Vlad Taltos is very good at killing people. That, combined with two faithful companions and a talent for witchcraft, makes him an assassin par excellence. But lately his heart just hasn't been in his work, so he decides to retire. Unfortunately, old enemies have scores to settle with Vlad. So much for retirement!
©1993 Steven Brust (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Initially, I thought this entry in the series would be subpar without Vlad himself as narrator, but that misconception quickly evaporated. Although having a new point of view is jarring and doesn't get much better through the experience. The story seems a bit clunky because of the new view as well, but it is fun seeing "vagabond Vlad".
Vlad returns after several years of silence in his timeline, he alludes to several adventures he's had in the interim, one involving the disfigurement of his hand. He's a changed man, but just as snide as ever.
We meet Vlad again through the eyes of a young Teckla, Savn. Savn has had little exposure to Easterners and is not quite sure what Vlad is all about, particularly when one of the townsfolk turn up dead shortly after Vlad's arrival.
This all culminates in an interesting character piece. We see where Vlad has ended up after years on the run, and how far he is willing to go to ensure his safety. Even if it means messing up a lord or two.
As always, Bernard Setaro Clark is fantastic with his reading, but he maintains a higher pitch through most of the story to fit with the young Teckla who is telling us the story; it can get a bit grating after a time, especially when said Teckla seems to be fairly clueless about how most of the world works.
Athyra is told from the point of view of a Teckla boy just entering manhood. It is interesting to see Vlad from someone else's point of view for a change.
The Jerheg, Rocsa is performed admirably - she doesn't translate into words and Mr. Clark does a good job conveying the reptilian brain at work.
I was first put off, then enthralled by the change of perspective. Throughout the series reader's have seen the Dragerans through a human, 'easterner' perspective. The subtle difference between them and humans comes to the fore as we see the main character not as what he is to us but what he is to them.
(Please disregard spelling mistakes as audio books do not lend themselves to writing out fantasy names and races).
Vlad is out of his element in this book, which makes for a nice change of pace but the entire perspective shifts from first person narration and you lose some of the wit and humor that characterizes the other books. The story is pretty slow paced as well. I'm hoping the next one goes back to the good stuff.
I have truly loved this series up until this point...but this book have some major flaws.
Vlad and Loiosh have been reduced to sidecharacters.
And the new main characters are now Rocza and a rather slow village boy.
This would not have been so bad if Rocza could talk or if the boy was either smart, quick or witty....That is however not the case.
If a question is asked in this book there is a 90% chance that the answer will be "nevermind","I don't know" or "...nothing" this gets very frustrating after a while.
The plot ok-ish, but badly paced.
I will probably not listen to it again.
If you are wondering if you can jump this book without losing the story.
Yes, I believe you can.
Kat at FanLit
Originally published at Fantasy Literature.
Athyra is the sixth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you should probably skip this review until you’ve read Phoenix so that I don’t spoil its plot for you. I’m listening to Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration of the audio versions (Audible Studios) of VLAD TALTOS. Athyra is 8.5 hours long on audio, though I increased the playback speed, as I always do, so it was shorter than that for me. Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration continues to be excellent and I recommend the audio format for this series.
I mentioned in my review of Phoenix that Vlad had come to a turning place in his life. Because of what he did in that story, Vlad has left Adrilankha and is now out in the world on his own (except that he has his jhereg familiars, Loiosh and Rocza). Vlad betrayed the Jhereg organization and turned over his positions to Kragar, his assistant, and Cawti, his wife from whom he is now separated. He wears a chunk of phoenix stone that makes him psychically invisible to the assassins who pursue him.
After traveling for a couple of years, Vlad arrives in the town of Smallcliff where a resident has just been murdered. Because he’s a stranger, and an Easterner, Vlad is a potential suspect. As Vlad begins investigating the unusual murder, he realizes that the town’s Baron is an undead necromancer and a former enemy who may be working with Vlad’s current enemies. He needs to get rid of this guy before the Baron helps the Jhereg assassins find him. Vlad gets some help from a local boy named Savn, an apprentice to the town’s doctor. And, of course, Loiosh and Rocza are pretty useful, too.
Frankly, I thought Athyra was a little boring. Most of the story is told from the point of view of Savn and I found him to be a dull narrator. For me (and, I assume, many of Brust’s fans), the best part of this series is Vlad’s witty ironic voice, and we don’t get much of that in Athyra. It is kind of interesting to see how someone else perceives Vlad (we usually get only his thoughts on this), but Savn is a sheltered child and sometimes naïve, and he doesn’t make a dynamic storyteller. He often relates long passages in which he is harvesting flax, walking into town, or reading medical texts. Boring.
Another point of view character is, surprisingly, Rocza the jhereg. Her mind is rather blank and we see that she thinks of Vlad as merely “the provider” who she must obey because Loiosh wants her to. I thought it was daring for Brust to experiment with voice and structure in Athyra, especially knowing that his fans like Vlad’s voice. But while I admired the way he changed things up, I found that I really wished to be listening to Vlad instead of Savn and Rocza. I also missed Vlad’s friends and the decadent city of Adrilankha in this novel.
The Athyrans, the house for which this book is named, are philosophers, so Vlad and Savn spend a lot of time talking about philosophy. This is a topic I usually enjoy thinking about, but Vlad’s lessons about how to discover truth and knowledge were at a level suitable for Savn, an uneducated peasant boy, so I found these discussions to be uninspiring and a little trite.
I’m not giving up on Vlad Taltos. I can tell that Brust is experimenting here, and I approve of that, but I hope he’ll return to the type of stories found in the earlier books. As a personal favor, I’d like to offer Mr. Brust my #1 tip for taking care of children because I think it might apply to taking care of developing stories as well: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
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