Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers' group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, Nate Bucklin, Kara Dalkey, and Patricia Wrede, and also belongs to the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.
This is a solid Sword and Sorcery read, with just enough action to keep things interesting, but it's mostly about unravelling a ponzi scheme and a land swindle orchestrated by the Orca.
Vlad is just being Vlad, paying his debts. If it turns out that he bites off way more than he can chew, then blame it on his character.
If it actually makes him seem like a meddling busybody of an ex-assassin that's racking up the hate of every single empire in the land, then so be it. It's his nature. Or at least, it's the nature of this landless wanderer who seems to think he must atone for something, even if to my eyes he needn't atone for anything.
I keep reading these not because there's an overarching goal or something he must aim for any longer. His friends miss him and at least one can reach him, not including his dragons, so all in all, it's still all about healing his new friend who lost his mind in the previous book.
Interesting? Yes. Worthwhile? Yes.
Does it still feel like just a meandering path to some unknowable future? Yes. I don't know how I feel about that, but the character is strong enough, and the actual novel was still interesting, so I don't really see a reason to stop.
But. I still want more. I still remember truly grand things happening and stylistic wonders and brilliant plot. This didn't match my memories, but I can't say it was bad.
Orca is the book that took the Vlad Taltos series right to the top of my favorites list. The mystery Kiera and Vlad solve is so deliciously complex and satisfying. Steven Brust really put on his Athyra hat when he wrote Orca. Kiera is finally a main character, and she does not disappoint. Such a bombshell at the end! It was obvious Brust was building up to something in this area, but I did NOT see that one coming.
Highly recommended to anyone who has finished Athyra. Brust's writing has improved with each book, each one leaving me excited to continue the series.
I've read this more than a few times, and I never remember the details of the plot beyond 1) it's a mystery and 2) Vlad's trying to find a cure for Savn. I think the extraordinary revelations of the ending blow the rest of it out of my memory. This time, reading it as an audiobook, I enjoyed the fact that they got a female narrator to read Kiera's sections. It added a lot to the story, though I still think this is one of the weaker ones (and have already forgotten much of it AGAIN).
The narrative conceit of Vlad and Kiera telling each other what they've done (and then Kiera recounting it all to Cawti later) is clever, but has a distancing effect that I think does the story a disservice. However, reading it a second time (or however many times this was) is a lot of fun, what with picking up on the clues that lead to the eventual revelation that . Another problem is that the mystery Vlad and Kiera get mixed up in isn't terribly compelling; we have a lot of people in power doing venal and corrupt things, and in the end, there's no evidence that anything is going to change because it's the Empire behind it all. So I felt Brust's storytelling gift for making me interested in reading about pretty much anything was all that kept me engaged.
The second revelation is more problematic, and more powerful:
Issola is up next, and that's one of my favorites.
Brust continued here to try new ways of continuing his series. The twist here was that instead of actually going about the act of being a criminal, Vlad was in the roll of the hard boiled PI solving the crime. Just like in many other crime novel, he was dealing with: a mysterious death (of course), official corruption, seedy criminals and the cops. In addition to that, where the last book was in the POV of a young Teckla, this one split the POV duties between Vlad and his good friend Kiera the Thief.
I remember that the first time I read this book, I thought part of the way thru that this was going to be the book where our hero, Vlad, finally gets all romantic with Kiera. I also remember being less than enthused about the book because it lacked the action that I'd come to associate with the Taltos books. I liked it a lot more this time around. I guess I just appreciate Brust's writing and style more now than I did then. It's not that Vlad didn't get to toss a couple of knives at various people, or swing his sword about here and there, it's that this book was more Vlad Taltos, Private Eye than it was, Vlad Taltos, wine connoisseur and assassin. Nothing wrong with that.
Book 7 in the Vlad Taltos series. Another re-read.
The author changed his writing style again. This time the tale is narrated both by Kiera the Thief in first-person, (I always liked that character), and Vlad, also in first-person, relating events to Kiera. Sprinkled among these two narratives are entertaining Interludes that consist of a conversation between Kiera and Vlad's ex-wife, Cawti.
Vlad has now been on the run from the Jhereg Organization for more than three years. Aside from his attempt to outrun the Jhereg assassins, his primary goal is to obtain healing for Savn, the little Teckla boy from the last book, Athyra. To his credit, Savn's health is paramount. He's also been doing a lot of soul searching which is all to the good.
At the core of the story is quite the mystery; Vlad and Kiera become involved and attempt to solve it. Good book, although the mystery was somewhat convoluted. It was mainly the characters and their personal development that gave this one the full four stars.
