With all I’ve been reading about the Book Blogger Convention and Book Expo America, I’ve been starting to seriously consider going to both of them. I’ve never actually been to a big convention like this, so I was wondering if anyone who went last year would be willing to share what they thought. Did it seem like an entertaining event that kept you busy or did you just have to wander from booth to booth? Did they seem friendly toward independent bloggers? Was it worth the expense of traveling and paying for a (holy expensive Batman) hotel room in New York City? Any other general thoughts?

The Book of Jhereg
by Steven Brust
480pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.12/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.17/5

The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust is an omnibus containing three books from his Vlad Taltos series – Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla. There are currently twelve books in this fantasy series (out of a planned 19) about the assassin Vlad Taltos, and the newest book Iorich was just released last month. The books are not published in chronological order, and this collection has the first three books in publication order. This means that the book in the middle of this edition (Yendi) actually takes place before the first book (Jhereg), and The Book of Jhereg does not even contain the first book if going in order of timeline. It was a little disconcerting at first to go backwards in time and then forward again, especially since I’m one of those people who likes to read in strict chronological order, but I did end up deciding it worked just fine for these adventures since each book did have its own main storyline and an ending.

In Jhereg, assassin/mob boss Vlad Taltos is asked to meet with an elite member of the Jhereg council known as the Demon. After much thought about what he could want and how many bodyguards to have nearby, Vlad accepts and goes to lunch with the Demon. The Demon has heard that Vlad does “work” (assassination, of course) and would like him to eliminate a member of the council who ran off with nine million gold belonging to the Jhereg council. Considering the amount of compensation Vlad is offered, it’s hard to refuse, but he finds he really has his work cut out for him when his spy network discovers exactly where his target is hiding. Assassinating the man would not only have severe political ramifications but would also end a friendship so Vlad needs to figure out how to get him out of hiding and into a place where he can finish the job.

Yendi takes place before Jhereg and tells the story of an event mentioned toward the beginning of it - how Vlad met his wife, Cawti, when she assassinated him during a Jhereg war between Vlad and another man. Fortunately, Vlad was not permanently killed and was able to be revivified.

In Teckla, which takes place after Jhereg, Vlad and Cawti are at odds with one another. One night a man knocks on their door to tell Cawti about a death, revealing her involvement with a band of revolutionaries to Vlad. While trying to figure out who killed the man, Vlad must contend with his strained relationship with his wife as well as how he feels about himself and his role in the world.


The Book of Jhereg is just plain fun. It’s very readable, not at all dense with more dialogue and internal thoughts than description and moves at a pretty good clip, making each book in it a fairly quick read (especially since the individual books are not all that long anyway).

Each book is told from the first person perspective of Vlad, who is a very entertaining narrator. He’s smart and fast-thinking and his thoughts are often very humorous. The narrative has a very chatty and modern style – Vlad sounds as if he is telling the story to a friend. Some who enjoy their fantasy to feel old-fashioned may be bothered by just how modern some of the expressions are; for instance, it did jar me out of the story a bit when Vlad said he had some cash since their money is always referred to as gold other than that. It’s not a book that takes itself too seriously, though, so if you can read it with that mindset and just look to have some fun, it will work much better.

The setting is somewhat reminiscent of role-playing games such as D&D. There are two main races, what we would call humans (Easterners like Vlad) and the Dragaerans, a tall, very long-lived people who consider themselves to be the humans. The Dragaerans have several different clans, including the Jhereg. Technically, Vlad is a Jhereg since it is possible to purchase membership and his father did so when he was young. Resurrection and teleportation are both possible and there are assassins, thieves, magic users and enchanted weapons galore. In addition, everyone is badass. Vlad is both an assassin and a witch with a jhereg familiar (a dragon small enough to sit on his shoulder that can poison). His wife is also an excellent assassin and has some abilities with witchcraft, although not as much as Vlad. His Dragaeran friends are all both talented mages and warriors and in general very powerful and useful to have around.

Since this book was about an assassin, I expected to find Vlad interesting to read about but difficult to sympathize with. I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case, particularly in the third book where Vlad is more analytical about what he does and why. In the first two books, Vlad doesn’t seem particularly worried about his chosen profession but he also never strikes me as a bad guy. He treats his employees well and he cares about his wife and his friends. It also helps that he just seems to be playing the same game as the rest of the Jhereg so he doesn’t really seem that different from most people morally – at least until the third book, which gives more a glimpse into the human part of the world. And even then, I couldn’t see him as anything other than a decent guy who killed people for a living. It probably also helps somewhat that death is not always permanent and can serve as a warning, although there are times when Vlad does cause permanent death (to a man who committed a serious crime – I don’t think I’d say his crime deserved such a harsh punishment, though). Vlad is just so funny and in some ways very relatable that I just couldn’t help but really like him.

Duels and assassinations can be quite casual under certain socially acceptable circumstances, though, as shown on the second page of Yendi:

“Good evening, Vlad; Morrolan.”

I turned and bowed low to Aliera e’Kieron, Morrolan’s cousin and Dragon Heir to the Throne. Morrolan bowed and squeezed her hand. I smiled. “Good evening, Aliera. Any duels yet?”

“Why, yes,” she said. “Did you hear?”

“As a matter of fact, no, I was being facetious. You really do have a duel lined up?”

“Yes, for tomorrow. Some teckla of a Dzurlord noticed how I walk and made remarks.”

I shook my head and tsked. “What’s his name?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll find out tomorrow. Morrolan, have you seen Sethra?”

I really enjoyed all three books. My favorite was Jhereg, which I thought was the most fun, but I also thought Yendi was nearly as entertaining. Most people do not seem to enjoy Teckla as much since it is more political and more about the characters, but I enjoyed that one as well and thought it gave Vlad and Cawti more depth as well as showing more about how most humans related to the Dragaerans.

