As you certainly know if you know what book I’m reviewing based on the title alone, the Vlad Taltos books bounce around in chronology, with gleeful abandon. Whether this is part of some grand design on the part of the author, or whether he just writes a new story whenever he thinks of one, and drops it in wherever it happens to fit? Not only do I have no idea, I’m not sure it’s possible to know the answer. (Probably Brust knows, but given his utility at writing a character like Vlad, could you ever fully trust his response?)
Tsalmoth goes back nearly to the beginning, interleaving wedding planning with… well, if you don’t know Vlad, and this is for some reason your first exposure, he is a talented assassin who has leveraged that skill (and the money it brings) into a low level boss position in a criminal enterprise. So when I say his concern is with a simple collections job, you understand the kind of collections I’m talking about. Anyway: the book interleaves planning for Vlad’s wedding to Cawti (also a talented assassin, among other things) with his concern about a simple collections job with a twist: the person who owes him money is recently dead.
That’s the superficial plot summary, but what I’m interested in from the 16th book in a (I’m estimating here) 19 book series (not counting an extensive spinoff selection) is the stuff beneath the surface, which of course means spoilers not only for this book but for a lot of other incidental books. Hence, a cut.
 Boy is there ever a lot more to it than that, but I’m doing a baseline introduction here.
New Vlad book! Which you’ll know if you’re a long time reader here is kind of a big deal. You’ll also know that the series is coming towards an end, which explains why I can say very little. Basically, Vlad Taltos is an assassin, he’s made powerful enemies and powerful friends, and this particular book is more about the latter than the former. Worth knowing: Vallista has straight answers to a number of longstanding questions about the nature of reality (which is one of the ways you can tell the end is near).
Also worth knowing (perhaps the only other relevant thing to know): Brust’s tenure as the only author I’ve read with no disappointing books continues unabated. In addition to the reliable storyline and voice of this series, I was especially amused by the chapter titles. But mostly, I continue to love everything about this character.
 Somewhere between three to five books left, if I understand what’s going on correctly.
The only upside of accidentally reading the newest Vlad Taltos book a year late is that it probably indicates a proportionally shorter wait before the next one. Well, no. There’s also the upside that it’s even harder than in most long series to discuss the Vlad books without spoilers, so yay that anyone I know who cares about them has read this ahead of me, right?
Anyway, Hawk. Some Vlad books are about wars or gods or really amazing dinners or the dissolution of relationships, but my favorite ones (and, I think, the author’s favorites as well) are the ones where Vlad gets to wax rhapsodic about how very clever he is, doling out bits and pieces of his plan timed for maximum effect. You know how, if Holmes rather than Watson were tasked with writing down all his stories, people would think him a huge asshole? Vlad’s narration is just like that, but since he’s obviously an asshole from the start of things, it somehow works.
So yeah, it’s a caper book, and you know by now if you like Taltos books, so you’ll either read it or not regardless of what else I’d say, so I won’t say a lot more. Thing one: obviously if for some reason you don’t know if you like Taltos books, don’t start with this one. (I’ve covered this ground before.) Thing two: I am always most pleased when the story moves forward instead of jumping back, and this was one that moved forward. Thing three: There were hints of previous stories that I either don’t remember or haven’t been written yet, and both options itch maddeningly at my brain. It may be nearing time for a reread? At least they go fast. Thing four: The itch puts lie to my thing two; the real truth is that I am most pleased by whatever Vlad book is in front of me at the time. …except maybe Teckla.
I’m not sure if it’s literally true, but WordPress claims that this is my 400th post here. That’s a nice round number, and for people who care about such things it is fitting that said post be dedicated to one of my favorite authors having written a new book in one of my favorite series. Sure, he wrote it a goodly while ago, and sure, I’ve never reviewed any of the other books in the series (besides a highly allegorical one set in the same world but otherwise wholly unrelated, at least that I’ve been able to detect via my apparently useless English Lit degree), but regardless of all that, Dzur is in my possession [again] and thusly, here am I.
The real problem here is that I’m trying to review the 11th book of a series without a) any previous body of work here to rely upon and b) without having read most of the other books in the series in the past 7 years, and not even any of the books in the related series in 4 or more, else there’d be a review of them here. So you see. But it’s cool, because one thing that Vlad Taltos is reliable about is presenting his stories in such a way that you don’t need to have read the previous books. It would be nice to have, both because they’re uniformly awesome and to have a little better idea of how his mind works, but it’s not required. And… although the way the books are written make my summary background more than spoilers, I still feel obligated to put a cut at this point, mostly for people who might be in the middle of the series.
Seriously. If this is the kind of experience any given regular person has when reading fiction, I can force myself to feel a little bit of sympathy for the non-readers of the world. It was very good, and certainly easy to follow on the primary level. Four brothers, a king and his siblings, must decide how to deal with the gradual decay of their familial home and the seat of the kingdom’s power. Sides are chosen, battles are fought, dragons are incidentally slain. So why did I feel like I spent the entire book trying to catch up and understand what was really going on?
Brokedown Palace, set in the same world as Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels and Khaavren romances, interweaves the main story with several folk legends of that land (possibly actually Hungarian in origin, but that would be missing the point, or so I believe). I don’t really think I ever did decide what was happening under the surface. There was a lesson in the tale, and I think I’m supposed to be able to compare it to the many lessons (or were they all the same lesson?) of the interspersed fables. Only, most of the fables themselves were incomprehensible to me. As they often were to the characters of the story. Eking meaning out of that confluence of events, if any exists, is beyond my capacity.
Odd, in any case, to have enjoyed a book I understood so very little of. Perhaps I don’t actually have that sympathy after all. Below the cut, a couple of questions that act as spoilers for the book, and more importantly, as spoilers for his other novels in the same setting.