the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘assassin

 

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?

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The Emperor’s Knife, by Mazarkis Williams

Available in the UK: Oct 2011 Jo Fletcher Books, US Dec 2011, Night Shade Books

Where I got it: Received advanced reading copy

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A royal family on the brink of disaster, a bride with an unsettled assassin on her trail, an ill emperor and his mad brother, their royal mother who will do anything to keep whatever power she has, a conniving vizier who will do anything to steal the throne and a mysterious magician known only as The Pattern Master, saying there isn’t much going on in this story is the understatement of the year. With echoes of a crusades era Ottoman Empire and brimming with the intrigue and courtly betrayals that reminded me at times of a Zhang Yimou film, Mazarkis William’s debut novel The Emperor’s Knife is a refreshing change from the European centered epic fantasy that’s recently seemed to take over bookstore shelves.

Following three major story lines (and a few small ones), we are quickly introduced to Prince Sarmin, younger brother to ruling Emperor Beyon; Eyul, the Emperor’s assassin; and Mesema, a young woman from a Felting tribe destined to be a royal bride.  Instead of a chapter at a time from each storyline, the point of view changes every few pages, or in some cases, every few paragraphs. It takes a bit to get used to, but this style of writing quickly turns into a method of keeping the reader’s rapt attention.

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Published in 1996, The Lions of Al-Rassan is not a new book, but it is easily the most moving book I have read this year. If the end of this book doesn’t bring you to tears or compel you to find your loved ones and hold them close, there may be something very wrong with you. That’s a fuzzy photo of my copy. See the bent cover? The stressed spine? I felt it was important to show the how loved this little book has been in my household.

The Peninsula of Al-Rassan isn’t that unusual. In every square, tavern and temple the poets, singers, and clerics tell anyone who will listen of the romance of the battlefield. Of how the gods smile on warriors, of the honor, glory, and spoils of war. But the two most famous warriors of Al-Rassan know better. They know that war provides none of these things. All war does is take.

I better say it early on, this is not a book about war. This is not an action story, it is not epic fight scene after epic fight scene. This is a book about what strained loyalties can force men and women to do. The war is just the backdrop, The Lions of Al-Rassan is a love story. Read the rest of this entry »

This review only covers the first 6 or 8 volumes of Deathnote, because that’s how far I have read. 

Light Yagami is a normal high school student with a normal life. His father is the chief of police , his little sister drives him nuts, and he’s worried about exams. Depressed by what he sees as a rise in corruption and crime, he idealistically wishes he could something about it, and that something should be done about it. 

Meanwhile, in the spirit world, Ryuk realizes his deathnote is missing. He must have left it on earth last time he was there! If a human touches the notebook, Ryuk won’t be able to get it back until the human dies or voluntarily gives it back! If the other Shinigami in the spirit world find out he’s lost another notebook, he’ll really be a laughing stock! Ryuk decides it’s time for an extended vacation in the human world. (Shinigami are death spirits who gain strength from the deaths of the living, be it a natural death or not) 

And who should find the notebook but Light? In the manga, each chapter starts with another “Rule” of the Deathnote. Early on, we learn if you write someone’s name in there and a time of death, that’s when they will die. You also have to know what the person looks like, and you can add in other details as well, such as how they die. Ryuk tells Light much of what the Deathnote can and not do, and although Light keeps waiting for Ryuk to be all judgmental, Ryuk just says he’s there to watch, to see what will happen. Light immediately pays much more attention to the local and national news. Someone arrested for some horrific crime and the person’s photo is shown on tv? They mysteriously die of a heart attack in jail. 

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 The Book of Jhereg includes the first three novellas in Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series , Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla. Brust is already pulling the first of many fast ones on you tho, the novellas aren’t in chronological order. Published order yes, but not chronological. I suggest reading the three stories in the order in which they are written, and then as a reread, reading them in chronological order.

The first time someone told me about this series, my first thought was “Assassin? Witchcraft? Sorcery? Srsly can you get any more cliched?” luckily, this series isn’t really about assassins, witchcraft, or sorcery, and it’s some of the least cliched fiction I’ve ever come across. Brust’s writing is wry and sarcastic, and subtler and smarter than you’d first guess. Besides, I never get sick of these antihero stories.

I’ll get into the plots of the stores in a bit, but first let me give you some background as to the world. Much of this is covered in the first published story, which is another good reason to just read these in the order offered.

Behold the great Dragaeran Empire. Nearly as old as time itself, and ruled by seventeen great houses who in a specific order (sometimes by force), take turns sitting the throne. Named after indigenous animals, many people believe members of the houses reflect the traits of their symbolic animal. The further away you are from the top of the cycle, the lower your House’s status. In this world, your House is everything. It defines your occupation, your marriage options, your ambitions, everything. Not exactly human, Dragaerans of all houses are obscenely tall, usually with dark hair and dark eyes, and then tend to live a few thousand years. And they all (ok, nearly all of them) look down on the filthy, short-lived human Easterners who live in their midst. Not only are Easterners filthy and poor, they insist on practicing that silly witchcraft of theirs, when everyone knows Dragearan sorcery is far superior. Adrilankha, capital city of the Empire is home to the Phoenix Empress, and much corruption, politicking, and murder. No worries about the murder rate: so long as they didn’t use a Morganti Weapon (it eats your soul), a family member or your employer will just pay a sorceress a small fee to revivify you. In a world where death is rarely final, assassins are hired to send messages, not create widows.

And then there’s Vlad Taltos. Easterner, assassin, witch, dabbler in sorcery, member of the House of Jhereg, sometimes friend of the Empress, and partner and caretaker of his familiar, Loiosh the jhereg. Vlad might be one of my favorite literary characters, and he might be smart and quick and a curiousity to the nobles, but he’s not much without the obnoxious and sarcastic Loiosh riding on his shoulder. Psionically linked, they are dependent on each other for survival. What one feels the other feels, what one knows, the other knows. And Loiosh is such a bastard sometimes!

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Weren’t all the BBAW interviews fun? I thought they were a blast, and it’s going to take me a good two weeks to get through all of them.

Wednesday was Forgotten Treasures day, where we showcase a book or author we wish got more attention in blogging world. I’m just getting to it now, better late than never!

The author I’d like to bring your attention to is Steven Brust, and his Vlad Taltos series.

Started in the early 80’s with Jhereg, this series currenly has 12 books, with plans for 19 in total. Omygosh, twelves books, with seven more coming??? Don’t worry, most of these are in the range of 300 pages, and some are novella length. A few of the early books are available in one volume, The Book of Jhereg, which I highly, highly recommend.

Of the twelves books that are currently available, I think I have read eight or nine.

The main character is Vlad Taltos, and he’s a, uhh, umm. . . he kills people for a living.

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If you have not yet read Assassin’s Apprentice (review here), you may want to skip this blog post. because I can’t adequately discuss the second book in the series without offering some major spoilers on the first. I’ll wait while you get the first book and read it. Seriously, I’ll wait. it’s worth it.

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there’s spoilers for the first book in the series coming up!

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don’t say I didn’t warn you! Read the rest of this entry »


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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.