So back in July I did a series check in for Vlad Taltos, by Steven Brust, for the first 10 books of the series. If you missed it, you can read it here, but long story short: this series is great and you should read it. Now since I had read 10 out of the 15 books currently available this year, I thought I would take a break from the series and read some other stuff – until the lovely people at Tor sent me a review copy of Vallista, the most recent book to come out. So screw it, we are back to snarky assassins and jhereg. I read through the four books I needed to for Vallista, and am now ready to talk about it. This review will have some minor spoilers for the series, so turn back if you want to remain pure.
One of my favorite things in stories is theme, and as I mentioned in my check in Brust is a master of finding new themes for his books. Vallista is no exception to this trend and follows t Vlad as he is trapped in a magical haunted house that breaks the rules of reality. Devera, our favorite time traveling niece, has found herself trapped in this weird house with doors that lead to weird places, times, and people. Vlad must figure out what is going on to free himself and Devera from this twisted location.
Vallista is an interesting mix of murder mystery and surreal philosophy that stands out as one of the most unique of the Vlad Taltos series. It takes place just before the events of Hawk, the previous book, and explains a few of the loose ends from that story. I was initially a little disappointed we were back tracking chronologically again, as we are running out of books in the series surprisingly fast and I feel like there is still so much I want to see. However, Vallista quickly broke through my grumpy mood and delivered one of the strongest Vlad Taltos stories ever. The mystery of what is happening is very well written, keeping me interested and on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Whenever a book involves Devera, the passage of time gets wonky, and things can get a little confusing – but I was able to grasp what was going on all the way through Vallista which made me happy.
Additionally, Vallista is one of the rarer Taltos books (Orca and Iorich being the other two that stand out) where we get to meet a lot of smaller Dragaerans and learn about their lives. This does a lot to add a sense of depth to the Dragaeran empire as we spend most of our time with the elite in the series. Learning about the daily struggle of a dancer or a butler is both wonderful in its own right and adds perspective that makes me appreciate the empresses and gods more. On top of this, Vallista continues Brust’s trend of what I think of as “hindsight explanation”. At the start of the series, Brust simply didn’t explain a lot of the quirky things about his world, such as the long life span of Dragaerans and how death works – and the writing was so fun that I just accepted them as is and suspended disbelief. However, as we get to the later books like Vallista, Brust is revealing hidden secrets about how his world works that make sense and it gives the series this pervasive feeling that it has all been planned out meticulously.
My only complaint about Vallista is that its completion means we are one book closer to the end of this fantastic series – and I am not quite ready for it to be over. Brust continues to show with each new book that he is only getting better and the quality of the Vlad Taltos series is ever climbing upwards. If you like the series and haven’t picked up Vallista yet I encourage you to do so. If you haven’t read the series yet, why are you reading this I told you there were spoilers – but while you are here, go do yourself a favor and go pick up Jhereg.
Rating: Vallista – 9.0/10