Jhereg by Steven Brust

July 25, 2006 at 12:00 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews, Fantasy | Leave a comment
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This is a very lightweight fantasy procedural. It’s essentially a detective story, except it has an assassin for a main character instead of a policeman or a private investigator. You might not think those are equivalent roles, but Steven Brust disagrees. Vlad Taltos, the aforementioned assassin, finds that in order to kill his target he must first puzzle out what his target is trying to do, why he’s been hired to kill him, etc. In short, nothing short of a grand unified theory of the target is acceptable before killing him. I’m making it sound foolish but Brust engineers the story in such a way this makes sense.

This is a fantasy, so there’s some standard fantasy stuff going on as well. The main character has a familiar, virtually everyone can do magic of one kind or another, death is only permanent in the right circumstances, and there’s some sort of pseudo-feudal society. No elves or dwarves, thank goodness (not in this book at least), and for the most part the world building is handled well. The main character is a sort of low level functionary in a large scale, quasi-legitimate organized crime syndicate. Brust actually trusts the reader to pick up on some details through context and implication rather than spending page after page of infodumps, which is nice. Ultimately, though, the world building isn’t anything to write home about.

If you’re going to enjoy this novel, you’re going to enjoy the convoluted plot, the laconic first person narrative voice, and perhaps the fact that unlike modern fantasy novels this 1983 book is quite short. The good news is if you liked this, there are something like eight more. If you’re not interested in harmless beach reading, look elsewhere.

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