti feel towards one another/the Empire, how idiotic Piro's 'benevolent highwayman' schtick appears in Vlad's world, etc.
I've seen other reviewers claim that this book does nothing to further the story, a criticism I honestly would've lodged against Iorich, which, while a decent read, did little to advance the overall plot or provide opportunity for character growth. Tiassa not only sheds some light on some things that have been alluded to in past books (Devera, the Issola bard, the box he talks to) but also drops some HUGE hints toward the future of the series, one in particular stated almost outright by a certain Imperial official.
If I have to levy a criticism against it, it would be that it is definitely not the best place to jump into the series (though arguably that has been true for several books at this point) and it does heavily incorporate characters (and the ridiculously, hilariously overwrought writing style) of the Khaavren romances, which I adore, but could be confusing even to long-time readers if they've never strayed outside of the main Vlad series. Chronologically, it's all over the place; it jumps from events happening just after Yendi to around the same time as Dragon to slightly before (or after) Iorich.
Its a great book for long-time fans of Brust, and definitely one of the best in the series, both in terms of story and general writing. Not to be missed.
on September 11, 2011
I've read the Vlad Taltos series since they first came out. Over the years I've really enjoyed them. But, since Vlad left Andrilankha the series has lost a lot of luster. Brust seems to like to experiment with writing styles and at times seems bored with his character.
In Tiassa he wastes many pages of text with the weird convoluted style he uses in 500 Years After. He can actually write 5 pages of text to cover a paragraphs worth of plot. I keep hoping he brings Vlad back to Andrilankha and gets back to what the made the series in the first place.
I'm losing hope, though. Pity. This was once my favorite series and I waited for each installment.
on June 21, 2011
Overall, if you enjoy the Vlad Taltos books, I would find it hard to believe you wouldn't like this. It's a very enjoyable read. Moreover, if you also enjoyed the Khaavren books, you'll finally get to see the joining of those two "lines" in this novel. This makes for something of a unique experience in the realm of the Vlad Taltos books as you have what essentially presents as a single united story which occurs over an extended period and from different perspectives. Personally, I feel this "balances" the book both from perspective (you get different sides of the story) and impact (you have more or less three "build-ups" and conclusions to each part as well as building up all the way to the end). Some might miss the abundance of Vlad-type dark humor which is present only in his (largest) section.
The book essentially includes 3 "Parts" or novellas which are all connected by a thread. The first part concerns an episode from Vlad's past, primarily during the time of his engagement to Cawti.
The second part focuses on a consequence to this first episode, told in Cawti's perspective, but involving Norathar, the Empress, and the Countess of Whitecrest (Khaavren's wife). This occurs after Vlad and Cawti's separation while Vlad is apparently back East somewhere.
The final part is told from Khaavren's perspective, similarly to that you've seen in the books focused on the head of the Phoenix Guards. Yes, including some of the same banter and stylistic elements you'd expect in those books. This was excellently done, however, and you really get to see the care that the Empress has for Vlad and you see the respect for him grow in Khaavren throughout as well.
If you're looking for "all the answers" to the dangling plotlines in the series, you are definitely not going to find them. In fact, the only plot advancement you really see that is relevant to the rest of the series is the fleshing-out of relationships. But who knows how important that will become in later books in the series? Besides, there's going to be at least one book for each of the houses in the cycle anyway. Of course.
If you're looking for deep and thought-provoking reading... why on earth are you reading the Vlad books? These are meant to be light, fun, fast-paced reads with action and humor. Maybe tinged with a little dark reality, but still. Be realistic.
If you've read the other books in the series (either series, really) then you probably ought to just go ahead and get and read it. You know you're going to do so eventually.
on March 29, 2011
Okay, well that was just a Taltos fanboy's dream.
Fair warning, I've liked pretty much every book in this series, even Jhegaala, which was too convoluted and ponderous for me to get much of a buzz from. But this makes up for it fifteen times over. We get tantalizing hints at longstanding questions, not to mention the reappearance of fan-favorite characters... and a certain fan-favorite narrator.
This is not a good entry point into this series. It was written for people who have read both the last twelve Taltos novels as well as the five Phoenix Guards books. Anyone else might well be lost. But read them. You're in for a treat.
