Jhereg  - Steven Brust Guess this is what you'd call an oldie but a goodie. I can't believe I hadn't heard of Steven Brust until a few weeks ago, but he was recommended to me by a gaming friend of mine, and then another good friend jumped into the Twitter conversation to second the recommendation. So, that's two shoutouts from a couple of people whose opinions I highly value, and that's when I knew I had to get my hands on this book, posthaste!

Jhereg is the beginning of a whole bunch of books set in Brust's Dragaera world. It is the first novel to be published in the Vlad Taltos series, even though its place is actually fourth or so in its timeline. It introduces us to Vladimir Taltos, an Easterner (human) working as a killer-for-hire in the House of Jhereg in a setting where his kind are barely tolerated by a race of long-lived, statuesque sorcerers called the Dragaerans (or, as my friend told me, just think of them as "elves"!) Being a Jhereg doesn't help either, since their faction is like the mafia of the Dragaeran world.

One day, a powerful Jhereg boss offers Vlad a lucrative contract to track down and assassinate a council member who stole millions of gold from the house. It is discovered, unfortunately, that this thief has fled to Castle Black, home of the Dragonlord Morrolan who is also Vlad's good friend. Now Vlad has to try and figure out a way to fulfill his contract without royally pissing off Morrolan, whose strict rule against the killing of anyone on his premises while they are under his protection is proving to be more than just a minor inconvenience.

At just 200-something pages, this was a very quick read. Despite the volume's relative thinness, however, there is a lot information crammed in here. You'll immediately get the sense of hugeness from the world of Dragaera, and I admit I spent much of the first half of this book feeling like I was missing something, because not everything about the setting is explained right away. There will be names of people, animals, factions, cultural traditions, events in history, etc. that are alluded to, but won't mean anything to you until you get further into the book (or even the series). Even now, I wish I had more room in this review to give examples of all the strange magical spells, weapons, creatures, lore and customs that are in this book, but there's just too damn much. The good news is, everything you need know in order to understand and follow the story will be there, and it will come in time.

I also really liked the writing style, the fast pace and the lightness of it. Normally when you get high fantasy featuring a world full of magic and so much history, along with noble sorcerers and lords and ladies and such and such, you'd expect the writing style and dialogue to be somewhat serious and austere. Not so much with this book, which includes instances of modern day habits or colloquialisms, and that played a part in making Jhereg easy to get into and reading it so much fun.

It's got a great story overall, involving a plot about an assassination, but which almost reads more like story about a heist. It has elements of mystery in it too, as Vlad likes to conduct investigations and figure out the solutions from the clues he finds. He as much as admits that he prefers the process of planning an assassination to the actual assassinating, and events in the story reflect that. It just struck me as interesting especially when compared to more recent fantasy novels about assassins, which tend to be darker and more action-oriented, and Jhereg was published before I was even born.

The series is still going on today, with book 14 expected to come out later this year. So glad I discovered these books, thanks to my friends. I've got a lot of books in my to-be-read pile, but since all the Vlad novels seem to be such quick reads, there might actually be hope of me finishing up to Tiassa before Hawk comes out. Maybe.