the Little Red Reviewer

Tiassa, by Steven Brust

Posted on: November 9, 2012

Tiassa, by Steven Brust

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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I am among the fans who came to Tiassa with trepidation. The two books that come before it, Jhegaala and Iorich are slower, quieter reads. Not much happens, Vlad pines for his ex-wife, everyone is very sad about a lot of things, the witty snark was toned down. They aren’t bad books by any means (Brust’s writing will break your heart no matter what’s going on in the story) they just aren’t super fun to read. Would Tiassa be more of the same?  I didn’t even care if it moved the timeline forward, I just wanted the feeling of fun, and adventure, and optimism that I’d gotten out of the earlier Vlad  books.

After a handful of “meh” reads these last few weeks, I was desperate for a book that would grab me and insist that it was going to lead this dance.  I needed a comfort read; an author I could trust to transport me to a different world, a book that would swallow me whole so quickly I wouldn’t even feel its teeth.

Steven Brust’s Tiassa to the rescue.

I saw a review on Amazon that said Tiassa was Brust’s love letter to his fans, and after reading it I have to whole heartedly agree.  If you are already a long time reader of the Vlad Taltos series, you will be in heaven with Tiassa. But on the flip-side, if you’re new to the series, this is a terrible place to start (start here. really.).

The book is sharply divided in three portions, with interludes inbetween, and throughout everything a silver tiassa sculpture keeps coming up.  A tiny, seemingly useless sculpture of a winged cat, it may have been forged by the gods or it may be worthless. Regardless, the little tiassa seems to be making its own plans.  Packed with the requisite witty dialog but jumping around in time and touching on Draegaran mythology, Tiassa isn’t so much a Vlad Taltos book as it is a Dragaeran Empire book.

The first two portions take place earlier in Vlad’s timeline, around the time he met Cawti. In the first section, Tag, A job is set up, a con is run, someone gets rich, someone gets away, someone with influence over someone else takes the fall. Ahh, but none of this is really what it seems, is it?  This is pure youthful Vlad. He knows he’s not always going to win, but he’s out to have a good time, not get killed (much), and maybe make a little bit of money and have someone end up owing him a favor.

The second and shortest section, Whitecrest, takes place a bit after Vlad’s split with Cawti.  The Jhereg still have a price on Vlad’s head and he’s fled the city.   The Empire is in imminent danger from an invasion, and the silver tiassa could be the key to stopping the invasion. For some reason, it’s believed the tiassa is in Vlad’s posession. Lady Whitecrest approaches Cawti to see if she can convince the Easterner to give up the hiding spot of her estranged ex-husband.  The scenes between Cawti and Lady Norathar are priceless, and I really appreciated getting to see Cawti through her own eyes instead of through Vlad’s. Even if the cost was not moving the timeline forward at all, I’d happily read a novel just about the adventures those women used to have in the good old days.  Doesn’t matter how much Norathar tries to hide it, I think she misses the thrill of being an assassin.

The third portion, Special Tasks, was the toughest for me to get a handle on, but ultimately the most rewarding.  Written in the style of Paarfi (the overly verbose narrator of Brust’s Khaavren Romances), the ornamented language took some getting used to, but once I did I was smiling from ear to ear at the dialog and narration mechanisms.  Steven Brust usually employs a specific prose style for the Vlad Taltos book, but let it be known far and wide that that’s not the only prose style he’s excels at.

And those interludes I mentioned earlier?  That’s where the magic happens.  That’s where the oohing and aahing was, where some secrets were told while others were started.  It’s something involving Devera and the small silver tiassa. To tell you any more would ruin an amazing, wonderful, perfect turning point of a surprise.

This  book may not have broken my heart the way some earlier books did, but Tiassa got me to fall back in love with a series I was beginning to worry for. Vlad Taltos is alive and well, and doing what he does best – demanding that world pay attention to him.

While I’m waiting for the next Vlad Taltos book, I think I’ll pick up one of those Khaavren Romances.  I’m not sure if 500 pages of the Paarfi style is quite my thing, but I trust Steven Brust. He may not write what I expect, but he writes what I need.

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9 Responses to "Tiassa, by Steven Brust"

What a nice review. Makes me want to go check out the earlier books in the series. I’m aware of them, and would swear that I’ve read something by Brust in the past, but I know I haven’t read any of the Taltos books. Its a shame that the previous two were such downers. Not sure I understand why authors do this sort of thing, or more to the point why editors allow them to do so.

At any rate, I’m happy you found something that excited you. That is such a special feeling, especially after a read or two that is just so-so.

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I think I know why the previous two books were the way they were, it’s a long story, and it’s okay in the long run.

Other Brust books you might have read Agyar (thriller), The Sun the Moon and the Stars (contemp fiction) and he’s co-written some books with Emma Bull and Megan Lindholm. Any of that ring a bell?

I’d been slogging through 2 super slow reads (one of them is about to be DNF), when I picked up Tiassa. 3 days latter Tiassa was finished and I was refreshed enough to try the other 2 monsters again, one of which I’ve now, finally finished.

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“Tiassa isn’t so much a Vlad Taltos book as it is a Dragaeran Empire book.” I wish I’d thought of that line when I wrote my review.

The Khaavren books are fun, in large part because they answer questions about the history of Dragaera that are presented as historical in the main series. Lots of major world-building events are shown as they happened.
Paarfi is just something you have to be in the mood for. I loved these books, but yes, the narration can get a bit much at times. My recommendation is to put the book aside the very moment you start thinking it’s annoying rather than fun, and go back to it a few days later.

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“I think I’ll pick up one of those Khaavren Romances….He may not write what I expect, but he writes what I need.” Please do. You can tell with every line that he had a blast writing them; and I did reading them. After reading The Phoenix Guard and 500 Year After I went back and reread Dumas, in English. To me, Brust’s pastiches are incomparably better.

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Sounds like an interesting read! Thanks for sharing.

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you might get a kick out of this series, you should check it out. :D

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I have never even heard of this before…

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Let me offer a sure cure for being ambivalent about Paarfi’s style: Read Phoenix Guards, and you will fall madly in love with it.

Paarfi’s work is shown in its worst light in Tiassa because it is noticeably polluted by his contempt for Easterners and by his contempt for the present day. The full length Paarfi histories encounter few of the one and none of the other, so his strengths are allowed to exercise themselves unimpeded.

What must be understood is that Paarfi is first and foremost a romantic, and the ugly realities of both Easterners and our cynical current times offend him. In Tiassa, his romantic spirit clings sullenly to its perch, cawing resentfully at the objects of its disapproval. In the full histories it soars above the Enclouding, and it will take your heart along for the ride.

In short, just read the damn book. You’ll thank me.

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“In short, just read the damn book. You’ll thank me.”

as someone who has said exactly that to people, I will take your advice!

however. . . as I was pulling Phoenix Guards off the shelf this morning, the slender and more portable Agyar also fell into my hands. This morning Agyar won the epic battle of which book nestles best into my purse, well preparing me for a slow and boring afternoon at work. Phoenix Guards will go with me on my travels next week.

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