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There are a few things about this book that amaze me. First, Steven Brust is one of the few authors I read in high school 20 years ago that I still actively pursue; second, that this is the 12th book in a series and I still get very excited when a new book comes out and I finish it with regret, knowing I will have to wait an indefinite amount of time for the next one to be released. As the 12th book in this series and the 17th set in this reality, it contributes much to the storylines of both our hero, Vlad Taltos, and the Dragaeran world.

This book was a page-turner. Once I picked it up I just could not put it down. I believe this story can stand on its own, and I know people who have started this series at almost any place. Some recommend starting at the beginning, but then you can either read them chronologically or in order of publication. I have gone back and reread them both ways and prefer the order in which they were published. Vlad Taltos is a human living in a world of Dragaerans. The Dragaerans are a society ruled by houses and a cycle. There are 17 houses, and each takes a turn ruling the empire, depending on where a house is in the cycle. They have more or less power. This book goes more into that dynamic of house position than some of the others. Each house has dominant characteristics and predominant occupations. The order of the cycle is: Phoenix, Dragon, Lyorn, Tiassa, Hawk, Dzur, Issola, Tsalmoth, Vallista, Jhreg, Iorich, Chreotha, Yendi, Orca, Teckla, Jhegaala, Athyra, and then returns to Phoenix. Most houses you are born into, a few will sell titles, or can be earned. Vlad first bought a title in the Jhereg and moved up. The Jhereg are a mixed clan, and are known to be the criminal element in this world. Later Vlad earned an imperial title with estates and such.

But back to the specifics of Iorich. Vlad is on the run from the Jhereg and has been for a number of years now. During his journeys he finds out one of his friends is in serious trouble. So he returns to the capitol of the empire, Dragaeran City, to help an old friend out. However when he arrives it becomes clear he might have to choose between helping out his friend and helping the Empress (and though not a friend, is at least an acquaintance, and her majesty.) This only complicates Vlad's life - more when Aliera does not seem to want to defend herself for the same reasons of not hurting the Empress or the empire. Vlad, a former assassin and Jhereg boss once again, returns to help out a friend even with risk to his own life and limb and with threats against his family. The Jhereg at the bottom of the cycle and the Orca are trying to squeeze the Empress. This book has it all - intrigue, politics, problems to be solved and, though not as much as other Vlad adventures, some violence.

Brust is truly a wordsmith. I find it a delight to read his prose. He approaches each book in a unique and new way, yet remaining loyal to what has gone before. The writing is a pleasure to read, the story flows, and even though Vlad has all the faults one could expect to be truly human, you cannot but find yourself cheering for him and racing to find out how he will unravel this problem and then come up with a solution to it. Brust is one of my all-time favourite authors and this book contributes nicely to his canon of work.

The twelve books in this series are: Jhereg (1983), Yendi (1984),Teckla (1987), Taltos (1988), Phoenix (1990), Athyra (1993), Orca (1996),Dragon (1998), Issola (2001), Dzur (2007), Jhegaala (2008) and now Iorich (2010). Interestingly, all except one are named after Houses; Taltos which originally had a working title of Easterner is named after our hero. Brust is planning on writing one book named after each of the remaining houses in the cycle. The other books set in this world are: The Phoenix Guard, 500 Years After and The Viscount of Adrilankha told in three parts as The Paths of the Dead, The Lord of Castle Black and Sethra Lavode. These other books are of much greater length.

(First Published in Imprint 2010-02-05.)
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In which Vlad Taltos meets his son, tries to clear a friend who has been arrested on capital charges, and meets lawyers who, to his surprise, believe in justice. And in which we learn about the Dragaeran equivalent of the Chilcott inquiry ...

This entertaining comic fantasy novel is the twelfth published book in the story of Vladimir Taltos. Currently (August 2011) it is probably also the twelfth in chronological sequence. (The two are not always congruent in this series, as the time sequence jumps about a lot. The thirteenth book, "Tiassa" contains three linked stories set at different times, but it is my impression that the climax of "Tiassa" is set a little after "Iorich")

Since Vlad's son is eight years old at the time of this book, it must be set eight or nine years after Vlad goes on the run from the Jhereg "organisation" (Mafia) in the book "Phoenix". And as Vlad is carrying a very special sword called "Lady Teldra" we can deduce that it is set some time after the books "Issola (Vlad Taltos Series)" and "Dzur (Vlad Taltos Series)".

At the start of this book, Vlad Taltos learns that his friend Aliera has been arrested on capital charges. None of her other friends, from the Empress down, appear to be doing anything about it.

So despite the fact that "The Orgaisation" has put a huge price on his head, Vlad returns to the Imperial capital, Adrilankha city at the start of this book. Vlad knows that he is risking his life by doing this. He knows that the somebody is sure to eventually collect the contract which the Jhereg "Organisation" has put out on him. But as he explains to one of the other characters, when you have survived being caught up in battles between Gods, it is difficult to be as scared as you should be of mortal gangsters. This may be a mistake ...

