Book Review: Jhereg by Steven Brust

Title: Jhereg

Author: Steven Brust

Series: Vlad Taltos #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The first to be published, this is actually the fourth novel in the timeline of the VLAD TALTOS series. The books recount the adventures of the wisecracking hired killer Vlad, a human on a planet mainly inhabited by the long-lived, extremely tall sorcerers known as the Dragaerans. One of the most powerful bosses in the Jhereg–Dragaera’s premier criminal organization–hires Vlad, one of their guild members, to assassinate Mellar, who stole millions from the Jhereg leadership and fled. Unfortunately, this thief turns out to be protected in a way that makes it difficult for Vlad to do his job without gaining the permanent enmity of a friend. The reader also learns more about Vlad’s past in this, and in other, lives.

The Review:

Jhereg was nothing like I thought it would be… it was better! I was expecting a typical “boy gets a dragons and goes out on an epic adventure” book (I guess I need to stop judging by the cover alone). What I ended up with was a cheeky, magical, modern-day assassin mystery that blew my socks off.

Highly interesting characters and plot-lines, it was an extremely fast-paced novel that keeps you page-turning to the very end. And when I say fast-paced, I’m not joking around. The author has an incredible “no words wasted” writing style that makes for an exciting read. Trouble is, if you blink or get distracted for even a moment (as I am wont to do) you’ll likely miss something important and plot-advancing – so stay focused!

Initially, I thought a draw-back to this series was the lack of attention on setting. I couldn’t tell if the book was taking place in a complete fantasy world or just in a twist of our modern-day (and actually, I’m still not sure). I initially thought the author was lazy, but now I’m starting to suspect he’s a bit brilliant. His overall mastery over other elements of the craft is what clued me in. You see, the story is written in a strong first-person narrative – done well enough that I always felt totally immersed into the character. I now think the reason the reader doesn’t get to see the settings clearer is that the main character doesn’t pay much attention to such commonplace (for him) details. If this is truly the case, the Brust did an excellent job sticking to his chosen perspective, and I applaud him on it.

Overall, it was a unique read that I wish I’d picked up years ago. The author has a good fusion of fantasy and mystery that really maintained my attention. Though not the first book chronologically, it is the first book according to the publisher, and that’s good enough for me (especially since the author admitted he has no clue in what order his books should be read).

by Niki Hawkes

Other books you might like:

  • “Dragon Weather” by Lawrence Watt-Evans
  • “The Thief’s Gamble” by Juliet E. Mckenna
  • “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson
  • “Black Sun Rising” by C.S. Friedman
  • “Sword-Dancer” by Jennifer Roberson

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