Saturday, February 4, 2006
Jhereg (1983) Steven Brust
Comfort reading. Those books that you reach for when you’re feeling low, because you know they’re guaranteed to take you away from whatever is bothering you.
That’s the place that Steven Brust holds in my library.
Jhereg is the first Vlad Taltos book, and also the first Dragaera book. Vladimir Taltos is an Easterner whose father bought a title into the house of Jhereg–the only house that sells it’s titles and allows Easterners in. Despite–or perhaps because of–his father’s disdain of all things Eastern, Vlad studies fencing and witchcraft from his grandfather, finding himself more suited to them than to the sword work and sorcery of the Dragaerans.
It is this unique combination of skills that leads him to eventually take up “work” for the house of Jhereg, and from there to running his own territory with the help of Krager, his Dragaeran partner, and Liosh, his familiar.
Vlad is a tough guy in a world where everyone else is bigger and stronger than he is, which means he has to be tougher and smarter. Jhereg reads like a hard-boiled mystery with fantasy elements thrown in, something that is more common now, but was unusual when I first came across this book, which was what initially drew me immediately into the story, because I love mysteries, especially the hard boiled type.
Upon re-reading this book for the umpteenth time, I was surprised by how much stuck me. There are so many things that are mentioned in passing in this book, that filled out in later books, either in the Vlad Taltos series, or his Khaavren Romances and The Viscount of Adrilankha series. The Interregnum. Lord Morrolan’s study of witchcraft and rise to power. The return of Empress Zerika. Adron’s Disaster. I have the feeling that once I finish re-reading the Vlad books, I’m going to have to go back and re-read those other two series.
Additionally, having now read Roger Zelazny, I can see the bits that Steven Brust admired and borrowed, an eventually expounds upon, like Vlad’s “Spellbreaker.” And you’ll have to forgive me, but I like Vlad better much than I liked Corwin.
I also love the cover of this book; Liosh coming out of his shell. It’s otherworldy and dangerous looking, which is the right town for the book.
This book is witty, it’s sharp, and it’s a lot of fun to read (and re-read).