Author: Steven Brust
Series: Vlad Taltos #1
Vlad Taltos is a mobster and assassin, and he’s just landed a contract so lucrative he’ll be set for life. If, that is, he doesn’t botch the job. Because this time his target is also a Jhereg, who knows how the game is played. It won’t be an easy kill, but if he can’t pull it off, Vlad won’t be alive to worry about the consequences . . .
I FINALLY got my hands on a copy of Jhereg, which I immediately devoured. It’s hard to believe this is the first book, and that’s not just because Steven Brust went and wrote prequels filling in some of the history Vlad so casually tosses out. The worldbuilding is immense, but tight—and having already read most of the other books, I can catch a lot of Vlad’s references (and I was pleased this book filled in some of the holes). But we already have Vlad, happily married to the woman who once killed him; his Dragaeran friends Morrolan, Aliera, and Sethra, who are all unique and dangerous; Daymar the innocently terrifying Hawklord, and on, and on.
They’re a great cast of characters, and each one already showing some snippets of untold amazing stories about how Vlad got involved with them. If this had been the first book I’d read, I’d still have wanted to track down everything just to see how this wildly different group of people had gotten so enmeshed in each other’s friendships. Morrolan, for example, is an extremely honorable Dragonlord—who not only has Vlad on staff, but calls him a friend (and given the lengths Vlad is willing to go for him, the friendship is mutual). It’s a testament to how well the series as a whole hangs together that most of those little details do get expanded in some book or other.
And this is in some ways an origin story for Vlad himself. We see him as he witnesses his first assassination, and as he bonds with Loiosh, his jhereg familiar. But the story never lingers on the past, preferring to hurtle along with Vlad’s present task of dispatching a man who is very, very difficult to kill. In many ways, the target has thought everything out perfectly. But as Vlad likes to point out, anyone can be assassinated.
The humor is perhaps a touch less developed than some of the later books, but still very present and very funny. Each chapter starts with some pithy saying, like: “You can’t put it together again unless you’ve torn it apart first.”
All in all, this is a great read whether or not you’ve read any of the other books, or whether or not you intend to. Like most of the series it’s basically a stand alone story set within a complex universe, and it plays out some small piece of the life of a very interesting man. I rate this book Highly Recommended.