In trying to clear Aliera, Vlad meets some of the lawyers of the House of the Iorich. He learns that when House Iorich is powerful enough to do so, members of this house try to make the courts reflect justice, and not just the government's convenience. He also discovers a web of intrigue and corruption, and meets his young son. (This book contains a flashback to Vlad's first meeting with his son, who was then four: during the main timeframe of the book they meet again, and the boy is now eight.)

The charges against Aliera may, or may not, be related to a massacre of Tecla peasants which has recently taken place while the empire was putting down a rebellion. As the Empire's warlord, the troops responsible were nominally under Aliera's command at the time. One of the Iorich characters in the story is heading up an investigation into this massacre, which appears to be the Dragaeran equivalent of the Chilcott Inquiry: most of the chapters of this book start with an extract from the documents relating to that inquiry.

As mentioned, the chronological sequence of the "Vlad Taltos" series jumps about all over the place, and there are all sorts of little nuggets buried in these stories which don't fully make sense if you have not read previously published books. I personally think it is best to read these stories in the order they were published.

You can also make an argument for reading them in chronological sequence: this has never been published in any of the books, so here is a list of the books in publication order, with the chronological place of the main action of each book in brackets after:

1) Jhereg (4th)
2) Yendi (3rd)
3) Tecla (5th)
4) Taltos (1st)
5) Phoenix (6th)
6) Athyra (8th)
7) Orca (9th)
8) Dragon (2nd)
9) Issola (10th)
10) Dzur (11th)
11) Jhegaala (7th)
12) Iorich (12th)
13) Tiassa (13th).

So in other words, the chronological sequence is:

a) Taltos
b) Dragon
c) Yendi
d) Jhereg
e) Tecla
f) Phoenix
g) Jhegaala
h) Athyra
i) Orca
j) Issola
k) Dzur
l) Iorich
m) Tiassa

To give an example of the sort of detail you will miss if you read these books out of sequence: two important characters in the series are actually the same person. One of Vlad's oldest friends is really a cover identity, complete with magically disguised appearance and a whole network of friends and contacts, used by one of the most powerful figures in the Empire when she wishes to go somewhere incognito. Vlad is one of the very few people who knows "both" identities and it took him years before he figured it out in the book "Orca (Jhereg S.)". Stephen Brust had obviously planned this double identity right from the first book he published in this series twenty years ago - there are hints a lot stronger than the fact that the two characters are never seen together - but "Orca" is the only book where the fact that they are the same person is made explicit.

In "Iorich", Vlad meets this person in both her identities, and respects her wish to be treated as if they were two separate people. When he meets the "real" identity Vlad starts to ask her a question about it, but she quickly changes the subject. A few hours later he meets her in the other identity and she remarks that it's been years since they've met. In both cases Vlad goes along with the pretence, even though he knows both identities to be the same person, and she knows that Vlad knows. If you have read "Orca" this little comedy of manners and similar events in other books such as "Dzur" can be hysterically funny. The reader who has not read "Orca" is almost certain to completely miss it.

Steven Brust's "Vlad Taltos" novels and "Khaavren" romances are set in a world of magic, where there are several intelligent species, including two types of men and women. Humans like ourselves are usually referred to as "Easterners," the other type of men and women call themselves humans but are usually referred to in the books as "Dragaerans" or occasionally as Elves. Dragaerans are taller than humans, live 2,000 or 3,000 years or so, and then after death are eligible for reincarnation if they have not annoyed a God too much or had their soul destroyed by a "Morganti" weapon or a "Great Weapon" such as the sword "Lady Teldra" which Vlad now carries.

Morganti weapons are used between mortals when they are really angry with someone because they don't just kill you, but destroy your soul. "Great Weapons" are rare and particularly powerful Morganti weapons which can even harm Gods.

All Dragaerans belong to one of seventeen "Great Houses" named after animals of the fantasy world in which the novels are set. Twelve of the thirteen novels featuring Vlad Taltos, including "Iorich," are named after one of these great houses, usually also featuring a member of that house in a prominent role: if Steven Brust is planning to write a novel for each house we are about two-thirds of the way through the series.

Each of the animals for which the great houses are named epitomises two characteristics, and the houses tend to have a preferred occupation to which those characteristics are relevant. For examples Dragons symbolise war and conquest, Dzur (which look a bit like tigers) represent heroism and honor, hence Dragaeran members of House Dragon and House Dzur tend to be soldiers. "Tecla" look like mice and symbolise cowardice and fertility: members of House Tecla are peasants. "Chreotha" represent Forethought and ensnarement, and members of that house are merchants. The Orca (Killer Whale) represents Brutality and Mercantilism: members of that house are sailors, pirates or - wait for it - bankers, and "Jhereg" representing Greed and Corruption are gangsters or assassins. The house of the Iorich epitomise justice and retribution, and the members of that house in this story are all judges or lawyers.

