Tiassa by Steven Brust
A few days back, I got stood up on a date (she had a legit excuse, promise). However, I wasn’t too bothered at the time. I was in a cafe on the third floor of Barnes & Noble, with a copy of Tiassa in my bag–a book I’ve been wanting to read ever since it came out in March. And this was the perfect opportunity.
Tiassa is the 13th installment of the Vlad the Assassin series, and wins an easy five canaries from me (three if you’ve never read the Vlad books and start this one cold). Brust takes a new approach to the narration in this latest addition to the series, shifting voices and styles as the book progresses. The story follows a small silver statue through time, right after it is stolen by the god child Devera and given to Vlad.
The opening section is a wonderful blast from the past–we get Vlad when Cawti was still his fiance (read: before he grew a conscience). He is refreshingly unrepentant, weaving together complicated Vlad-plots. Then, in the second section of the novel, we fast-forward to when a couple old friends save Vlad’s life from a cadre of assassins and foil an Empire-scale plot–all without anyone ever knowing.
As the story draws to a close, it shifts to present day (ie, after Iorich) as Khaavren investigates a plot on Vlad’s life, narrated by the voice of Paarfi of Roundwood, the “chronicler” of the Khaavren Romances series. Fans of the Khaavren Romances (The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, Sethra Lavode, etc.) will wholeheartedly enjoy the return of Khaavren and his wife, as well as the chance to finally see Vlad through someone else’s eyes.
It’s probably obvious from my brief summary above, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you’re a Vlad the Assassin newbie, this is not the book for you. It hinges on references and connections built over the course of the entire series, all coming at you with no patience for floundering readers. But if you like sword and sorcery and sarcastic main characters, Brust’s first book in the series, Jhereg, is a good introduction to the world of Dragaera and this snarky protagonis who hit first place in my list of Top Five Fantasy Assassins.
For fans, Tiassa will be a five-star treat. It combines everything we’ve ever loved about Dragaera–namely, pre-divorce Vlad and his familiar, Paarfi’s witty, pseudo-Dumas style, and a plot that gives us yet another glimpse into the workings of this world. And if you’re still on the fence, read it to get a glimpse of Aliera hooking up and to find out who is Vlad’s new love interest.
Tiassa is a keeper. So when you’re next going out, bring a book, and make it a Steven Brust book.