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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is that a dragon on your shoulder?
Remember when fantasy used to be fun? The genre wasn't full of these door-stopper, epic fantasies that go on for thousands of pages with just a little bit of a point. Sure, those can be good now and then, and I actually like a few series, but I miss the times when you could pick up a fairly short novel and have a laugh or two. Yes, Discworld is still out there, and I...
Published on 16 Jan. 2006 by David Roy

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is, at best, mediocre Fantasy Fiction
I really wanted to like this book...but I couldn't
I read the reviews of "Jhereg" that were posted on this site and I thought "Wow! It seems like all the elements are here for a first rate fantasy story.". This book was even recomended to me by a friend who has a similar taste in fiction as I do. With that kind of endorsement, I eagerly picked...
Published on 12 Feb. 1999


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is that a dragon on your shoulder?, 16 Jan. 2006
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
Remember when fantasy used to be fun? The genre wasn't full of these door-stopper, epic fantasies that go on for thousands of pages with just a little bit of a point. Sure, those can be good now and then, and I actually like a few series, but I miss the times when you could pick up a fairly short novel and have a laugh or two. Yes, Discworld is still out there, and I believe Robert Asprin is still writing the "Myth" books, but what about something new?
Back in 1983, Steven Brust introduced us to Vlad Taltos, an assassin, a "mob" boss (or the Dragaeran equivalent of one), and a human fish out of water. He's the man with the dragon-like creature (called a Jhereg) on his shoulder, and he's good at what he does. The first book of the series was called Jhereg, and gave us our first peek at Vlad's world. Having finally read this book, I can truly say that it is great. Brust's characterizations shine through and his wit is infectious. I've had this series recommended to me many times, and I regret waiting so long to start it.
Vlad is a human in a Dragaeran world, a citizen of the Empire whose father came from the East. In fact, his father spent most of the family's money so that he could buy a title in the Empire so Vlad would have a standing in it. The House, Jhereg, is more "mob"-like than the rest of the houses, and Vlad quickly moves up the ranks to have his own territory. He's also made himself one of the best assassins out there, but he's quite surprised when another boss, called "The Demon," hires him to kill one of the Jhereg's higher-ups who has absconded with a great deal of the House's money. One condition: Vlad must do it quickly, before word gets out that somebody has done this to the Jheregs. There's also one hitch: the target in question has taken refuge in Castle Black, as a guest of Morrolan the Dragonlord. Morrolan's honour is strong enough that, once he has welcomed somebody as a guest, the guest is under his protection, no matter what. Vlad also finds that the case is even more complicated, reaching all the way back to the beginning of the Dragaeran Houses. Can Vlad succeed in time, without getting killed in the process?
The world Brust has created is very imaginative, and he doles out the information pieces at a time. Jhereg begins with a little about Vlad's childhood and then how he earned his Jhereg side-kick, Loiosh, and then gets right into the action. We slowly learn about Dragaeran society, how the Houses work, and how they interact. All of Vlad's relationships are already established, including his wife Cawti (the next book, Yendi, details how they met), so Brust takes us along for the ride, and we have to absorb everything as we go. I liked that, as Brust is always clear enough that I was never really lost (though how the honour system works sometimes eluded me).
Vlad is the narrator of the series, and thus his characterization is the most important. Thankfully, Brust nails him beautifully, giving us a likable protagonist (who, occasionally, kills people for either money or because they crossed him, but that's neither here nor there). The dialogue, especially between Vlad and Loiosh, is wonderful. I did get a bit tired of him telling Loiosh to "shut up" after a sarcastic comment, but it seems to be their shtick so I'd better get used to it. I also loved Kragar, Vlad's henchman, and would really like to know more about his story. He has a good relationship with his boss, but the funniest part about him is how he's so unnoticeable. The running gag in this series is how somebody's looking for Kragar and he's right there sitting in front of them, without anybody having seen him come in. That joke may get old after a while, but I still find it hilarious each time it happens.
Jhereg's plot is very lean, with no extraneous material taking up space and filling up the page count. Vlad's dilemma is interesting, as he has to try and find a way to get Mellar out of Morrolan's house without using magic, and without killing him in Castle Black. When the plot expands even more and the risk of a great war between the Jheregs and the Dragons because of this killing rears its ugly head, the plot gets even more intense. Vlad's loyalties are tested as he is good friends with (and works for) Morrolan, so he will not carry out any assassination that will hurt Morrolan's honour, which unfortunately makes Vlad a target for assassination as well. The twists and turns in the story make it unpredictable, and the way sorcery and witchcraft (in this world, there is a difference), along with some of the magical Great Weapons that are about, makes the ending unpredictable. Thankfully, Brust doesn't pull the ending out of left field, though, setting it up nicely beforehand.
My only fault with this book, and it's my own preference more than anything else, is that I'm getting tired of the "let's create an intricate plan that involves lots of people, sit down and be briefed on what everybody needs to do, then carry it out" sequences. They just annoy me. I call it the "Let's have a meeting and then execute the plan" formula. Always, one thing (maybe two) goes wrong, they have to improvise, and they end up succeeding anyway. It's so predictable as to be maddening. Then again, this book is over 20 years old, so I'll grant it a waiver in this case.
Jhereg is an excellent beginning to the Vlad Taltos series. If you like your fantasy a little fun, this would be a great one to pick up.
David Roy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the top 100 Fantasy stories., 12 Jan. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
Jhereg has an incredibly twisted plotline, and Vlad (the main character), faces obstacles so difficult that up until the end I thought the author was going to crash the story by killing or ruining the lives of everyone, but that didn't happen. The story soars to a great conclusion. Read the book.
In order to be a well-rounded reader of Fantasy, you have to have read this book.
It is the stellar stand out of all the Vlad books, the best of the best.
What's more, the universe this is all set in is intriguing beyond belief, a departure from all the panty-waisted magic-must-have-consequences/prices for its use novels; in these novels sorcery is a tool, and can be put to good or bad use, like fire itself. And plenty can be done with sorcery (no wimp-out here, as found in so many other books), teleportation, resurrection, lethal combat spells of all sorts; all great fun. I think that the system of socery devised by the author is one of the top three in fantasy, and simply one of the most interesting. Okay, I'll back up just a litte, sorcery does have some consequences, but they're more like the consequences of missusing fire (you might get burned, you'll choke on the smoke, doing it too much causes a certain kind of pollution, etc. But there are no moralistic parellels or "Wow, we made a pin float, the power will now backlash and destroy all magic and maybe the world! Oh my! Woe is me!".)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read, 21 Mar. 2008
By 
Steven R. McEvoy "MCWPP" (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
This is book One in the adventures of Vlad Taltos, an unlikely of heroes. The book begins with: "There is a similarity, if I may be permitted an excursion into the tenuous metaphor, between the feel of a chilly breeze and the feel of a knife's blade, as either is laid across the back of your neck. I can call up memories of both, if I work at it. The chilly breeze is invariably going to be the more pleasant memory."