I've been slightly in love with Brust's character of Vlad Taltos since I first read Yendi in the late 80s. Like any long-running series, I am impatient to read the end of the story, and yet I want the discovery process to last as long as possible. Unlike some of the other novels, in which we are entertained but the over-arching issues aren't addressed, Tiassa does move the story arc forward. Or, perhaps more specifically: Brust sets a lot of game pieces on the chess board, and it appears that in the *next* book we might see them put in motion.
That's fine with me, because Brust is up to his usual good form, and I read this book as though it was a library book due yesterday.
It isn't the usual "Vlad" novel, though, in that the story is told in vignettes, covering about a decade, from the viewpoint of several people -- only one of whom is Vlad. The binding factor is a silver ornament with maybe-special powers. I won't tell you a lot about the plot because I don't want to spoil the pleasure of your discovery. But what worked best for me is the many ways we see Vlad and his effect on those around him. There's his own story, which any VladLover will adore, because it takes place when he and Cawti are engaged to be married. And Vlad in love is just so incredibly sweet even if he's busy organizing mayhem (which just-so-happens to involve the silver tiassa as a lure). But in later years, when others have need of the item, the story is told from the viewpoints of a few of the characters we met in the Dumas-inspired The Phoenix Guards (which I confess was not my favorite of Brust's books), most of whom have no idea who Vlad is. If you *did* love the books with Khaavren and Daro, you probably wondered, "How would these folks deal with our 'present day' characters?" and now you'll find out. Best of all, there are a few scenes from Cawti's point of view, which may be worth the price of the book alone. For one thing, we see Cawti's relationship with Noranthar, which Vlad never really talks about in "his" books.
Mostly, however, this is just plain GOOD READING. There's no way you would start with this book (really, don't even think of it), but any Vlad Taltos fan will enjoy this one.
on April 21, 2011
I wish the honor of addressing the reader with a few words concerning this book, its author, and some of the remarks made by others who have been so kind as to contribute to this forum.
First, I would add my humble concurrence to those who have pointed out that this is not a book for those new to Brust's Dragaera novels. The reader needs to be acquainted with both the Khaavren romances and the Vlad Taltos novels to appreciate properly this novel which combines elements from both series.
Does Brust bring it off? I say emphatically that he does. I rank this novel among the best of Vlad Taltos series, the equal of Issola and Dzur.
Second and finally, because I do not wish to bore the reader with excessive verbiage, I will conclude with a few words which I believe will clarify the structure of the novel. Some reviewers have argued, perhaps with some justification, that the book is more a collection of related short pieces than a novel. If one accepts this point of view, which I am willing to do for a moment in an effort to present both sides of the question, then the book will be seen to be of the following structure:
Prolog in the voice of Lord Taltos
The Silver Tiassa, a short story in the voice of Devera
Tag, a short novel (five chapters) in the voice of Lord Taltos
Whitecrest, a short novel (five chapters)
Conception, a short story from several points of view, mainly that of the goddess Verra, Lady Aliera e'Kieron, and the Emperor Kieron.
Special Tasks, a short novel (six chapters) in the voice of Lord Paarfi of Roundwood, a celebrated (or is it notorious?) author of the Dragaeran Empire.
Epilog in the voice of Lord Taltos
Does this not confirm the book is a collection? So many voices, such a mixture of viewpoints. But harken. There is another and most instructive way to look at the book. If we add up the numbers of the chapters of what have been described as three short novels we find the total to be sixteen. If we further deign to describe "The Silver Tiassa" as a work of one chapter, then the book may be considered to be of the following structure:
In total there are seventeen chapters, which I have the honor to point out is the number of Houses in the Empire. All the novels in the Vlad Taltos series have seventeen chapters. This one is no different. Mr. Brust is merely and once again pushing the boundary of structure while maintaining the important invariants that contribute to the beauty of his work.