My only complaint about this one is that Vlad’s familiar Loiosh sometimes reminded me of that annoying talking sword from Baldur’s Gate II, even if he didn’t technically talk but just communicated psionically with Vlad. (Lilarcor is its name – and yes, I couldn’t remember its name and found it by googling “annoying talking sword from Baldur’s Gate II.”) He’d often insert comments like “Can I eat him, boss? Can I? Huh? Huh?” and the way it was worded along with the D&D feel of the book just made me think he must have sounded exactly like that sword. Sometimes Loiosh’s interjections also seemed repetitive and overdone with the intent of being humorous just like Lilarcor, but I did really like the idea of a little dragon familiar that sat on your shoulder like a parrot so I didn’t mind too much.

The Book of Jhereg contains three very entertaining books about the adventures of the assassin Vlad Taltos. They’re easy to read, humorous and just plain fun. I’d definitely like to read more in this series.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a Christmas gift from my wish list (where it has been for quite a while).

Before starting this post, I told myself I must finish writing the book review I was working on. So it is written and should be up in the next day or two (I will reread and revise some before putting it up, as usual, but that part won’t take long). After this, I’m going to start on the next review to try to get closer to caught up, especially since I’m getting close to the end of Mirror Dance and must read the long-awaited but short Bone Crossed next.

This week there are two new additions to the TBR pile.

World’s End by Joan D. Vinge

I had been planning to read The Summer Queen and skip this one since it is out of print, but I found a copy of World’s End for fairly cheap. It was hard for me to believe since it was much cheaper than most copies I saw at $10 plus it was a signed, numbered hardcover edition with a slipcase that was supposed to be like new. That sounded too good to be true, but I got it this past week and it really is all that AND in excellent condition. So I was very happy. This one is also much, much shorter than The Summer Queen so it will not take long to read it first.

Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep

This was another review copy that just showed up one day unexpectedly. Spider’s Bite is the first book in the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. It was just released and the next two books in the series will also be released this year (Web of Lies in June and Venom in October). I do like assassins and I’ve been hearing good things about this book so I’m considering giving it a try. The first chapter is available on the author’s website.

Feb
01
2010

For a while, I was doing posts at the beginning of the month about what I was planning to read. Since planning doesn’t always work that well for me, I decided to join in the ranks of those who post what they did read during the previous month at the beginning of a new month.

January was a pretty dismal reading month. It started off really well with 3 books read in the first couple of days while I was still on holiday vacation. Since then, I’ve only finished 2 more books, though, and I haven’t reviewed any of them (although I am at least halfway done with one review). That’s why I started Miles Errant – it’s huge so I was hoping to be caught up by the time I was done reading it.

January Reading:

1. Jhereg by Steven Brust
2. Yendi by Steven Brust
3. Teckla by Steven Brust
4. Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott
Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold (not including this novella toward my total books read since it was originally published in another collection instead of as a separate book)
5. Brothers In Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

Favorite January book: I think I’m going to have to go with Jhereg since I can’t count Mirror Dance yet. Last night I stayed up really late because I “just had to read one more chapter.” I had originally intended to just finish one chapter I’d started earlier. Finally around 2:00 I realized I’d really better put it down and try to get some sleep…

Books that counted toward 2010 goals: Brothers In Arms went toward both the reading more science fiction goal and reading more books in series I have started and not finished.

What did everyone read last month?

Eek, it’s been a whole week and the last one of these was the last post I wrote. I was hoping to get at least one of those reviews written in the last week but hopefully I’ll get one written up before this weekend is over instead (most likely The Book of Jhereg, although I also need to write reviews of Twilight of Avalon and The Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures). Meanwhile, I’ve been reading the massive omnibus Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold to give myself time to get caught up on all these reviews. I’ve finished both the novella and Brothers in Arms and am now reading Mirror Dance, which has potential to be my favorite book in the Miles Vorkosigan series so far.

This week I got a few new books I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I am really hoping to read at least some of these in February; hopefully I will have more time to read then.

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Earlier last year I devoured the first three books in the Mercy Thompson series but held off on the fourth book until it came to paperback (since my books would be mismatched – yes, I am anal). When I got a Borders gift card for Christmas, I knew I would have to save it for when Bone Crossed came to paperback, which was just a couple of days ago. (I’m now saving the rest for if I get addicted to the Kate Daniels series.) Waiting was so hard, though, that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to wait for paperback when the next book comes out in a couple of months.

The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg

Carol Berg’s Rai-kirah series is one of my favorites of all time so I was very excited to hear about her her first book in the Collegia Magica series, The Spirit Lens. It came out the beginning of January but I ended up waiting for it for a while since I preordered it along with another book by a favorite author that was coming out at the end of this month…

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb’s Farseer/Liveship Traders/Tawny Main trilogies are among my favorites and my very favorite of the three is Liveship Traders. So I was very excited about this book, the first in the Rain Wilds Chronicles duology. It has been out in the UK for a little while, but it only became available in the US this week so there would not be a long wait for the second part, Dragon Haven (May 2010).

I thought I was going to have a week without one of these posts but then yesterday I found one ARC in my mailbox.

Feed by Mira Grant

This is the first book in the Newsflesh series (also known to me as the “RSS Zombie” book, as my husband started calling it). According to Orbit’s website, it will be released in May, but I noticed Amazon says it will be available on April 27. In spite of the fact that I normally avoid zombie books like – well, kind of like I would the actual zombie apocalypse – I am considering reading this one. For one thing, Mira Grant is another name for Seanan McGuire and I did really enjoy her novel Rosemary and Rue. Secondly, I read the first paragraph and am actually rather curious about it now.