The world in this series started much like ours. But long long ago the Jenoine, powerful aliens, came to this planet. They split the population in two; the Easterners were much like us, lived to 50 or 60 years and used witchcraft. Then there were the Dragaera Empire, with people much taller and much longer-lived. Yet we find out that these people were altered by the Jenoine mixing their genetic material with those of the animals native to the planet: seventeen animals to be specific. These people broke into houses named after the animals. And each house takes a turn in ruling the empire.

Vlad, our lonely easterner, is living in the Dragaera Empire. But he has become muscle for the mob, the house Jhereg. Now he is getting paid to beat up and eventually kill those who always picked on him and put him down.

The book is humorous, witty and fun, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman or Roger Zelazny. Vlad zings one-liners at us that will make you laugh and smile and cheer for the underdog: "Success leads to stagnation; stagnation leads to failure." Or "No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style."

If you want some light, fun, humorous reading, this is the series for you.

(First published in Imprint 2005-11-11 as `Aliens and Inspiration')
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Empire's sanctity threatened, Vlad's origins revealed, 7 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
This book begins what could be considered the second phase of Vlad's professional life, and a second trilogy in the series(the first being Taltos, Dragon, and Yendi). Its plot is very complicated and clever, involving a Jhereg crimeboss with a deathwish for himself and Her Majesty's Government, and a certain assassin who may be destined for more than he had ever dreamed or wanted. The book's few flaws lie in its age; it is Brust's first novel and just once in a while that fact makes itself clear. The dialogue is occasionally stilted and one or two minor plot points seem inconsequential or forced, but on the whole they don't detract too much from the work. While not exemplary for the author, it is still worlds above the imitation Tolkien being peddled as "epic fantasy" these days; Brust can say more in 200 pages than Robert Jordan can in 1000.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, author, and character, 4 Sept. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
This book is one of my favorites; it deals with serious issues such as racial intolerance, but Brust is such a good writer that he can make it entertaining instead of sanctimonious.

Part of the fun of the Taltos books is the intriguing plots that the characters develop, and watching Vlad unravel those. The characterization is rock solid throughout the series, and Brust's sense of humor is strong enough that you ignore the fact that the main character is an assassin, albeit an extremely paranoid one.

All the other books in the series get an eight; this one gets a nine for the gift of simply introducing us to these characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites of all time, 12 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
Irreverent. A unique fantasy world. A word of warning, however: this is not Tolkienesque "high fantasy." The protagonist is a wise-cracking assassin with a very "interesting" approach to ethics, and very few of the people he interacts with are his moral "superiors."
The story is greatly enhanced by the effective use of first-person narration. (I am very glad to see the two most recent books of the series have returned to first-person.) Highly recommended, if you have a sense of humor and a desire to read something a little ... different.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great light reading, 6 Jun. 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
I really enjoyed this series. I thought the books were fun
and I enjoyed everyone of them (Orca was a bit slow). These
books a great fun but they are intellectual pop-corn. Light,
airy, not socially or emotionally challenging, but still
good solid fun. I recommend these books for plane rides or
bus trips because they move quickly and dont require much
though. Also, Brust has an EXCELLENT sense of humor. Check
them out. Although these books are not challenging, look at
the score I gave them... I gave them an 8 because they are
quite entertaining and engaging.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The 1st and maybe the best, 21 Feb. 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
This is the first novel in the taltos series. All 7 of these books are
incredible and worth buying. They revolve around an assassin/sorceror and his
life. Each book has its own seperate plot, but true understanding
only comes when you read them in order. The order is _Jhereg_, _Yendi_, _Teckla_,
_Taltos_, _Pheonix_, _Athyra_, and _Orca_. The humor is great, alon with the plots and characters.
Highly Reccomended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and well written.A must read for Fantasy fans, 12 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
Jhereg was definitely one of many great books in the fantasy and science fiction.Brust has away to mix excellent story,good dialogue,and incredible battles.He could do more with a few lines then many in the genre can do with a paragraph.Vlad Taltos and Loiosh are perfect for humurous dialogue.With a wit that is untouchable,Brust betters many in the field.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A phenomenal first read of Brust, 9 Dec. 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Jhereg (Mass Market Paperback)
Steven Brust manages to write an immensely entertaining book that is not only beautifully written, with a complex plot, and engaging characters, but even slips in some serious issues, such as racism, without overtly preaching. The subtle interweaving of fantasy, philosophy, and Hungarian myth make for one of the best reads on the market.
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Jhereg
Jhereg by Brust Steven (Mass Market Paperback - 1 April 1983)
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