Tor books has released Iorich, the twelfth book of Steven Brust 's Vlad Taltos novels. One of the strong suits of the series has been the stand alone nature of each less-than-three-hundred-page novel. Iorich does stand alone, introducing a problem that Vlad needs to solve and resolving it in the same story. But the references to other novels, characters and hints of things to come run throughout, and would definitely put off any new reader. So if you are new to Vlad Taltos and the Jhereg series, do yourself a favor and dive in at The Book of Jhereg, the omnibus edition collecting the first three books of the series written by the author. And enjoy!
However, if you are a long time fan of the series, you are in for a few treats with Iorich.
Iorich begins with Vlad discovering Aliera e’Kieron has been arrested. Being Vlad, he risks his very soul to go to Adrilankha to see what he can do to help her. Along the way, he reconnects with Morrolan, Kragar and few others the readers haven’t seen for a book or two. Relationships are an important part of Brust’s work, and they are important to his readers as well. With long series like Jhereg relationships tread a path that veers precariously close to soap opera. But Brust’s relationships are so informed with reality, whether it is his own or observed, that he never quite falls off the path.
Being in Adrilankha, Vlad will invariably encounter his former bosses, the criminal Jhereg, and his former wife, Cawti; and his son. Meeting his family after so long, seeing the son whose life he is missing, Vlad yearns as a father, but without the platitudes and melodrama readers have come to expect from modern tales of relationships gone awry. Most novels, as virtually all movies and television shows, would have an obligatory “where have you been?” or “how could you leave me” scene (or two, or three) instead of the cautious attempts at understanding Brust so delicately plays out. For long time readers it is a satisfying, and simultaneously tantalizing, beginning to Vlad’s attempt to re-enter his family’s life.
Oh and Vlad gets to see the Empress a time or two as well!
But while relationships are a strength of Brust’s, it can be argued that his greatest strength lies in intrigue. Whether it crime noir, social unrest, or political maneuvering, Steven Brust weaves tangled webs for Vlad to gather and separate. Iorich is the Dragaeran house that handles the law in the Empire, and Vlad has to work the law and the people behind the law to free Aliera. In doing so, we get Brust’s wonderful examinations of society and it’s government, and justice and the law. “Law is a reflection of society, and justice is a reflection of an idealization of that society.” And that comes from a lawyer (or advocate in Dragaeran) who figures in Vlad’s schemes.
While Iorich is not the strongest novel in the series, there is plenty in it to please his long time readers, and in something of a first, tasty hints of what’s to come.