Taltos (Vlad Taltos, Book 4)
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May 21, Stuart Lutzenhiser rated it really liked it Shelves: fantasy. Two of the best Vlad novels. Both involving the gods and impossible missions. Apr 26, Phil rated it liked it Shelves: fantasy. This omnibus collects the fourth and fifth volumes in Steven Brust's Dragaera series, Taltos and Phoenix. I read the first three books collected as The Book of Jhereg about five years ago, and while I remembered a bit about the world Brust presents, those stories had completely faded from my memory.
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I expect the same will happen with these two installments as well. The world of Dragaera is interesting and appealing, but other aspects of the books aren't quite as strong. Although published fourth, This omnibus collects the fourth and fifth volumes in Steven Brust's Dragaera series, Taltos and Phoenix. Although published fourth, Taltos is chronologically the first story in the series.
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It introduces Vlad Taltos, a human assassin operating in the Dragaeran Empire. In an interesting twist, the tall, magically-adept Dragaerans nicknamed "elfs" by the humans are the dominant species in Brust's world, with humans called "Easterners" by the Dragaerans generally relegated to the fringes of society. This book covers Taltos' youth, with a parallel plot-line involving a quest into the Dragaeran land of the dead.
The story provides a good deal of insight into the character of Taltos, as well as describing how he gained some of the powerful allies that feature so heavily in the other stories. The other book in the omnibus, Phoenix, was the more troubled of the pair. In this story, Taltos is called upon by a goddess to assassinate the king of a minor nation.
Just why this is necessary is never satisfactorily revealed, although there's some hinting about portents, etc. There's another thread dealing with the human liberation group Taltos's wife belongs to and it's struggle with the Dragaeran Empire, but this plot seemed fairly muddled as well.
The ending was much better than the rest of the book, however; Taltos and the final pages of Phoenix are good enough to earn three stars, rather than the two I would've awarded otherwise. I'm starting to thing Brust may not be the author for me. I find the world of Dragaera interesting and I'm fond of fantasy crime stories Lankhmar, etc.
The Vlad Taltos character is well realized, but the unnecessarily numerous supporting characters basically seem to have one shtick. Whenever Sneaky Guy appears, he's being sneaky, that's it, there's no further development. Vlad Taltos's "voice" the books are written in first person also rubs me the wrong way. He relates the story in a very casual, modern tone.
He talks like every Joss Whedon character, basically. It didn't surprise me at all to find out that Brust has written a full-length Firefly fan-fic novel.
For some readers who may also be Whedon fans , this is probably not a drawback. However, I can only take Whedon in small doses, and when Brust speaking through the character of Vlad Taltos is describing life and death struggles and the fate of nations in a Whedonesque flippant, detached manner, I find I can't muster up much emotional involvement in the story. If the narrator isn't taking things seriously, why should I? I own one more Dragaera omnibus, collecting the next two volumes in the series. I'll read Athyra and Orca before deciding whether to keep going or to abandon the series entirely.
Dec 24, Jen rated it liked it. Two books, two reviews. Taltos : So I complained a little after reading the three parts of The Book of Jhereg that Brust was far too fond of jumping in without backstory. I stand corrected. There are two main storylines that Brust hops between, sometimes closely enough that it took me a minute to figure out that we were hopping.
One is how Vlad became an assassin, and the other is his trip to the Paths of the Dead.
The Book of Taltos
I grew into li Two books, two reviews. I grew into liking the Paths of the Dead storyline because it's weird and fascinating and Morrolan and Aliera are my favorite characters. I never grew into liking the other because it felt rather forced, as if this was the Book of Backstory and this tale had to be told. Also, its end overlaps a bit with Yendi , so it felt kind of repetitive. I did really like the introduction of Aliera, though, and it was a good adventure.
Phoenix : We return to the timeline left by Teckla , which I wasn't particularly fond of. The thing is, Brust rides this very interesting line of writing class warfare into fantasy realms, but I never actually cared about anyone directly involved in the fight. Also, I have no idea what the point of the gods is; they were kind of interesting in "Taltos," but here they just seem like plot devices--angry, short-sighted plot devices.
I imagine Brust is laying the tracks for things he'll come back to in later books, but I just didn't get attached to anything that was going on. Definitely not the best of the series so far--although the Empress is, indeed, fascinating, and Morrolan and Aliera are still my favorites. Dec 05, Malcolm Logscribe rated it it was amazing. It was an excellent choice to combine the earliest story by internal chronology with what was, when it was written, the latest.
Taltos (Vlad Taltos, #4) by Steven Brust
The earlier books, showing how Vlad's been forced to become hard, juxtaposed with the later ones, where he's forced to deal with what he does, really, really works. On a shallower note, flipping from fun-murder to no-wait-this-is-actually-murder makes for an enjoyable read. Fun and then catharsis. Taltos is a romp. It touches on ethics a bit - Vlad's not a block of stone It was an excellent choice to combine the earliest story by internal chronology with what was, when it was written, the latest.
It touches on ethics a bit - Vlad's not a block of stone, he's a fully realized human who kills people without much regret. It describes the violence he has to navigate as a youngster, and how he survives it. It shows his introduction to "work". It's sad, but mostly becoming an assassin is a major improvement for Vlad, and things aren't examined more closely. It's fun. And the other story winding through this book, the Paths of the Dead bit, work to provide some Some good to a character who's not shown loads in this story.
I didn't enjoy that bit as much, to be honest, because I am shallow and prefer to take advantage of the fun pre-conscience Vlad supplies.
Phoenix is drastically different. Post-Teckla Vlad has to face his conscience. I loved aspects of it - it's funny, I love Cawti, it's dramatic, Vlad rises from the ashes in a satisfying manner - but overall, Vlad's conscience makes me like him less. It shines a light on the truth of what Vlad does, and he starts to draw lines that aren't where I would draw them, and it becomes real instead of silly and I end up hating Vlad.
Maybe it's bad that I can enjoy murder romps but I loath those same characters when they force actual ethics into the picture, but oh well. As individual books, Phoenix is my favourite Vlad-with-conscience story so far, and I liked it well enough. Taltos is not as strong as Jhereg. As a collection, though, five stars. The juxtaposition worked way better in this volume. Sep 22, Luke Mccullough rated it really liked it. This volume includes the 4 and 5 novels in the series, which follow Vlad Taltos.
Though, unlike the Stainless Steel Rat books, Vlad is much more tied to a specific place, the City of Adrilankha, and has a more static set of supporting characters. Brust manages to make Vlad Taltos an enjoyable lead, which given that Vlad is a mid-level mob boss, remorseless assassin, human who hates his own people and detests the ruling Dragaerans Not-Elf, Elves who run things even though he is nominally a noble of the Dragaeran court.
Much of the action in each book revolves around a self-contained caper, that being said, there are themes and subplots that continue to be visited through each of books making them very much a series and not just a bunch of books sharing characters and a setting. Evidently, there are some people who attempt to read the series in chronological order as opposed to publication order, but the subplots and themes would be rendered incomprehensible by doing this.
The first book in this volume, Taltos, tells the story of how Vlad Taltos and a number of the other major supporting characters came to know one another. This story takes place before any of the other novels, but details an event that is referenced throughout the first few books.