Well, in typical Vlad fashion, he’s managed to stumble into yet another snarled up mess of a mystery that needs to be solved if he has any hope of obtaining the help he needs healing the psychic/head injury that Savn obtained while saving his life in the last book. I liked the switch in storytelling viewpoint every other chapter to Kiera - the reader gets a more in-depth look at her character, and we learn that Kiera is actually an alter ego (which is why I’ve used the spoiler button for this review). It was also nice to see the little in-between snippets of conversation between Kiera and Cawti as Kiera was giving her what updates she could on Vlad. To be honest, the only thing keeping the storyline going in this book was the vibrancy of the main characters, because the mystery/plot was an absolute snore-fest. I probably could have skipped the whole unimportant middle section to the end just to find out the important bits: that Kiera = Sethra, Savn is making signs of recovery, and apparently Cawti has had Vlad’s baby while he’s been away in hiding. I would honestly be surprised to discover anything from the middle section popping up in the rest of the series, but I guess we’ll see.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
The banking crisis hits Vlad's Empire. Complications ensue.
I can't really decide how much I like this one. Three stars or four, three stars or four.....hmmmmm.
Steven Brust does something different with each and every book, which I find quite interesting. Sometimes he tells the tale in a straightforward first person POV, sometimes third person, sometimes with shifting third person POVs, sometimes shifting first person POVs, sometimes jumping back and forward through time, sometimes with interspersed commentary of various types. And each book focuses on the attributes of a different House, providing an over-riding theme of sorts for that book amidst all the action and intrigue.
Sometimes I like all this playing around with style and theme...and sometimes I think it doesn't quite work. I'm not sure about this time around. Orca is told in two different first person POVs, and most of the time one of the characters is speaking directly to a second character to relate his/her portion of the story. And then there are sections where the second character is telling a third character things that the first character has done and said to her, including lies that each character has told to yet other people. Talk about convolutions upon convolutions of the unreliable narrator theme. Interesting, but distracting.
One thing, for certain, is that Brust is a very intelligent writer. Despite the fact that at this point in the series I'm beginning to feel the presence of a few inconsistencies here and there, it's obvious that this guy puts a lot of thought and skill into what he writes. However, given all the action and plot convolutions that inevitably crop up, I suspect that many people don't give much thought to the "deeper" stuff that's going on here. And I'm not sure about this supposed "deeper" stuff myself. Hmmmm, I think I'm talking myself into a reread in the not too distant future....
This was a GREAT addition to the series. I loved the way the story was told. Alternating between both MC's was an interesting choice. It's very cool getting yet another perspective towards Vlad. I adore this series.
I struggled with this one. There was more intrigue than action. I prefer swordplay over skulking about trying to solve puzzling situations. Another thing that made the book drag is Vlad and Kiera switch off narration and it's sometimes hard to. Tell when one or the other is telling the tale. Anyway. . . Vlad once again finds himself and his mind damaged ward Savn near civilization. Vlad is seeking healers who might aid Savn's recovery. He's found one old woman (who's name I won't even try to type) but she's having trouble with the bank. They come to an agreement, she will do whatever she can for Savn if Vlad can resolve the issue with her property. Of course this sends Vlad spiraling into vast webs of intrigue far beyond what he thought was happening. Like all of Brust's books this one was worth reading it just wasn't one of his best.
Sadly not one of the best Vlad Taltos books. A vaguely incoherent tale about a banking crisis in a fantasy-land. Long on exposition and short on action or indeed story. A bit of a twist but you need to be a follower of the series to even care in the slightest.
Fun dialogue and the writing is as good as Mr. Brust normally does, so still a 3.
Orca is the seventh book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. It’d be best to stop here if you haven’t read the previous books. We don’t want to spoil anything, do we?
Okay, so you should recall that Vlad Taltos, everyone’s favorite Jhereg assassin, is wanted by his organization because he betrayed them in order to save his wife from the executioner’s ax (or whatever implement the executioners in Dragaera use). Vlad has given up his territory and is on the run. In the last book, Athyra, he met a boy named Savn who helped him defeat a necromancer. Because Savn used a Morganti weapon to kill the bad guy, Savn is now witless, and he’s been that way for a year. Feeling responsible for Savn’s condition, Vlad finds a woman who may be able to heal him. In return, Vlad will try to find and stop the person who is trying to get the ... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...
