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Issola (2001)

Issola (2001)
4.25 of 5 Votes: 5
0312859279 (ISBN13: 9780312859275)
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Issola (2001)
Issola (2001)

About book: And here's where it hits me that I don't know if I missed something, to blame Verra, or to narrow my eyes at Brust. I just know that when Vlad took off from the City, he wore a black phoenix stone. Here, he has something that seems to be a black one and gold one together. Since they're not so easy to come by, it just seems weird.Then again, he has a little box here to keep them in that nullifies their effects, so I tend to go with, "This addition will be explained in a novel someday." I guess it's just weird that Vlad doesn't mention it will be, because usually he does.But, of course, as we find out later in the series, Vlad's got excuses for dropping the ball now and then on things like that.But it still kinda makes me want to narrow my eyes at Brust. That comes from the fact that gold was supposed to be for blocking sorcery, and black for blocking psychics. But here, when Sethra mentions it, it's backwards---and then it's mentioned backwards again, and also in the next book. What gives, man?Other than that, I love this one. Lady Teldra is a staple in the series, though she's rarely seen. She answers Morrolan's door, basically. Only she's awesome at it. She has a major role to play in this one, and it's just lovely to see her and Vlad play off one another.The story's great as well, throwing in gods and Jenoine (big, powerful nasties) with lots of action from the Big Powerful characters like Morrolan, Aliera, and Sethra. It's so totally Epic. At least, it would be, if Vlad weren't our narrator. And that's what makes it most awesome.That, and Vlad telling Morrolan and Aliera off when they all finally make it back to Dzur Mountain. That was epic in any case. Review from June 30, 2008:This is actually a review of books four through nine, with a dash of 10 thrown in (that would be the one that comes after this one.) They were all rereads, and for quite a few, it wasn't the first time I'd reread them. The books covered in this review, in order of publication (which is my favorite way to read them) go like this:TaltosPhoenixAthyraOrcaDragonIssolaAnd a dash of DzurGeneral Summation Vlad’s just a human in a world of Dragaerans -- tall, very long-lived humans with hints of animal (most of those specific to Vlad’s world) characteristics in their features and personalities. He hates them, as they have made his life miserable since he was a kid, but damned if not every singe one of his very closest friends is a Dragaeran. The Dragaerans are grouped into houses, according to their characteristics, and one of those houses happens to sell titles to anyone who will buy. Vlad’s father bought a title in the House of Jhereg, as the man always wanted to be Dragaeran and did a lot of work to make his son want to be one, too. (Totally didn’t catch, but Vlad does get to be in House Jhereg because of his father’s obsession.) The Jhereg are the ones who run illegal (tax-free) gambling operations and whorehouses, give out loans at monstrous interest rates and collect on them with force, and--- Dude, they’re the fantasy genre version of the mafia, but they’re so much dirtier, grungier, and more raw than the mafia. They even have assassins, though we’re not talking about people who sit up in windows and wait for someone to pass by below so they can snipe them. They have all manner of interesting methods for killing one another. Vlad uses his skills of human swordplay (which he learned from his grandfather), enhanced by his short training in Dragaeran swordplay (taught by a tutor his father insisted upon), sorcery (a Dragaeran thing; another of his father’s insistings), and witchcraft, taught to him by his grandfather. As a part of his witcherly studies, he gained a familiar around the time he started actually working for House Jhereg, rather than just being a member. His familiar? Why, the animal House Jhereg is named after. A jhereg is a carrion animal that looks a lot like what you and I might imagine a dragon looks like. Only it’s small enough to fit on Vlad’s shoulder. Loiosh, Vlad’s familiar, offers some of the greatest banter. Being a witch’s familiar, his intelligence is higher than that of his kin, and part of being a familiar means he has a psionic connection with Vlad. Since most of the stories are in Vlad’s first person point-of-view, we get to hear Loiosh’s smart-ass remarks.Why these books? The new one, Jhegaala is coming out July 8th [[2008]] and I had to get my Vlad back on, in preparation. I’ve preordered my copy from Amazon and Mike and I will continue to fight about who gets to read it first while we wait for its arrival.How’d it go? It’s always a pleasure to re-read Vlad. It’s like hearing someone talk about all the shit they’ve been through, but since no one interrupts him in his storytelling, he seems to forget he’s sharing it at all. Vlad’s not a writer, but his personality makes up for it. And besides, he’s talking to you in order to tell the story, not writing it down. And everything about his stories backs that up.Taltos, I know some of you have heard more than you’d like to, is my favorite. It goes over Vlad and Morrolan’s journey to the Paths of the Dead -- the place