Book: Taltos - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: Taltos
Monday, 05 May 2008 at 08:19 pm
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Author: Steven Brust

Details: (c) 1988 Steven KZ Brust; Pub 2002 Ace; ISBN 0-441-00894-1

Verdict: Taltos is a fun read.

Reasons for reading it: I enjoyed the first three in this setting and was very willing to pick up some more. Then I lent the first set to cartesiandaemon, who got on well with them, so I promised him I'd read the next pair before I next see him, so that I can then lend him the volume.

How it came into my hands: I like the series enough that I was willing to splash out for the next couple when I was buying books from Amazon.

Taltos is enjoyable, but not particularly outstanding. It acts as a kind of prequel to the series, filling in the actual story of the Paths of the Dead that is often referred to in the other books, and giving some snapshots of Vlad's childhood, and explaining why several of the most powerful people in Dragraera go out of their way to help Vlad. As it is, it's fairly slight, though, definitely enjoyable but not so intricate as some of the others. I wonder if this was the one that put cartesiandaemon off the series when he encountered it out of the context of the others; his parody rather applies here:
Vlad is one of the most badass people in the world. (Badass mainly in the sense of sword combat.) He can do things "even" more-badass-person couldn't. He is outclassed by even-more-badass person who is basically a demigod. Who is outclassed only by the most powerful beings in and out of the universe. Who are still inferior to Vlad in that he is gutsy...

Since I'd read the earlier books in the series (although they fall later in the chronology of Vlad's life), the characters were already established for me, so I wasn't too bothered by what might have seemed like weaknesses if the book were a complete standalone. Also, the scenes of Vlad actually learning his trade and making mistakes help to balance the slight tendency for him to be over-powered and too ludicrously competent. I think the way Taltos is strongly connected to what the reader already knows (without in any way making the book a mere episode in the series, it would work fine as a standalone, just a little less subtle than some of the others) really enhances it, though. I'm starting to think I should follow rysmiel's custom of rereading the whole lot before embarking on a new one, because they are quick reads, and I was there were a couple of allusions that felt familiar but I couldn't recall the exact details of what was being referenced.

The part of me that snaffled up bits of information when I was going out with a classicist had a major "squee, katabasis!" reaction to the main plot element! It's a lovely take on the hero descending into hell story, both emotionally evocative and with lots of the expected mythological elements in place. One of the things I very much like about Brust is the interweaving of familiar mythology with original story.

There weren't really any good Loiosh lines in this, which is disappointing. And I miss Cawti; it's reasonable that she doesn't do anything in a book set before the hero meets her, but she does help to balance Vlad who can get a little bit annoying when his wisecracking is centre stage all the time. That said, there's a line of description which completely cracked me up, basically taking a geek cliche and applying it to Vlad's situation as if it were original.

Anyway, yes, lots of fun, and I read the whole thing in about an hour, which made it just the thing to clear my head after slogging through Hyperion.


Whereaboooots: Dragaera
Moooood: cheerfulcheerful
Tuuuuune: Was (Not Was): Shake your head
Discussion: 7 contributions | Contribute something
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From:llennhoff
Date:May 9th, 2008 06:27 pm (UTC)
5 minutes after journal entry
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Get used to missing Cawti.
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livredor: Amelie
From:livredor
Date:May 9th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 10:00 pm (livredor's time)
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Oh. Meep. Thanks for the warning, I think.
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cartesiandaemon: default
From:cartesiandaemon
Date:May 9th, 2008 11:13 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry
(Link)
That's interesting; I didn't get much sense of their relationship from the books I read.
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rysmiel: words words words
From:rysmiel
Date:May 9th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
40 minutes after journal entry, 03:02 pm (rysmiel's time)
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Taltos is not my favourite of them, it is doing a certain kind of enjoyable and necessary backfill but it does not have any of the really amazing Moments of Revelation that are in others of the series. [ As I understand what skzb has said of the Long-Term Plan, Taltos and The Final Contract will be chronological bookends to the whole cycle, so nineteen books in total, all working out. ] I do think it would fail markedly as a first one to read, largely because of really not having any sufficient clue in it as to the given-in-Jhereg reason why these powerful people put up with this annoying Easterner brat. I also suspect that Vlad's surname is not coincidence and that Brust is doing something sneaky with the meaning of taltos as seen in Brokedown Palace.

My habit of rereading the whole series before new ones is a defensive reaction, at this point, to my reactions to Orca, Dragon and Issola all being various scales of "gleep, he was doing that ? Wow. I need to go back and see how he made it all fit together"; if I am going to do that anyway, I might as well do it in advance and have the stories all fresh in my mind when I hit the new one. Though Dzur I reread them all before, and it still made me have that reaction, so.
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livredor: livre d'or
From:livredor
Date:May 9th, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 10:04 pm (livredor's time)
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'Sinteresting, I think I'd picked up enough of the background from hints in the other books that I didn't find Taltos exactly necessary. But yeah, though it's chronologically first it really needs Jhereg for there to be a reason to care, as well as to believe in it.

There's a lot of complexity in the series, definitely. I have to say, before I met you I would never have contemplated embarking on a nineteen book series! But the interconnections are wonderful, and the extent to which they do work as standalones, each one is a complete story as well as part of a whole. I just hope he finishes them all while he and I are both still alive!
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rysmiel: sigh
From:rysmiel
Date:May 10th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
22 hours after journal entry, 01:09 pm (rysmiel's time)
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That thought has from time to time crossed my mind, particularly as he is a heavy smoker, and has been twenty-five years writing the first 11 and a half or so volumes. I try not to dwell on it.
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cartesiandaemon: default
From:cartesiandaemon
Date:May 9th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry
(Link)
gleep, he was doing that ? Wow. I need to go back and see how he made it all fit together";

This is why I'm now certain I need to read them.
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