3.5/5: lots of laughs, reveals, casually wielded wisdoms and knives, but too much exposition. Worth noting that this is a very mature novel in that it is a great sampling of political and economic theories as well as an intro to neurological health, but ultimately this is a Vlad whodunnit caper with Kiera and a few surprises that wouldn’t make sense without the incredible world building Mr. Brust has managed by and through this point in the Vlad series. Eerily enough, as a final thought and an aside on this novel: we all know Fyres was the Trump of Dragaera, right? (Arguable that Fyres was minus the white supremacy and pedophilia.)
This book follows on the heels of Athyra and is a pretty competent forensic accounting conspiracy mystery. Yes, that's right. We spend the whole book following the money, which is an interesting digression for Vlad. This kind of story is a hard one to pull off, and I thought he did a good job. It also has some of the most compelling bits of character development for Vlad as he tries to do right by farmer boy whose life he invaded in Athyra.
There are so many good things about the Vlad Taltos series that, in total, the whole series should get 5 stars. But I find I have problems with individual books in the series, problems that would probably be solved by a careful and continuous reread, I admit. Maybe one day... *sigh*
One of the things I love about this series (and that I've mentioned in previous reviews) is that Steven Brust does not rely on a formula. Though Vlad is his main character and the early books are told in a tight first person, Brust likes to to mix it up. In Orca the story is narrated by Vlad's friend Kiera; in a framing (and interlude) device she is telling Vlad's estranged wife, Cawti, what he has been up to. So the entire thing is told in Kiera's voice except where she is relating things Vlad has told her himself, which ends up being a narration once removed. Following so far? Good, because Kiera freely admits she is leaving things out and that her retelling of Vlad's story is not entirely accurate... so the narrative is unreliable. This is helpful to remember when the story itself becomes confusing.
Brust writes each book in the style of the House represented: The members of the House of Orca are noted for being sailors and merchants, businessmen (and women) with a head for convoluted schemes. (Not as bad as the House of Yendi, who like convoluted schemes for their own sake, Orcas' schemes are all about making money.) The story here is about the fallout when a powerful Orca merchant unexpectedly dies of an accident (yeah, right) leaving his businesses in financial chaos. Vlad becomes involved as payment to a healer who is treating Savn (see Athyra, book 6); her home is in danger of foreclosure from the fallout of the dead Orca's business. The investigation should be straightforward - find out who owns the land so he can pay it off. Instead, he unearths a conspiracy that goes all the way up to the highest levels of the Empire.
My problem with this book is that I had trouble following the money. The schemes run deep, the players are many, and at times I had to trust that it was all making sense to Brust even if it didn't make sense to me. It also did not help that whenever Vlad or Kiera figured out a piece of the puzzle, he or she would not come right out and explain it, it was always "work through it and see if you figure it out, too!" Which left me feeling dumb... should I have worked through it and figured it out? Well, no, because they always have more information than the reader. Oh, and remember that unreliable narrator thing? Kiera is deliberately leaving stuff out.
The final chapter fills in some of those gaps... this is the part that Kiera did not tell Cawti. Which involves an "Aha!" revelation that recasts not only the book, but the entire series up to that point. So that thing I said at the beginning of this review about a careful reread of the entire series? Yeah, that would be fun with this new information. And the final line of a short epilogue adds another wrinkle that will affect what happens in the next books... once Vlad discovers what it is.
Oh, except the next book, Dragon, Book 8 in the series, is a flashback to the beginning of Vlad's story. The joys and sorrows of this series? Steven Brust keeps you guessing. Which is a wonderful thing.
Still on the run from the Jhereg, Vlad seeks help for Savn. It's been a year since the events of Athyra and Savn has been mostly catatonic since he saved Vlad's life by using a Morganti weapon to kill his own lord. On the outskirts of Northport, a Tsalmoth hedge wizard (whose name Vlad can't pronounce) agrees to help, no questions asked, but asks that Vlad help her in return. She's being evicted from the home she shared with her husband and she wants to stay.
Who actually holds the deed to the land is much more difficult to determine than it should be. Vlad pulls in Kiera the Thief to help. The land appears to be connected to a prominent financier who recently died under suspicious circumstances. With the paperwork Kiera lifts from his home, they determine that Fyres was a master con artist -- he appeared to be wealthy but his companies were shells -- so many loans were involved from various banks and Houses that the inevitable defaults will have serious consequences for the Empire.
