Sunday, 30 March 2014

Vlad Taltos #1: Jhereg by Stephen Brust

Published: January 1st 1983 by Ace
Goodreads Summary: The first to be published, this is actually the fourth novel in the timeline of the VLAD TALTOS series. The books recount the adventures of the wisecracking hired killer Vlad, a human on a planet mainly inhabited by the long-lived, extremely tall sorcerers known as the Dragaerans. One of the most powerful bosses in the Jhereg--Dragaera's premier criminal organization--hires Vlad, one of their guild members, to assassinate Mellar, who stole millions from the Jhereg leadership and fled. Unfortunately, this thief turns out to be protected in a way that makes it difficult for Vlad to do his job without gaining the permanent enmity of a friend. The reader also learns more about Vlad's past in this, and in other, lives.


Imagine a mafia family who’s part of the nobility in a Middle Age fantasy setting where teleportation and the art of revivification are available. By revivification, I truly mean bringing back a dead person to life. Imagine that this world is populated with human and elf like being called Dragaeran who can live thousands of years. If you can picture that, then you have Jhereg’s world figured.

The protagonist of the story is Vlad Taltos a human or Easterner as they call them on the world of Dragaera. Vlad is part of the house Jhereg, which is in essence a Mafiosi family. He is an assassin. But in my opinion in mafia term, he could be considered some sort of caporal, since he owns a couple of “business” on the side and has a couple of people working under him.

In this first opus, Mellar, one of the council members of the Jhereg house stole millions from the treasury without warning and flee. Nobody knows where he’s hiding, nobody knows why he did that nor how he did that. And if local hoods find out that it’s possible to get away with a heist of that scale, it means the end of the Jhereg. Everybody, even the lowliest of bug will think they can challenge them.

In case of imminent disaster who’s to be called? Vlad Taltos of course! There’s two things that assassins don’t like, a smart target and a time limit. Unfortunately for Vlad, he’s gifted both.

I really enjoyed Jhereg. The plot was interesting; it kept me wanting to turn the pages. And it was backed up by very solid characters. Kragar, Vlad’s secretary, Cawti, his wife, Loiosh, his familiar, Aliera, a Dragaeran noble, all interested me. I kept wondering what was their past, their goals, they truly intrigued me. As for Vlad, he was smart, funny and a killer. Not that being a killer makes for good characters but in this case it was necessary. 

Vlad is an assassin, he’s implicated in criminal activities, hell he’s far from being a goody-goody two shoes. Compared to many authors who deal in the same genre, Steven Brust isn’t afraid to show this side of his character.  However Vlad is definitely caring. I wonder in which direction Brust will make him evolve.

Jhereg is written in a colloquial manner. There isn’t much flourish language. It always feel more as if Vlad is recounting his adventure to a friend than anything else. Perhaps that’s why the world isn’t described much. I mean if you’re talking to a friend, you won’t give many details about the environment, since he’s supposed to know about it. 

In any case, it didn’t discourage me from reading. Actually it made me want to read the next book because I wanted to know more about Vlad Taltos’ world.

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