Iorich (Vlad Taltos)
by Steven Brust
Review by Andrea Johnson
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765312082
Date: 05 January 2010 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
After many years in exile, Vlad Taltos has finally returned home to the city of Adrilankha in the Draegeran Empire. There is still a mighty big price on his head from the last time he was in town, he's not sure if his ex-wife Cawti will welcome him home or turn him in for the bounty to help fund her group of political rebels, he's a stranger to his son, and his best friend Aliera has been imprisoned for something she didn't do. Sounds like a wonderful home coming.
Politics, intrigue, assassination attempts, magic, organized crime and coups. This is what a good Steven Brust Taltos novel is made of. It's all fun and games for Vlad until he tries balancing them with his home life.
Dropping names (and actually being on a first name basis with people like the Dragon Warlord and the Empress doesn't hurt either) has its perks, and the first thing Vlad does is secure an Iorich lawyer for Aliera, then visit her with the good news that she's got counsel. It becomes obvious that Aleira has become a political sacrifice, but for what? Empress Zerika's hands are tied, she can't or won't tell Vlad anything. Aleira is too loyal to Zerika to give away any secrets, and Aliera's family claim not to know what's going on. What's an ex-gangster/assassin to do in these situations? On his home turf surrounded by more friends than enemies, and armed with the talents of his familiars Loiosh and Rocza, Vlad gets to work.
But first a visit to the ex-wife. Brust tries so hard to give Vlad a tough guy persona, but they are both so sensitive. Vlad has never been interested in violence or revenge or money. He wants to help his friend Aleira, be a good husband to Cawti (if she'll have him back), and be a good father to his eight year old son. Cawti welcomes Vlad back into her life, but because of the Jhereg price on his head, the more time they spend together, the more dangerous it becomes for everyone. When you love someone so much that you are willing to die for them, do you endanger them by keeping them in your life? Or do you protect both parties by never seeing them again? Vlad and Cawti's hopes and fears are reflected in their eyes as they watch their son play.
The scenes where Vlad realizes his son is just like him are so precious, so perfect. Brust certainly has fun writing the action and humor, but these scenes of familiar harmony are where he truly shines as a writer. Even Loiosh is taken with the little boy, and they become fast friends.
It's not long before Aliera's case explodes into something Empire wide. As the Dragon Warlord, Aliera's been made to take the heat for a military mishap that she had nothing to do with. Meanwhile, and somewhat unrelated, the corrupt Jhereg clan teams up with the greedy Orca for a teensy little political coup to bring political clout to each clan. As the military investigation heats up around Aliera's case, the Jhereg/Orca team decide it's in their best interest to assassinate the investigator. And what better group to blame the assassination on than Cawti's group of Eastern Rebels? Help the investigation, expose the corruption, stop the assassin, keep the rebels from being blamed, all in a days work for Vlad Taltos, retired assassin and sorcerer extraordinaire, right? Right.
Brust's prose is smart, layered, elegant yet concise, and heavy on the dry humor and sarcasm, and Iorich reads more like the older Taltos novels than some of the recent ones where Vlad is in exile. Back in the metropolis of Adrilankha and in the good graces of both Cawti and the Empress, Vlad and Brust are back in their element and telling the good tale. If you are new to Brust's Vlad Taltos series, I do suggest starting with a chronologically earlier novel, such as Taltos or Jhereg, but having got that far, you'll be ready to enjoy Iorich or any of the other dozen or so novels in this ongoing series.