The seventh book in the series brings us back into the twisted political intrigue of the Dragaeran Empire. I wasn't all that invested in figuring out the connections between Fyres, the banks, the tenants, etc -- I knew Vlad would eventually spell it out for us -- so I just enjoyed watching him and Kiera in action. We see a lot more of Kiera this time -- she's present throughout the entire story and narrates most of it. It was interesting seeing Vlad through her perspective, "Sometimes I forget just how devious he is and how good he is at improvising, and his skill at calculating odds and pulling off improbable gambits. Sometimes he thinks he's better at these than he actually is, and it is likely to get him killed one of these days."
We not only see Vlad through Kiera's perspective, but we also see something of her relationship with Cawti. They remain in contact and through this we learn that Cawti misses Vlad but still believes they can't be together. And Kiera knows things about each of them that she chooses not to share, some things because they aren't ready to share them with each other, but some things for her own reasons. Although we learn a lot about Kiera in this book, including her reason for watching over Vlad, her motivations remain mostly mysterious.
Scenes to look forward to: Vlad tries to disguise himself as a Dragaeran, which involves shaving his mustache, wearing a wig, and swaggering in ridiculously high platform boots. Big reveals about Kiera and Cawti.
By publication order, which appears to be the standard reading order, this is the seventh book in the Vlad Taltos fantasy series. I've very much liked every one of the first seven books. I appreciate the way the series plays with variations, rather than repeating the same formula. For instance, the first five books are narrated by Vlad Taltos, the central figure in the series, a young human assassin in a society run by far longer-lived Dragaerans. Book six, however, switches away from Vlad's perspective, and we see him through another character's eyes. In "Orca" the narration changes again, alternating between two first-person accounts.
Spoilers ahead for more specific comments....
Four out of five financially-fraught stars.
About my reviews: I try to review every book I read, including those that I don't end up enjoying. The reviews are not scholarly, but just indicate my reaction as a reader, reading being my addiction. I am miserly with 5-star reviews; 4 stars means I liked a book very much; 3 stars means I liked it; 2 stars means I didn't like it (though often the 2-star books are very popular with other readers and/or are by authors whose other work I've loved).
Orca takes place about a year after the events of Athyra. Vlad has been wandering around, avoiding the Jhereg, and trying to find someone to help poor Savn recover from the effects of his battle with Loraan. Vlad ends up in Northside, seeking the aid of a sorceress who has had some success with people who have had magical brain injuries. She's a rather gruff old woman who is being evicted from her lifetime home, and Vlad makes a bargain with her to help her stay on her land if she will cure Savn.
In his investigation, Vlad stumbles upon a far larger problem - an Orca named Fyre has been murdered, but the representatives of the Empire sent to investigate are involved in a cover-up, as it turns out that his shady business dealings, if brought to light, could cause the collapse of multipe banks and several Houses within the Empire. Vlad enlists the aid of his old friend, Kiera the thief, to steal some papers from Fyre's estate (in both senses of the word) so that he can begin to figure out what's really going on, and Kiera's curiousity keeps getting her more deeply involved as the plot thickens.
So, it becomes apparent as the story progresses that Kiera is far more than a simple thief, albeit a highly skilled one, working for the Jhereg. She displays a lot more knowledge about the clandestine operations of the Empire than seem likely. So, I began to suspect that she's actually an intelligence operative, working very covertly for the Empress. Then, there was one odd event that just didn't fit properly - a jigsaw piece out of place. Kiera thinks that she sees Devera walk past the front door of an inn. Devera is - or will be - Aliera's daughter, who has appeared in the Halls of Judgement and in dreams to Vlad several times. I wondered how in the world Kiera would know about Devera, let alone recognize her.
Vlad Taltos, former assassin has adapted to his life on the run from his former associates in the thieves guild, but still has his sense of honor. Since he owes the boy who saved his life, and that boy needs an expert mind mage to heal the trauma done to him, Vlad arranges someone to help. There's one small problem, they're about to be evicted. Thus Vlad sets off to handle the relatively small issue of getting her the deed to her cottage.
As in many things in life, particularly Vlad's, things aren't as simple as they seem. What should be some simple intimidation, or using stolen goods to buy the deed turns into a complex web of financial fraud, schemes, and disaster. As he keeps peeling away layers of the onion, unmasking shell companies, and being drawn deeper and deeper into an imperial investigation which seems to be doing its best to NOT find out who's behind it all, Vlad needs to use all of his formidable skills to stay one step ahead of multiple players in a plot which could change the empire itself.
Another delightful entry into the Vlad Taltos series, and what could be a routine plot keeps the reader on their toes, has interesting links to some larger parts of the ongoing story, and details further developments in Vlad's philosophical journey to whatever he's becomming after being an assassin.