Dragaerans go when they die. (Humans aren’t allowed and I’m fairly certain that one day we’ll know why. There are hints of it.) They don’t die to get there, a fact that irks everyone they meet on the Paths. It’s damn good stuff. This is the book I’ve read the most. I finally had to cover it in clear mailing tape just to hold it together. This is the book in which Vlad describes Morrolan as having hair that’s straight and long enough to cover his ears. Then, five paragraphs later, points out that Morrolan’s hair is curly and shoulder-length. I’ve never been able to figure out if that’s an accident or a malicious clue of -- something -- from Brust. The rest of the books go over more adventures of Vlad’s life, such as problems with his wife and his position in the Organization, which is the “working” part of House Jhereg. He finds himself in a war between lords of House Dragon because he lets one of them piss him off, he takes a commission for his patron goddess to assassinate a foreign king as part of some mysterious goddess plan, and he even finds himself in a battle with the enemies of the gods. Short on adventure, Vlad is not. And his sense of humor and cynicism is what these stories are really about. If Vlad weren’t telling the tale, it wouldn’t be nearly as readable, interesting, or relatable. Vlad rocks. Which is why I had such a hard time with Athyra and Orca when I first read them. Athyra is a third person tale, following the point-of-view of a Dragaeran youth who meets Vlad when our hero is on the run from House Jhereg. (He made some people mad and they decided he needed to be dead.) When I first read it, I was sorely disappointed because I missed hearing Vlad’s voice, and I missed Loiosh’s remarks (which only Vlad can “hear”), and I missed all the personality and quips that entails. But this time, I say, I rather enjoyed it. The writing is actually writing, instead of that impression of hearing a bantering and hard human sharing the story. And I found myself rather enjoying following Savn around this time and seeing Vlad through his eyes. Now that I’ve pulled my head from my ass and learned to read this novel as it is, rather than trying to make it another Vlad telling, I find myself liking this novel rather a lot. You can learn a lot when you pull your head out of your ass. The world smells a lot better, too.Orca is told from first person, but from Kiera’s point-of-view. Kiera’s a Jhereg thief and the first Dragaeran friend Vlad made. This book is basically Kiera relaying a story to Vlad’s wife. Vlad’s still on the run from the Organization, but asked Kiera to help him figure out what’s going on in this faraway port city. The reason? The old hedgewitch who can cure a friend of Vlad’s demands the deed to the land she lives on as payment for her help. This one is a politicking mess. There’s just too much for me, of Kiera and Vlad wandering around trying to figure things out. There are sections of Vlad’s first person POV, but every one has Kiera’s feel to it, as if she’s relaying even that. Now. I have a great appreciation for the fact that Brust pulled that off, but it was a tease just the same. This is my least favorite book in the series, though I find it necessary. Being in Kiera’s head is quite fun as well; it’s the plot that disinterests me. Some of the things they have to do in order to figure out the plot are great, though. I’m talking about Vlad’s disguises and Kiera’s slips to the wary reader. Those were great fun. Also, the revelation at the end is worth the whole damn trip, I say. And you have to take the trip in order for the destination to have meaning. What I’m saying is, in this case, the end most certainly justified the means. This series has some of the greatest opening lines. I often pick them up when I’m trying to figure out what makes an engaging opening. Thirty pages later, I remember that I was only supposed to be reading the first few lines. Despite Orca being my least favorite book, it doesn’t fall short in the opening department:"Vlad knew almost at once that I was in disguise, because I told him so. When he called out my name, I said, ‘Dammit, Vlad, I’m in disguise.’" How can you not love that? Through all of them, Morrolan is my favorite character, but mainly because Vlad describes him in the most entertaining ways. Vlad’s presence and personality make lordly mannered Morrolan even more entertaining. I get a sick sort of giddy when I see lordly types lose their composure. There are many more great characters Vlad interacts with. The Dark Lady of Dzur Mountain, Sethra, comes to mind. To this day, I’m still not sure if she’s of House Dragon or House Dzur. (You’d think her residence would make a reader assume Dzur, and maybe it does, but Vlad’s assumption of Dragon blows that out of the water.) She’s very, very old. And undead, scarily powerful, lordly, and awesome when she gets going. Vlad’s damn thankful she’s his friend. I can’t forget Kragar, Vlad’s right-hand man in the Organization. Practically invisible without even trying to be, he’ll say, “I’m here, boss,” from the chair across from Vlad’s desk just after Vlad asks someone to send for him. There’s Vlad’s wife, Cawti, who routinely ticks me off. I freakin’ loved her when Vlad met her and how they got together is priceless. But as their story goes, I get very disappointed with her. That’s good, though, because