Post scriptum: The interlude "Conception" is in itself well worth the modest price requested by the sellers of the book.
on February 19, 2012
My impression of this book is it's what an author writes to answer demands for a book he doesn't want to write. A way to say "Here, happy now?". When they know you won't be happy so they can feel satisfied with their having not wanted to write it. That said, there are enjoyable parts of the novel but it doesn't really advance the plot. It's a holding pattern book that has a section written in a very polarizing style that many people cannot stand. It comes down to whether or not you like his Khaavren Romances. If you hate them, you will find the writing style of the final 1/3 of the book an interminable slog.
on July 4, 2014
Fast, NOT fun read throughout. The first story is a Vlad story in which Vlad does NOT act much like himself. Mostly it is a dull rendition of why prostitutes do NOT fall in love with customers. Thus possibly insightful, it has NO merit as a story. In fact, very unVlad like he fobs a unique god made amulet off for hundreds of orbs to a Dragonlord in order to set up a dim-witted caper involving a Khaavren character. YUK! Second story is a set-up where the Empire is preparing for a Jenoine invasion, yet a Khaavren character starts an investigation in which she unleashes Cawti and "The Sword of the Jhereg" in a counter mission to protect Vlad. Thus not a Vlad adventure, and so poorly done that it does not measure up any standards. Blah! Third is a Khaavren investigation into a Vlad romance, maybe. Problem is it is so droll that it nauseates. The interlude is a terse venture into the possibility that Kieron and Aliera have a child. Crunch! Summed up NOT a Vlad story line at all. The Vlad appearances are sub-par and show it badly, Likewise, the Khaavren scenes are sub-par for the "Phoenix Guards". Summation a vagrant writer writes a publisher's fluff piece of three stories NOT a respectable effort at all. Reader's Conceit. A story of an author's view of prostitution, a few thoughts on past wives who still care to protect the father's of their children and a laughable later life Vlad love dalliance, who hangs around in NO fear of the Jhereg who drove him to the furthest frontiers of the empire before. Is the author saying he is NO longer Vlad, but Khaavren instead? Whatever, he certainly did NOT demonstrate his writing prowess in this book. Thanks, Harry!
You couldn't tell but I was doing the Cabbage Patch a while ago (the only hip dance I know). I always celebrate thus whenever a new Vlad Taltos adventure comes out. I've always been a proponent of Steven Brust writing Vlad stories that take place in present continuity, and I don't know if I should be miffed at this one. Yes, consulting the dust jacket reveals that TIASSA "threads its way through more than ten years of the remarkable life of Vlad Taltos..." and, pinpointing the chronology, part of this one takes place sometime between YENDI and TECKLA. But the other parts? Does it span all the way out to where we last left Vlad in IORICH? I'm not sure. Maybe. I think so.
On one hand, it's just nice to see Vlad Taltos, ex-assassin and current fugitive on the run, not in the sticks and boonies and back into the sprawling urban playground of Adrilankha, even if this is a slice of back in the day. Adrilankha is, after all, where Vlad made his hay, built his rep, found a grudging sort of acceptance from the planet's ruling race, the Dragaerans. For them scratching their heads right now, Dragaerans are essentially seven-foot-tall and ridiculously long-lived elves who, ironically, refer to themselves as "humans." Dragaerans tend to look down on Vlad's sort (not only because Dragaerans are friggin' tall but because Vlad's sort, being the actual humans on this world, are considered the disdained minority). If you're familiar with the Vlad Taltos series, then you're aware that Vlad once belonged to the Jhereg House, this lending him a modicum of respectability. However, the Jhereg are regarded as one of the least of the seventeen Dragaeran Great Houses. Jheregs are frequently associated with criminal activities. Vlad, once upon a time, was himself an exemplary crook, a minor underworld boss. Heck, he was an assassin. TIASSA gives us a sniff of those good old days.
Steven Brust switches up the format again. TIASSA unfolds in three segments. Brust introduces a mystical artifact in the shape of a silver tiassa figurine, molded by a goddess and possessing properties of which we don't learn until the book's just about done. The silver tiassa - and a tiassa is sort of a winged panther - would play a role throughout the book, whether as a prop to further one of Vlad's clever scams, as a key device that could stave off an invasion (or spring a deadly trap set for Vlad), or as a panacea. However, film buffs will quickly label the thing as the book's MacGuffin.
