The Art Of Assassins: Steven Brust’s Book Of Jhereg

Cover art by Stephen Hickman. Copyright © 1999 by Steven Brust. All Rights Reserved.

There’s something delightful about a well-constructed fictional universe, whether it’s in the easy-flowing idioms, the diverse individuals and cultures, or the grand scale one feels upon entering.  And when it comes to Steven Brust‘s Dragaera, there is no disappointment in any regard.

Within this medieval-stasis world, there are Dragaerans (who stand in for the traditional Elves of Fantasy Literature) and Easterners (who are a Hungarian-derived offshoot of human beings).  And our guide through this world is an Easterner high up in Dragaeran society: an assassin by the name of Vlad Taltos.

Vlad is many things.  He is an excellent swordsman, a sharp wit, an even sharper investigator, and a practicing witch.  And he is the narrator of the Book of Jhereg, an anthology of the first three books of Brust’s long-running fantasy series.

These stories do an excellent job of not only immersing us into Vlad’s world of intrigue and “aggressive negotiations,” but also letting the reader see different aspects of his own character as well.  Jhereg details the largest contract Vlad has ever taken on, having to make use of every skill and connection he’s developed over the course of his career.  Yendi takes place before Jhereg, as we follow Vlad’s rise to power and the start of his romance with fellow assassin Cawti.  And in Teckla, we see Vlad’s political values (or lack thereof) pitted against his marriage and his own ethnic heritage.  And within each chapter of Vlad’s life, we see just one more glimpse of the rich vista that Brust has allowed us, the reader, to enjoy.

So what remains to be said about Mr. Brust’s works?  They are a delight for anyone interested in cloak-and-dagger tales, with a good balance of humor, suspense, inner turmoil, and action all throughout.

Bibliography: Brust, Steven.  Jhereg (1983).  Yendi (1984).  Teckla (1987).  The Book of Jhereg (anthology).  New York: Ace Books, 1999.


5 thoughts on “The Art Of Assassins: Steven Brust’s Book Of Jhereg

  1. I don’t know. The name Vlad just brings up an image of Vlad the Impaler and I can’t really disassociate it (not the author or the character’s fault really).

    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.


    1. I had a bit of the same association myself, given all the vampire fiction that’s out there. Fun fact, though: Steven Brust uses quite a lot of Hungarian names for his “Easterners,” which is where the name Vladimir Taltos comes from, among others.


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