so’s Vlad. Aliera, Morrolan’s cousin, entertains the hell out of me quite often. She’s short for a Dragaeran, but her temper makes up for it. That makes for some awesome interactions. Okay, I’m going to stop myself there, before I just confuse people with names. Reading along, trust me when I say each person has such a distinct personality. You remember them, you follow along with Vlad’s relationship with them, and you usually can’t wait to see them again. One last thing. The novels are chronologically out of order, but I suggest reading them in published order anyway. It really is the best way. I know, for I’ve read them in published order, chronological order, and every order in between. Don’t blame Vlad for not being the best writer. The fact that he’s not is part of the genius of the books. He’s willing to share these adventures in his own voice, complete with all his sarcasm and wit. I wouldn’t have it any other way.Dzur is the latest, upon the writing of this review, both chronologically and publishedly. Heh. Jhegaala promises to go back to the point just after Vlad flees the Jhereg, back when he visits the ancestral home of the humans. We knew he did that, from other books, but we’ve never known just what happened when he was there, and he keeps changing the story of how he lost his finger. Now, we should get to see first(heh)hand.

When coming to the 9th book of a series, it seems like a negative statement to say "Now the story really gets going." Nonetheless, I'll say it, and I won't mean anything bad by it. Every story in the series has been a pleasure to read. Brust has an engaging style throughout his experiments with point-of-view and structuring his novels. He's a good story-teller who can keep the reader hanging on every word and plowing through the novel. As enjoyable as all of the previous novels in the series have been and as satisfying as they've been on their own, there's still a sense that this is what it's all been leading up to.Throughout the series, although Vlad has been a formidable character in his own right, he's always been a character who relied on others. He needed his lieutenant in the Jhereg to gather information for him, he had powerful sorcerors and great warriors (often in the same person) and the Empire's greatest thief as friends and usually the resolution of Brust's Vlad Taltos novels has required Vlad to put all those friends together in order to succeed. As Vlad quoted The A-Team's Hannibal for our benefit, "I love it when a plan comes together."In Issola, it seems to be these friends who need Vlad, as two of them go missing and Vlad is enlisted to help find them and bring them back. In this novel, we start to see what's really going on in the world. We see more of the gods of the world and we see more of the mysterious Jenoine, a race from elsewhere who even the gods fear, an utterly alien, extraordinarily powerful race who once held the planet's residents as slaves and experimental subjects. Now Vlad must free his friends from them and help save the world.
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Kat Hooper
3.5 stars.“I miss the days when I used to be nostalgic.” ~Vlad TaltosI’ve been slightly disappointed with the last few novels in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, but with Issola, book 9, Brust returns to what I liked about the earlier books. While I admired Brust’s willingness to experiment with his world, his characters, and especially the narrative structure of his novels, I think he’s best when the overall plot is moving forward and Vlad is using his assassin skills to solve mysteries and help his powerful Dragonlord friends.In Issola, we’re back to a present timeline. Vlad and Cawti are separated but Vlad is starting to recover from the funk he’s been in for quite a while now. He’s been run out of his organization and is hiding from them in the woods. Then Lady Teldra (an Issola who is servant to the ... Read More:
This book was chronological the latest one so far, which really suited me, because I wanted to know how the story went on.We don't hear about Savn's development, but he still seems to be on the mend.We get to know Teldra really, really well and get to know more about Morrolan, Sethra, Verra and the gods in generel, the Jeoine, Aliera and Adron.It is a book packed with background information.The action is a bit on the low, although it climaxes in tons of action at the end, but mostly in this book the characters talk and explore, which is really good, because you get so much information.I loved this book!The end is sad, but not without hope and I am, as always, already looking forward to the next installment :)
This was a pleasant read, and Vlad’s narration is amusing, as always. I enjoyed Vlad's odd partnership with Lady Teldra.But the story was just not my cup of tea. It’s too abstract: an incomprehensible metaphysical contest involving the Great Weapons and the gods and the Jenoine, who are described as “a vastly powerful race of extradimensional creatures”.There has always been a lot of magic in this series, too much for my taste, but usually Vlad keeps everything grounded enough for me with that business of No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style.I’m still willing to continue with the series - overall I am enjoying it.
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