The first arc is my favorite because it's Vlad Taltos regaling us with his often funny first person narrative. He tells of a daring caper he pulled off around a decade ago, and his narrative revisits all the elements that make this series so good: The sarcastic assassin wheeling and dealing in his bailiwick, trading sarcastic remarks with his familiar Loiosh and with Kragar; the old familiar (and very welcome) faces, from Kragar to Melestav to Sticks to Cawti. Cawti, if you remember, was the assassin who'd recently killed him and yet to whom Vlad is now engaged (I guess whatever doesn't kill you...). Brust injects that fantastic feel of capers and derring-do even as Vlad thumbs his nose at and puts one over on them snooty elves. This was back when Vlad and Cawti were very much mutually smitten, so it's a bit bittersweet. Vlad's act of kindness in this arc - or is it his thinking ahead - would propel the events in the book's middle portion.
This second arc skips ahead to some years later and essentially marks the reuniting of the notorious Dagger and Sword of Jhereg. With Vlad having already fled Adrilankha, it falls to his estranged wife Cawti and the Princess Norathar to scramble and foil the House Jhereg's latest assassination plot on Vlad. Dispensing with Vlad's first person narrative - because Vlad is absent in this segment - the story is told thru the perspective of several characters, including Cawti and Norathar and others. Without saying anything more, this is where Vlad's earlier largesse pays off.
Skip to some time later again, and you have to adjust to the third arc's narrative technique as Paarfi of Roundwood, the chronicler of the Khaavren Romances, takes over storytelling duties. In his convoluted, flowery style, he tells of how Khaavren, Captain of the Phoenix Guard, investigates the curious incident of an Easterner found severely beaten and floating in the river. This takes place closer to present day times, although, as I've said, I don't know if this catches us up all the way to Vlad's most recent adventure. It's a bit neat (and jarring) to observe Vlad featured in a story couched in Paarfi's meandering prose, and I think "Paarfi" may have tweaked dialogue a bit to indulge his style. But it's cool once you get used to it, especially if you're read THE PHOENIX GUARDS and FIVE HUNDRED YEARS LATER. This arc also presents a sort of resolution to the events in ATHYRA. And, this time out, it may not be House Jhereg out for Vlad's hide.
Steven Brust is so good he can get away with having his lead character be in only about a third of the book. It's because the protagonists who take over the story from Vlad are characters we've come to know thru past Taltos novels and, of course, the Khaavren Romances. Without a doubt, though, the best geek-out moments are the passages in which Vlad interacts with Khaavren (because it's neat to see two of Brust's most popular heroes sounding each other out), and to a lesser degree when Vlad forms a brief alliance with the "Blue Fox" and when Cawti exchanges tense pleasantries with Lady Daro. Khaavren and Daro's presence also makes sense in that they're of the House of Tiassa, which falls into the book title. As always, Brust relishes dealing in the non sequitur, occasionally having Vlad muse about some past off-topic event only for Vlad to cut himself off abruptly with a "Skip it - it's a long story." For shucks and giggles, Brust gives us a fantastic quick interlude as seen thru the eyes of Devera the Wanderer. And, later, he unveils certain key moments featuring familiar principals in the Dragaeran pantheon of gods.
TIASSA isn't a jumping on point for new readers. At this stage, I don't know that any Vlad Taltos novel is. One of the things I like best about Brust is that he doesn't insult his long time readers with plot regurgitations. He assumes that you're caught up with stuff and he writes accordingly. Which sort of leaves new Taltos readers out in the cold. If you're new to the Taltos cycle, I recommend - because it is absolutely worth it - that you scrape up a copy of TALTOS (or THE BOOK OF JHEREG omnibus) and work your way up. However, for longtime fans of Vlad Taltos, TIASSA rewards you in many ways. Brust has a long memory and is able to weave threads from past novels into this story (although, like me, you may have to resort to the wiki to refresh half-forgotten characters and events. Ultimately, TIASSA is a terrific read. But it's not my favorite, mostly because Vlad is only in here for an abbreviated chunk of the tale. No offense against Paarfi... you have to get in the proper mood for narration so stilted that even Shakespeare's going: "Verily, what's up with that dude?"
I'm hunkering down again, getting ready for the long, long wait before Steven Brust gets the next Taltos book out. Even Katherine Kurtz says Brust takes too long to write.