Series: Vlad Taltos #15
Publisher: Tor Books (October 17, 2017)
Length: 352 pages
My Rating: 3 stars
Vallista is the fifteenth installment of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series, and while these books are in a downward trajectory after so many decades, Brust continues to challenge himself as a writer, turning what could have easily been just another typical Vlad adventure into an original tale filled with new themes and different flavors.
For those unfamiliar with Vlad Taltos, he is an Easterner (i.e. human) who grew up as a member of an underprivileged minority group in the empire of the long-lived Dragaerans (i.e. elves), who tend to tolerate humanity but that is all. Thankfully, Vlad’s father bought a minor patent of nobility from the Dragaeran House of Jhereg, where Vlad became a well-known member of that house’s criminal syndicate before pissing off the wrong people and having a price put on his head. Ever since Vlad has been on the run, in hiding, with few friends and only limited contact with his former companions among the Dragaeran highborn.
As Vallista begins, Vlad is still on the run. Unexpectedly, the tedium of his life is interrupted by the appearance of Devera, a Dragaeran girl and daughter of one of Vlad’s powerful Dragaeran friends, who asks for Vlad’s help, leading him to a seemingly abandoned manor. Once inside the strange house, Devera disappears, leaving Vlad to decipher where she is, how to find her, and why they hell she brought him here.
Finding himself trapped in this mystery house with strange corridors, rooms which are in different times, and mysterious riddles galore, Vlad quickly finds he must use all his wits, skills, and his daggers to decipher the riddles of his prison and find a means to save himself and Devera!
Without a doubt, this book is far different from the early adventures of Vlad Taltos, which I recall pouring over endlessly as a teenager and college student. Those initial trips to the Dragaeran Empire were filled with mafia-like themes and always included a mystery or puzzle requiring our hero to use his detective skills to avoid disaster. While there is still quit a lot of the later in this novel (Vallista is a locked-room mystery.), its main theme really is an introspective look back at Vlad’s past (I mean, WAY back in his past. Like thousands of years in the past!) and as a vehicle to deliver tons of information on this world and its actors rather than on any extensive action or adventure, though there is still a bit of both in limited quantities here.
No doubt, lovers of Vlad Taltos will thoroughly enjoy this novel, finding the time travel, tidbits of new information about the title character and the world insightful, as well as giving Steven Brust much kudos for stretching himself as a writer and having the creative self-assurance to take this aging series in a different direction. But even with that acknowledged, I feel confident that fans of the series would admit that the plot here is fairly negligible, the pacing is rather slow at times, and this is not a good entry point for readers new to the series. I personally would only recommend this novel to dedicated followers of Vlad Taltos and advice anyone else wishing to begin this series to start with the first book and work their way forward from there, understanding that only by having knowledge of Vlad’s recorded past will this newest novel have any real meaning.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.