This book was much much better than the last one, even if most of the story was from Kiera the Thief's point of view. At least she is a character that I care about and wanted to know more. We still get to see some of the story from Vlad's point of view, but it's not whole book. The plot of this one is more in line with the usual things that Vlad gets himself into. Exciting fights, disguises and sneaking around. I don't like how the plot resolved for the entire Empire but for Vlad and his associates it worked out pretty well. I did like seeing the interludes with Cawti even though I think her character got really dumb in the last few books. Overall 3.5 stars, this Vlad book finally gets us closer to what the books used to be, so hopefully the next one will be back to what we are used to.
Between this book and the last, someone told me that Brust is a "staunch Trotskyist" and suddenly everything makes so much more sense. I was wondering what kept drawing me back to this arguably fairly generic middle fantasy series. Yup, it's the underlying class struggle. I really enjoyed that the primary plot point was about helping someone keep their home--somehow that was more compelling to me than a lot of the assassination plots.
I also loved getting to see Vlad from someone else's perspective. Brust does a really good job of keeping his character consistent from another POV--which is harder to do than you'd think. A lot of Vlad's character is defined by his internal dialogue, and it can be hard to translate that to outward behavior and mannerisms, but I feel like he did a great job. I did occasionally get a little lost in the switching back and forth, but maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention. The reveal at the end also wasn't as impactful as I think it could have been, but it could just be because I took a break from the series for a while and didn't have more than a vague sense of why it was important.
This is one of my favourites, and I've no idea of the extent to which I'm influenced by having loved the narrator who did Kiera's sections. Having Kiera with about half of the POV is another narrative first, and it worked here very well for me, as did the framing of her narrative. Although I was made quite sad by the spoiler at the end - well, one of them.
The whole financial mess, which starts out so local and Vlad stumbles into so casually, was the worst kind of black humour by the end. The 'worst' only because reading this now kept hitting me with the uncanny accuracy of how much of the world got into the 2008 recession. And Vlad sees it in its full, does what he set out to do, and then just goes off on his journeys again, which is kind of perfect. Much as a proper fix of the Empire's financial scandals might have satisfied.
Brust's Vlad Taltos novels start as a bit of a romp, playing D&D-esque fantasy tropes on their head in a sort of send up of Ray Chandler-esque noir detective thrillers. I enjoyed them, even appreciated the intricacy with which some of Brust's plots were elaborated.
But Orca is the book that made me sit up and realize that Brust had rare depth, as he set about maintaining his fantasy noir conceit while simultaneously venturing into hard-hitting social commentary by issuing an effective broadside against our real world financial industry, as he tackles events reminiscent of certain savings and loan scandals of the 1980s.
Wait, a fantasy novel about finance, banking and corruption? How is that not boring, you ask. Well, trust me, it isn't. Orca is probably NOT the book with which to begin exploring Vlad's world, as certain revelations will have less impact without all the exposition of previous books. I am not sure that this is the best Vlad Taltos novel - Brust is still writing, and continually improving - but it is certainly among the best, and my five stars are whole-hearted.
Orca picks up where the previous Athyra left off. Vlad is seeking a cure for the boy who saved his life. He finds an old medicine woman who can help, but in return she wants Vlad's help in preventing her home from being repossessed by people who claim to be from the bank. Vlad investigates, with the help of Kiera the thief, and uncovers a huge financial conspiracy while still trying to stay on the run from his former organization who now want to kill him as a traitor.
Brust continues to experiment with the series. Here, half the book is narrated from Kiera's point of view. Aside from a major revelation about Kiera that explains some stuff from the first book and doubtless will play a role in later volumes, this doesn't really advance the Vlad arc at all. And what's left is an example of Vlad being tricked by assuming he is cleverer than those he is investigating.
This is the 7th Book in Brust’s Vlad Taltos series and I do not recommend starting here. In the previous book Savn saved Vlad from an undead wizard but had his mind damaged in the process. Vlad finds a witch who can help, but she needs help in return as the bank has foreclosed on her cottage. Vlad gets his friend Kiera the thief to dig into it and they discover a web of corruption and bankruptcy that goes to the top of the Empire.
A solid instalment of the series that highlights yet another aspect of the Empire with all the bad it does, often in an almost good cause. Also there’s a surprise reveal that I was underwhelmed with as I did not really care about the characters involved.
Read This: If you’re into Vlad Taltos Don’t Read This: If you're new here; start with Jhereg for a bit of low and gritty High Fantasy.