Fans of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series: do not read any review of Dzur (out in August) other than this one. There are two surprises in the Prologue, one small and one big, and while it’s hard to call them spoilers since they’re in the Prologue, it’s so much fun to experience them as surprises. (The jacket copy is safe.)
Fortunately, the basic plot can be sketched without revealing these surprises. After the series-changing events of Issola, Vlad has gone for a meal at Valabar’s in Adrilankha. There, he finds that his estranged wife Cawti is having problems: they were both in the Organization (think Mafia); he’d left her the Organization’s interests in South Adrilankha when he left town several books back; and now the Left Hand of the Jhereg, a sorcerous organization, is moving in. (As the Organization is also known as the Right Hand, this allows the utterly deadpan statement, “It’s unfortunate, how little the Right Hand knows what the Left Hand is doing.”) For various reasons, Vlad agrees to help Cawti, despite the personal danger to himself (he didn’t leave town for a vacation, several books back).
Actually, if you need that backstory, you shouldn’t be reading this book. Start with Jhereg and go forward in publication order.
If you don’t need that backstory, just go buy the book when it comes out in August. It has all the stuff you read a Vlad novel for: old friends; enjoyable new characters; loving descriptions of food (the meal at Valabar’s is spread out over the remaining chapters as the opening section); snark; and using one’s wits to get out of desparate situations. And it’s really good to see how Vlad is growing and changing; this book is a very interesting contrast to Dragon, the book before Issola and also named after a very war-inclined House. (It’s killing me that I can’t say more about it than that. But, interesting contrast; watch for it.)
At this point in the series, there are a number of long-term plot issues waiting to be resolved. I suspect that some people will want more movement on these than they’re going to get; but I think enough happens in this book to be a book, and I’m willing to trust Brust on the pacing of the series overall. And I very much enjoyed and appreciated what happens here—all I really want is for August to hurry up and get here so I can discuss it!
Many thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for the Advance Uncorrected Proof.