I'm very particular about reading series in the chronological order, preferably from the point of view of the main character(s). So far, I've read only three series out of order because I didn't get my hands on them in the correct order and wanted to read them the instant I got them. The Vlad Taltos series is one of those three, and I'm delighted to see a new book out
- even though my favorite character doesn't appear in it.
The new Vlad Taltos book is the tenth in the series.
Just like all its predecessors, it can be read as a stand-alone. However, since most of the significant minor characters are familiar from previous books, a new reader might lose some of the subtler interaction. Old fans are treated
to appearances of familiar characters and the city of Adrilankha which has a character all its own.
Dzur starts a few hours after the previous book, Issola, ends. Despite a very high bounty on his head, Vlad is back in Adrilankha and enjoying excellent food. He is drafted into helping Cawti, his estranged wife, who is having problems with the Noble House of Jhereg, which runs all of the illegal activities in the Dragaeran society. Matters become more complicated when the Left Hand of Jhereg, a mysterious group of sorceresses, gets involved. Then there are, of course, numerous old enemies from Vlad's past. Even the Demon Goddess Verra seems to have plans for Vlad; she has suppressed some of his memories, and now they are coming back. Vlad is not happy.
Dzur has a complex mystery plot, and revealing anything more would be robbing the reader's enjoyment of it. As is typical for Brust, the book's structure isn't a linear one. In the first chapter, Vlad is eating at the famous Valabar's restaurant
where he is introduced to a new Dragaeran, a cheerful, likable Dzur called Telnan
who is a student of Sethra Lavode, the most powerful sorceress in the world and a vampire. For the rest of the book,
each chapter opens with a new course and the conversation accompanying the food.
Each chapter continues to tell the main story as Brust treats us to mouth-watering descriptions of the food,
most of which is, unfortunately, fictional.
This book is written in the same style as the previous ones:
deceptively light with a lot of subtle conversation, witty banter, quick plot twists, and memorable characters. Brust doesn't write much description nor does he offer much explanation,
a rare skill in fantasy these days. His style might take some time to get used to but is definitely worth it.
The world of Vlad Taltos is a high magic world, where those who can and know how travel by teleporting and communicate mind to mind through long distances. However, you can also be tracked through the use of magic.
Because of the bounty on his head Vlad has to wear a Phoenix stone, which makes him immune to all forms of magic. At the same time, it makes all the things that were easy in previous books, such as traveling and communication, harder and therefore a bit more interesting.
Steven Brust is in top form and delivers yet another highly enjoyable swashbuckling romp of the (former) assassin and his familiars.
However, the story is focused more on character development than blood or flying guts. It also leaves you wanting more.