Jhegaala - Steven Brust I've enjoyed Steven Brust for many years now, ever since reading To Reign in Hell, though I think he has a tendency to become too self-consciously arch in his writing (a tendency that ruined all the subsequent novels in his Khaavren Romances sequence after the first one). Fortunately, that habit is more often muted than not in the Vlad Taltos novels.

I enjoyed the first few novels in the sequence when they seemed to be going...somewhere. But now they seem to have fallen into a holding pattern not dissimilar to Robert Jordan's "Waste" of Time series. Not the 767 that Jordan pilots; more a single-engine prop - the latest work clocks in at little more than 299 pages in my edition.

What makes this lack of direction tolerable for me is that the focus is on one character who I actually like. Granted, Vlad is a murderer and a thug but he's smart, has a measure of conscience, and he's humanly complex. Over the arc of the now-eleven novels, we've come to understand how Vlad has become the man he is.

In this volume, Vlad and Cawti have just broken up, and the Jhereg are hell-bent on killing him for his activities in previous episodes. His best course of action is to head back East, into the human lands, and try to avoid being noticed. With no other likely destination, Vlad decides to return to his mother's village of Burz and look up her relatives, the Merss. He arrives in Merss and, in all innocence, manages to upset a delicate balance of power between the local count, the merchants' guild and the witches' coven, resulting in murder, torture and general chaos.

I enjoyed the novel, overall. Brust's writing is quite good and engaging, and as I wrote above, I do like the main character. I'd liken the Taltos novels to the occasional letter from an errant nephew or the annual Thanksgiving dinner visit from crazy uncle Manny - brief & interesting & they don't overstay their welcome.