The hero, Baronet Vladimir Taltos, is an assassin and minor sorcerer, who used to be a prominent member of House Jhereg, but is now on the run from them after developing an unfortunate case of principles, which he tries very hard to hide. He has two companions, Loiosh and Rocza who are actual Jhereg - that is to say, they are small intelligent flying reptiles.

Another Dragaeran term used several times in "Iorich" which is never explained in this book but has been described elsewhere is going to "The Star" or being "starred." This refers to the Dragaeran method of execution. Those convicted of a capital crime in the Dragaeran empire are tied to a five pointed star with the head and each arm and leg against a point of the star, and the executioner then strikes off in turn each of the four limbs and finally the head.

Taltos narrates these stories with a wonderful dry wit which is one of the best aspects of the novels.

If you enjoy the Taltos novels, you might be interested in another sequence of books which Steven Brust has set in the same country, but quite a few centuries earlier. These are something between a parody and a homage to the novels of Alexandre Dumas. He's called them the "Khaavren Romances" after the central character of the first two novels, who corresponds very closely to D'Artagnan. Obviously none of the human characters overlap, but some of the Dragaerans do: Khaavren himself meets Vlad Taltos briefly in "Tecla" and at much greater length in "Tiassa" which is almost an overlap volume merging the two series.

Two of the major characters in the Taltos novels, "Sethra Lavode" and Morrolan, The Lord of Castle Black," are also important enough in the Khaavren romances to have the books I have just linked to named after them.

The five Khaavren romances, in sequence, are

1) "The Phoenix Guards" (equivalent to "The Three Musketeers")
2) "Five Hundred Years After" (equivalent to "Twenty years after")

Then a trilogy "The Viscount of Adrilankha" (e.g. "The Viscount of Bragelonne") which comprises

3) The Paths of the Dead
4) The Lord of Castle Black
5) Sethra Lavode

Overall I found both the "Taltos" novels and the "Khaavren Romances" very entertaining: I recommend both series and this book.
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on 30 March 2010
So much has been written about this already...But it is indeed yet another fantastic story.

This is the latest installment in the life of our long suffering hero Vald Taltos. As we have found in previous books his choices are often not the sensible choices that would lead to a long, prosperous and no doubt boring life but what strikes you about them is the way the author has given them a sense of reality so you feel the conflict Vald has in making them.

This book picks up Vald's story after a number of years on the run which resulted from making an enemy of his former employers (the equivalent to the Mafia or Triads). He learns that his friend Aliera has been accused in relation to a massacre of peseants and is in custody. He decides to go back to the city of Adrilankha to help although Aliera is refusing any help, for as it turns out a very good reason. This results in him being thrust into intrigue and politics and yet again the possibility of getting himself killed. We meet old friends and ironically we do not make any new ones (that we know of).

You can read this book if you have never read Steven Brust before however you will miss out on the 'in jokes' and subplots but paradoxically in most places you would not know unless you had been reading the other novels . It would seem like joining a conversation between two friends that have known each other for years who know things about people you don't. It would be better to start at the start and it is generally agreed that publication order is best. I have noticed on many other reviews of Steven Brust's books helpful 'read in this order' lists for both chronological and publication orders.

To sum up, another fantastic read and please hurry up with the next one!
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on 31 May 2011
This is structured like a detective novel, Taltos moves from person to person trying to find out why things are being done.
At the same time his life is complicated by the ever lingering death threats.

Most of the old characters make brief cameo appearances but nothing of interest is done or said.
There is some decent humour in the book.

The problem is that the plot doesn't make sense.
Some of the previous books had convoluted plots but at the end the explanation made sense of everything even if it wasn't really believable.
This one is different, even at the end it doesn't make sense.
Some of the characters' behaviour is out of character and the political situation simply seems contrived to the point of nonsense.

Readable but not on of his best.
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on 28 May 2015
I love Steven Brust, especially the Taltos series of books. Vlad and Loiosh are a wonderful pair and I do love how the plot runs out. Always good for a re-read.
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on 1 February 2010
Brust is one of the very few authors I buy in hardback and when it arrived I immediately put down the other book I was in the middle of and proceeded to polish it off in less that 24 hours. It's an extraordinarily satisfying read, the whole book just made me smile both with its written humour, its implied humour and just with the sheer slickness of its characters and writing. It's a great instalment in the series, bringing Vlad back to the city and featuring appearances by familiar faces, some of whom you don't realise how much you've missed until they appear. I really enjoyed it and just wish it had been longer.
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