Book 2 of Vlad Taltos
By Steven Brust
Published by Audible, Inc.
Read by Bernard Setaro Clark
I have enjoyed this series since it was originally published back in the 1980’s. What makes it interesting is the protagonist, Vlad Taltos is basically a gangster, a member of a Mafia-like organization known as the House of Jhereg. And yet, in spite of the fact that he is an assassin a shakedown artist and an up-and-coming Mafia-like boss, somehow, he remains a fairly likeable character. Darned if I know why!
The books of this series are not written in strictly chronological order, and some of them jump all over the place time-wise. This second book is actually a prequel to the first and covers events that were hinted at in the first book such as meeting the love of his life, and getting killed by her.
The story is a pretty good one although I have to admit that the first time I read it, I didn’t realize it was a prequel. I think I enjoyed it more for that, but I suspect I just did not recall all the details of the first book of the+ series. This time around I caught myself wondering what happened to his wife… until she showed up and then I started to realize what was happening and figured out when. There probably should have been an author’s forward mentioning that, but I just checked my original paperback copy and, no, there is not. However, if you remember the events of the first book, I suppose it eventually sinks in.
Once you know that this takes place before Jhereg it makes more sense when Vlad goes on about how he is just starting to establish a territory and how another member of House Jhereg is competing for that territory with him, whereas, in the first book he seems to be better established although he is still competing with his fellow Jheregs.
The story is a bit convoluted, but, then members of the House of Yendi, we are told, tend to think along convoluted lines as well and, let’s face it, a simple story is not as interesting as one with a lot of twists and turns along the way. The only problem with it being a prequel is that as a reader, one knows that Vlad is going to come out okay in the long run and since the story is being told in the first person, we know he is going to survive, even if killed (at least in this series, although one important recurring character is “undead.”)
All told, yes, I enjoyed the story and will eventually revisit the next book in the series.
The book is read fairly well by Bernard Setaro Clark. He reads clearly with, I think, just the right amounts of emotion in the dialogue sections. I did get a little tired with all of Vlad’s henchmen, and his pet jhereg (a flying reptile, sort of like a venomous mini-dragon, but that is something else in this world) talking lots stereotypical gangsters, with a touch of Peter Lorre tossed in. The problem is, they all sound alike, having the same hoarse vocal stylings. Mister Clark cannot help that Brust wrote all their dialogue alike –he should have given the characters different vocal mannerisms and not all sound like b-grade movie gangsters, just the Jheregs, but I think when reading them their voices could have been varied a bit more.
Even so, I think this was a good performance of a fairly good story.