January 01, 2004

Athyra, by Steven Brust

This is a singular book for Brust, not just in the context of his "Vlad Taltos" series, but with respect to all his work to date.

One of the fascinating things about Brust's work is that he always uses an unreliable narrator. Even when you think the narrator is giving you the story straight, you can't be sure--and you certainly can't assume that the narrator is always 100% correct.

In this book, which follows immediately after Teckla and Phoenix, Brust dispenses with a narrator altogether, and consequently gives us the only unbiased external view of Vlad Taltos we are likely to get.

Toward the end of Phoenix, Vlad took some actions that seriously angered his superiors in the Jhereg. He's now persona non grata and will be rendered persona non viva (if that's the right expression) as soon as the Jhereg's best assassins can catch up with him. So he's wandering about the countryside trying to keep his head down--and attached.

As this book begins, he's just come to a rural area; the local lord turns out to be an Athyra wizard Vlad had a difference of opinion with in Taltos. The wizard kills someone who helped Vlad at that time, and then tries to kill Vlad; Vlad obviously needs to do something about it.

The neat thing is, not only is Vlad not narrating, Vlad's not even the viewpoint character. Instead, the camera follows a young Teckla boy who's being trained to be the village healer, and who (being curious) befriends Vlad when our hero first shows up. It's simply fascinating how different Vlad looks from the outside as opposed to the inside.

Posted by Will Duquette at January 1, 2004 09:13 PM