Monday, June 17, 2013

Jhegaala by Steven Brust

 I'm afraid that Jhegaala is probably the least inspired of the Vlad Taltos series, and the only one I've never reviewed here. It takes place shortly after Cawti has left Vlad, and when he has gone into self-exile from Adrilankha, trying to avoid the Jhereg assassins who'd like to collect the bounty on his head. He visits his country estates briefly, spending some time with his grandfather, Noish-Pa, then heads off to the country of the humans, Fenario, where he hopes to connect with his roots, I suppose.

It doesn't take long for Vlad to find trouble, or trouble to find Vlad. When he arrives in a small town near where some of his mother's relatives are supposed to live, he attracts the attention of the three factions in the town; the Coven, the Guild and the Count. Perhaps eighty years before this, the Count's predecessor discovered a process to make high quality paper in bulk, and began to displace the peasants from their traditional lands and practices, to come work in his factory.

In some of the earlier books, Cawti is involved with the Teckla and other workers in the Empire, as they began to chafe against their chains, a retelling of the French or Russian revolutions' allegories, and it feels that Brust, in the midst of trying to tell an interesting Vlad-style mystery, is presenting a microcosm of the stresses of the industrial revolution on feudal society.

None of the factions in town believe that Vlad is simply here to visit his relatives, and they all assume that he has a hidden agenda which would destroy the delicate balance the powers have attained in the town. When Vlad's poking around results in the killing of that family, things begin to get serious for him, and his desire for justice pushes him to stay far longer than he ought to.

The usually witty dialog is mostly missing, and Vlad's depression a bit contagious in this one. You can throw it out of the series and not miss much.

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