the Little Red Reviewer

Two more Vlad Taltos Books

Posted on: September 24, 2019


You saw this article on BoingBoing about Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny, yeah?

I’m going to talk about these books in the order I read them. Even though in hindsight, I should have read them in the opposite order. Oh well.


Minor spoilers and major teases ahead.


So, I haven’t read every single book in this series,  and the ones that I have read, I haven’t exactly read them in order.  But it’s okay, because the books in this series are sorta kinda meant to be read in whatever order you please, and then reread in whatever order you please.  I kinda don’t want to get to the point where I’ve read every book in this series? Like, I always want there to be some surprises left. Lol I’ll be 90 years old and blind, and that’s when I’ll decide to read the one I haven’t read, and then I’ll be shouting in the middle of the night at the nursing home “That’s how Teldra and Morrolan met? You are fucking shitting me!”


These books are my comfort reads.  When I need something I know I’m going to love from page one,  I pick up a Vlad Taltos book, and I’m a happy camper for a few days.


Also, I’ve got a little bit of history with this series.



Phoenix was written in 1990, and is chronologically the approximate 9th book in Brust’s Vlad Taltos series.  (yeah, this isn’t that kind of fantasy and these aren’t those dragons. Just so we’re clear)


This is the book where Vlad realizes his marriage is over.  Some readers will gloss right over those scenes, I had a really tough time.  I’m a softy, ok? And he still loves her. And I think she still loves him. And I get why they split, and I respect it, but I can still cry about it, ok?


Anyway, the book opens with Vlad getting killed.  And he thinks about the Demon Goddess Verra, and how he


“had once traveled several thousand miles through supernatural horrors and the realm of the dead men just to bid her good-day”


And I thought that sounded hella cool, so I pulled Taltos off my bookshelf to read next.   Not only does Verra answer when Vlad calls out to her with his dying breath, she gives him a job.  All Vlad’s gotta do is kill a guy. He’s pretty good at that, so no problem. Except, his target is the king of a tiny island country that the Empire doesn’t have anything to do with, because sorcery doesn’t work there.  Sorcery is what allows the Empire to function, so if you could go somewhere where it doesn’t work . . . .


There’s also a drummer who might be a spy.


And there’s a revolution brewing at home.  This book has buckets of societal questions about the rights of the lower classes and the rights of minority ethnic groups, and the right to protest and the right to be heard. But this isn’t a book about how to start a revolution, it’s not a youth anthem, it’s not a book about toppling the system, this ain’t Hunger Games, you know.  In truth, Vlad would very much like for things to quiet down and go back to the way they were. He just wants to live a quiet life where he gets paid to kill people, and runs illegal gambling dens, you know?

Phoenix  involves more political intrigue, jailbreaks, dealing with middle management,  how to negotiate, how to hold your temper and when not to, how to turn getting arrested into an artform, and how to get a price put on your own head.  Phoenix involves a lot of Vlad sitting around thinking, and pacing around thinking, and brainstorming with his friends.


This is the book where everything changes for Vlad, because sometimes you sit down and shut up, and sometimes you stand up for what you believe in, damnit.  And because that changes a person, this is the book that forces the next few books in the series off the map.


This is a book about one set of puzzle pieces coming together perfectly,  while another set shatters.


Taltos was written in 1988,  and chronologically functions as the first (or maybe 2nd?) book in the series.  If you are 100% new to this series, Taltos is a good place to start.


And awww! It’s baby Vlad!  He’s so young, and doesn’t know anything about anything yet!  Even though I could have read this book anytime in the last few decades, for some reason I waited until now,  so it felt very prequel-y to me. Actually, it kinda felt like the 5th Company book by Kage Baker, where there’s all the prequel-y type stuff happening, and suddenly everything that happens in books 1-4 is suddenly crystal clear?  Yeah, it felt a little like that.


I got a kick out of the three story lines that are going all once.  There is the “now” storyline, where Vlad meets Morrolan for the first time, gets manipulated (also terrified) into meeting Sethra Lavode, and he somehow ends up working for them and having to do something that only an Easterner can do and survive.   Sethra is hilarious, by the way.   What’s Vlad gotta do?  Oh nothing, just  travel to the Land of the Dead to beg the gods for someone’s life ( and to bid Verra good day, among other things) , and then somehow get out of there alive.


Yeah, if you walk out of the Paths of the Dead, and you’re still alive, does that mean you get to be on a first name basis with Sethra Lavode? Asking for a friend.


And oh shit, that’s how he meets Verra for the first time?  And that’s how him and Aliera meet for the first time?? And that vial that Kiera gave him. . .   is that how he figures out. . shit, did he know all this time about Aliera and he never told me (or he did, and I wasn’t paying attention?) ,  and holy crap, other-character-I-won’t-spoil makes an appearance too??? Taltos is like the Buzzfeed spoiler thread for this whole series!


The 2nd timeline is Vlad reminiscing about his teenage years,  what his dad tried to teach him, what his grandpa taught him, what happened after his dad died, how he learned witchcraft and fencing, how he started doing “work”. What it felt like to kill a man.  What it felt like to get paid to kill a man.


Now that I think even more about that,  if you enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora, how Lynch puts flashbacks of when Locke and Jean were younger and their shenanigans when Chains was still alive,  the way Brust does Vlad’s flashbacks feels similar.


And the third storyline? If i told you the “when” of that, it would spoil stuff, so I won’t.


I’m familiar with a lot of events that happen after the events of Taltos. So this entire book, i’m sitting there reading, and every five pages or so I exclaiming “that’s where that came from???”  “that’s how they met???” and such. Next time I’m read a Vlad book, and I’m scratching my head because I can’t remember some detail, I’ll refer to Taltos.


Hmmm…  time to read the Prequels? Would be fun to be able to banter with Paarfi on twitter.

3 Responses to "Two more Vlad Taltos Books"

I can’t read to read the rest of the Vlad books – and I owe you for reading The Book of Jhereg in the first place (thank you!) 🙂

Liked by 1 person

and you’ve got a ton of books to enjoy! don’t binge them, unless you want to. this series works just as well if you read them slowly.

Liked by 1 person

Slow is the only speed I have! 😀


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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