Anne's Reviews > Jhereg

Jhereg by Steven Brust
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's review
Jul 27, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, urban_fantasy
Read from July 22 to 26, 2013 — I own a copy , read count: 5

This is such a hard book to talk about. Cory and Kathie will know exactly what I mean. But usually when you talk about books you discuss the setting (especially in fantasy), the characters, the plot. With all of the Vlad Taltos books, though, you open your mouth to say something and you find that you have to stop. Two reasons:

1) The world-building in these books is so intricate and detailed that it's insane. It's also done so very subtly that you never feel like you're in the midst of an info-dump. But everything's important. EVERYTHING. Maybe not so much in this book, but seven books from now, you will think to yourself, "Son of a bitch! So THAT'S what that meant!" But if you say something meaningful to someone who has not read the books, you'll likely confuse yourself, them, and end up not doing the concept justice AT ALL.
2) The plot is so intricately woven that you can't say much about much or you end up spoiling things. And the payoff with the plot is just... breathtaking. Brust twists and turns and builds like a mammoth corkscrew roller-coaster. And trust me, you will want to HURT anyone who spoils these books for you.

So, okay, something about the books, something about the books... I know! Firstly, they're fairly short. About 235 pages, they're quick reads. Brust doesn't go in for flowery language and lush descriptions (but he gives you enough that you don't feel lost). That's a good thing, in my opinion. They're paced well. Chapters are usually pretty short so the books are great if you're trying to squeeze reading in while waiting on a prescription or similar. I will say, though... there is a point in every Vlad novel that I call the point of no return. Usually it's the last two to three chapters, the last fifty pages. You will stay up until dawn if you hit the sweet spot late at night. You just will.

The books are also laced with humor, but here's a quick example. Vlad is talking about his friend Morollan, a sorcerer of some skill, who happens to have a floating castle. Apparently before a catastrophic failure of magic, floating castles were all the rage. But then the magic did fail. Just poof. Just like that. So Vlad cracks wise about how since then nobody has really done the castle-in-the-air bit, but you can still find the wreckage from them dotted all around the countryside. Vlad himself is also a wise-ass (see my status updates for some examples). You pretty much have a grin on your face the whole way through.

Quick synopsis that I CAN share--Vlad is an assassin, he's got a good-sized territory in a criminal organization. While he's not the biggest boss, he's no slouch. Watching him try to puzzle out a mystery and also set up his target is pure joy. The supporting cast is filled with other strong characters from his wife to his assistant, all the way down to his smart-assed familiar, a miniature dragon. But what's refreshing to me? Vlad doesn't really care about saving the world. He wants to make money and protect his friends. If you're NOT a friend (or someone he feels responsible for)--Vlad's a cold-hearted SOB. Just sayin'.

If you like fantasy, give these books a try. I don't think you'll regret it. Couple of caveats:
The series is still live (next book is due out in 2014), but the first book, Jhereg, is about thirty years old. It's out of print as a single title and no eBook is available until you get to book 8. The first 7 books are available in omnibuses (1-3, 4-5, 6-7) for about $15 for each omni. Somewhat inconvenient, but it's surmountable.

The next issue: chronological order vs. publishing order. The publishing order is not the order in which events take place, but do not fall prey to the misconception that you should read them in chronological order. Remember all that world-building? Remember that they're short? That means Brust doesn't spend a lot of time doing remedial world-building. If you read the books out of order, you probably won't be hopelessly lost, but still... don't do it. Make it easy on yourself and stick to the published order. Brust is one of those authors whom I trust implicitly--he has a plan. All will make sense before it's done :-)

I think that's most everything. Oh--while the series is ongoing and things are somewhat unresolved, each book is a standalone. There aren't really any cliffhangers that leave you thinking WTF. There are mentions such as, "Oh, there was this one time... but that's a different story." And it is, and he'll get to it at some point, but the story he's telling now will be finished, I promise.

Final summation: Steven Brust's books, especially the Vlad Taltos series, are like this awesome restaurant downtown that nobody really knows about. I'm not really sure how that happened, but go ahead and give them a try. I promise you'll become a regular :-)
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Reading Progress

07/18/2013 marked as: currently-reading
07/18/2013 page 0
0.0% "This is a re-read for me, but I'm going to be reading it with Kathie and Cory, who are new to the series. Hope they love it as much as I do--we're starting Monday! So excited :-)"
07/19/2013 page 0
0.0% "Where is the UPS man? I'm ready to start!!! :pout:" 3 comments
07/24/2013 page 0
0.0% "Oh, Vlad, how I've missed thee. Going to start NOW..." 1 comment
07/24/2013 page 29
12.0% "God, Vlad is so paranoid. Not that I blame him. And I'm giggling at the intro to chapter 2:
"There is no substitute for good manners--except fast reflexes."" 1 comment
07/24/2013 page 38
15.0% "What do you get when you cross Legolas with Tony Soprano? The Demon, that's who..." 5 comments
07/24/2013 page 42
17.0% "I adore Kragar. Snippet of convo:
Vlad: What's happened to your innate sense of greed, anyway?
Kragar: I don't need one. You've got enough of both of us.

The snark--bring it!" 6 comments
07/24/2013 page 68
28.0% "One of the things I LOVE about the books is the detail and description Brust uses when describing Vlad's spells. It makes it seem like you could really do magic like that, if only you knew how. That might not make sense to someone who hasn't read it, but yeah. It's not just a matter of waving a wand around."
07/24/2013 page 74
30.0% "And what did we learn, children? Don't get in a war with either House Jhereg or House Dragon. It won't end well.

That said, I did notice a little inconsistency. It says earlier that chopping off someone's head will make them unrevifiable, but then it says the Jhereg sent the Dragon messenger head back in a basket, but it wasn't like they'd made him non-revifiable. Dude! Decapitation is pretty fucking permanent."
07/24/2013 page 104
43.0% "Never trust anyone who calls himself a demon..."
07/25/2013 page 117
48.0% "Well... Aliera just dropped a bombshell on Vlad. BOOM!"
07/25/2013 page 121
50.0% ""I stood up then, still holding her hand. She followed me into the bedroom, where I paid back her favor, or she did me another one, or we did one for each other, depending on how exactly one counts these things."

I do love Brust's writing. It's a strange mix of humor and poignancy." 1 comment
07/25/2013 page 121
50.0% ""I felt a sudden desire to laugh out loud, but I controlled it for health reasons."

God, I love Vlad..." 1 comment
07/25/2013 page 125
52.0% "Bwa ha ha!
I turned away again.
"Wait, I--"
I turned back to him. I was beginning to get dizzy.

"His face was a mask of twisted rage as he said, "Damn you, Jhereg! You can't do this to me!"
There was, of course, nothing to say to this blatantly incorrect statement of our positions." 3 comments
07/25/2013 page 189
79.0% "So, here it is. Chapter 15, fifty pages to go. Warning--do NOT proceed unless you're somewhere that you can curl up with minimal interruption. The pacing until now has been good. Not too slow, not too fast. But from here on out... you won't want to put it down."
07/25/2013 page 239
100.0% "*sigh* I failed to follow my own advice and went and curled up on the couch. Am now done, but will wait to post my review until Kathie and Cory finish :-)" 1 comment
07/25/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Navessa Wonderful review Anne! The feels, ah, the feeeeeels.

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