Miriam's Reviews > The Book of Jhereg

The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
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Jul 25, 11

bookshelves: adventure, fantasy
Read from July 07 to 18, 2011

Oh, authors, why can you not just write the stories in the order they occur?

Chronological order (according to the author): Taltos, Yendi, Jhereg, Teckla, Phoenix, Athyra, Orca.

BUT

"Many people whose opinions I respect believe publication order is best": Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla...

I've read all the books in this series at least once and never got the order of events straight. I'm starting to suspect that the internal chronology doesn't make sense and Brust is trying to disguise the fact.

And the fact that the books all have similar made-up-animal titles does not help me keep them straight.

***

Having finished my reread on Jhereg, I want to reiterate that the question of order is a fairly important one with this series. Reading in roughly chronological order, as I did the first time through, one encounters the protagonist Vlad as a young man embarking on a criminal career, in part because he is a member of a disadvantaged minority and it is one of the few paths of advancement open to him. He seems likable enough and the readers' sympathies remain largely with him as he becomes as assassin, gains skills and authority, makes powerful friends.

Reading in publication order -- not so much with the sympathy. Vlad is basically a crime lord, running a territory for House Jhereg, which is similar to the mafia. He is a jolly enough fellow and has his own code of honor, but he also has no compunction about having a random woman murdered because her boyfriend was overheard gossiping. Pretty much innocent gossip, too, not mafia Jhereg secrets that he should have known were dangerous. His friends also have virtues -- usually loyalty or commitment to keeping their oaths, very medieval -- but they are certainly not the "good guys". Vlad mentions in passing of Morrolan that "he has been known to sacrifice entire villages to her [the Demon Goddess]."

Maybe we're not supposed to care. Those faceless little villagers, so what if they die? This is a light read for entertainment, they aren't real people. Maybe our morals and affections are supposed to mimic those of the characters, where only the people they care about matter and other people's lives (or rather, deaths) are inconsequential. On the other hand, maybe we are supposed to be struck by the rupture of rooting for "heroes" who really aren't. But having recently reread Brust's standalone Agyar I know that he can portray this sort of moral ambiguity far better if that is what he wanted to do.

On a less abstruse level, reading in publication order seems like it will make a lot of the "later" books which deal with earlier events rather anticlimactic. For instance, when I originally read Yendi without having read Jhereg, I did not know that Vlad was going to end up marrying Cawti, who is introduced in Yendi. But if you read in publication order they are married when it starts, rendering that subplot completely anticlimactic. There is no tension when someone tries to murder Vlad in Yendi because we already know he will be fine.

Or maybe this is just not as fun because I'm a grown-up and read more critically.
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Reading Progress

07/10/2011 page 80
17.0% "Genetic experiments by the vanished Jenoine race."
07/10/2011 page 86
18.0% "Reincarnation is stressful!"

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Brad (new)

Brad I don't know. I am sort of grown up and read fairly critically -- from time to time -- but I still have a lot of fun with them.


Miriam I'm planning to reread more eventually. Or maybe spin-offs, I never read those.


message 3: by Andy (new)

Andy Hey, what'd you expect from a guy who puts this on his web page? :-)

"I have a lot of sympathy with people who want to read the books in chronological order, so I wrote this one to help them out: it falls before and after Yendi. Heh heh heh."


Erin The only issue I had with the chronology was when, in Yendi at the beginning, I had to wonder what had happened to Vlad's beloved wife.


James Oden I liked the out of order delivery. The second book then became more of a "So this is how they met" story. The order just didn't bother me.


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