Some of my readers may remember an earlier mention I made of Steven Brust on my blog, in reference to his “Cool Stuff Theory of Literature.” However, having read through one of his anthologies–the Book of Jhereg–I feel confident enough to write this post and revive my first series of blog posts, “Inspirations in Artistry.”
One of the ways in which Brust’s storytelling stands out is that he throws the reader into a world of his own making without much preamble. Entering the fictional universe of Dragaera isn’t framed or explored like other worlds. There is no Alice for us to follow through Wonderland. Instead, we get a scruffy, cynical, dark-humored assassin and crime boss by the name of Vlad Taltos, who is trained in the human-specific art of witchcraft, as opposed to the world of sorcery.
In following Taltos, we see more about the upper echelons of Dragaeran society, feeling his double consciousness as a human being in a world dominated by non-human beings. In this way, we get not only the “standard” perspective of life on Dragaera, but also a human view that is more familiar for the readers, giving them both a sense of immersion and a place to stand back and judge from their own position.
Brust should also be credited for the way in which he makes good use of intrigue and the politics that comes with a civilization run by beings who can live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years–as well as possess some degree of sorcery. Aesthetically, this gives us a society with medieval trappings and 20th-century styles of speech and thought. We also get to see how Dragaerans operate schemes that might take–from a human’s limited view–several lifetimes to unfold, and how Vlad and his allies can be embroiled right at the era when such crises reach their breaking point.
Although I will admit that I don’t have much taste for mysteries, I will say that I would prefer any of Mr. Brust’s making. He has a penchant for setting things up (much like his Dragaeran characters) and letting them unfold over the course of each novel, taking seemingly straightforward characters and events, and then twisting them around to reveal the true magnitude of their significance to Dragaeran civilization, let alone to Vlad Taltos’s life and career.
I highly recommend any fantasy readers, mystery buffs, or anyone interested in worlds far unlike our own, to give the Vlad Taltos series a read-through. Your time certainly won’t be wasted.
Because Steven Brust has such an extensive list of novels and other published works, I will only include the novels of his Vlad Taltos series below. The rest of his known bibliography can be found here.
I expect that there will be more authors to receive this treatment in the future, though who and when I cannot say. As always, I thank my readers for their time and interest.
This is the Scriptorium, signing off!