Author: Steven Brust
Details: (c) 1987 Steven K Zoltán Brust; Pub Ace 1999 as compendium; ISBN 0-441-00615-9
Verdict: Teckla is readable but lacks zest.
Reasons for reading it: I was whining that I am running out of books, and rysmiel reminded me that I haven't yet read the third in the Jhereg trilogy. I had been rationing them a bit, because I don't think it generally does a series any good to read several books on top of eachother.
How it came into my hands: rysmiel gave me the trilogy as a present.
I enjoyed Teckla very much, and if I sound slightly negative it's only that it didn't live up to my expectations from the earlier books. In some ways it's a more mature book; there's some real development of Vlad as a character and of his relationship with Cawti, and some serious exploration of the political implications of the fantasy set-up. And while this is done well, it's not done well enough to make up for the fact that this kind of serious stuff is less fun. I like Vlad a lot better as a wise-cracking and highly skilled assassin, than I like angst-ridden! Vlad. Of course in reality being an assassin isn't a very nice thing to be doing, but if I wanted realism I wouldn't pick up a book about a witch and his winged reptile familiar trying to navigate the underworld of Elfland. Similarly, the dynamic with Cawti is certainly more plausible and multi-dimensional than the soppy tone of the earlier books, but an awful lot of the extra dimensions are the kinds of interaction that make me want to yell at the characters to just bloody talk to eachother.
The political stuff is a bit heavy-handed, really. The Teckla-Easterner alliance is just too transparent an allergory of militant Marxism. The hook of Vlad's conflict between his feelings for Cawti and his impatience with her political convictions works quite nicely, and there's at least a reasonable balance between his dismissal of the whole movement as a bunch of foolhardy ideologues, and the sympathetic arguments presented in favour of the Marxist position. The arguments between Vlad and various communist spokespeople take up just too much space though, it's hard not to feel that the various characters are just there as mouthpieces for a political viewpoint.
I think the biggest problem is that I didn't ever feel like Vlad, or the world, was in serious danger. Certainly, he is described as being in danger, but emotionally the tension was never quite there. His being unlimitedly rich, as a result of the events at the end of Jhereg, probably contributed to this. But it's also the balance of the writing, with too much sitting around debating whether there should be world revolution and not enough action.
Even with those criticisms, I was very much caught up in the story. It felt as if it was really short, though actually it takes up almost exactly a third of the single volume trilogy. And I couldn't wait to get back to it when I had to take breaks for things like work and sleep.