Athyra (Vlad Taltos #6)

Title: Athyra

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos #6

Savn is happy in his life as a physicker’s apprentice. But when a stranger—an Easterner, no less—comes to town, and someone turns up dead, his idyllic life becomes a morass of confusion. Savn rather likes the Easterner, Vlad. The rest of his village hates Vlad, and Savn finds he’s now in the middle. And although Savn’s vow is to save lives, he’s got some hard choices to make. One way or the other, someone’s going to die.

Those who like Vlad’s first-person narration will probably find this book a bit of a shock, as the point of view and focus shift to young Savn, who experiences Vlad from the outside. It was a shame to lose the witty commentary with Loiosh, but I liked how it shows Vlad from the outside. Particularly when Vlad’s city-bred violence conflicts with rural life. Vlad can’t help but be disruptive, but this is the first book that deeply looks at things from the perspective of the people being disrupted. Rozca, Loiosh’s mate, also handles parts of the narration.

As the title suggests, the deeper focus of the book is philosophical and mystical. Savn faces several challenges to his way of thinking. The world as he thought it is isn’t exactly true—but how much of a difference should that make to the way he lives his life? I like that not only was this a journey, but Vlad (and Savn) offer no pat answers. Savn does what he thinks is right, but he’s never settled about the hows or the whys. He’s mostly acting from simpler motives, like his vow to save life and not take it.

The only thing I think didn’t work so well was the ending. I get what happened only because I’d read Orca first, and therefore knew how it played out. It’s a confusing battle for Savn too, but it would’ve been nice if the prose was a bit more direct about what happened.

All in all, I liked this as an addition to the Vlad stories. It’s got a lot of differences from the usual style, but it’s still an engaging story with a compelling main character. I rate this book Recommended.

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